A common question we receive after an unsuccessful IVF/FET cycle is what else can I do differently to not have another normal embryo, not implant, and instead improve my chances of success and live birth.
For couples struggling to conceive, the journey can be filled with hope, anticipation, and sometimes, disappointment. The process of in vitro fertilization (IVF) is a complex one, involving several critical steps before the dream of parenthood can be realized. However, there are ways to improve your chances of success along the way. In this blog, Dr. Lorne Brown, a Dr of Traditional Chinese medicine and clinical director of Acubalance Vancouver, will explain how acupuncture and low-level laser therapy (LLLT) can play a vital role in increasing your chances of getting pregnant and having a live birth.
Understanding the IVF Process:
Before we dive into how acupuncture and LLLT can help, let’s briefly review the IVF process. It begins with medications during the IVF stimulation phase to stimulate the growth of follicles. Then comes the anticipation of how many eggs can be retrieved.
Subsequently, the focus shifts to observing the growth of embryos and the crucial decision of whether any blastocysts (day 5/6 embryos) are suitable for transfer or testing to see if chromosomally normal and freezing for a future transfer.
The final, and perhaps most crucial, piece of the puzzle is to facilitate a successful frozen embryo transfer (FET) is the implantation of these euploid (normal) embryos and then endure the anxiety-ridden wait for a blood test approximately 11 days after a blastocyst transfer, which will reveal if pregnancy has been achieved.
The Role of HOXA10 Gene:
One of the lesser-known factors influencing implantation is the HOXA10 gene. This gene is essential for successful implantation, but conditions like endometriosis, PCOS, and hydrosalpinx can lead to lower HOXA10 levels, reducing the chances of implantation. The good news is that acupuncture can help increase HOXA10 levels.
The Power of Acupuncture:
But here’s the exciting part – there are steps that can be taken to increase the chances of implantation, support endometrial receptivity, and boost HOXA10 levels. Acupuncture emerges as a powerful ally in this quest.
In two breakthrough studies, researchers explored the impact of electrical acupuncture performed over a six-week or 3 cycle period. The results were positive and promising – implantation rates increased, and the expression of HOXA10 significantly increased. This translated to higher pregnancy rates and more live births. If you’re on a quest to optimize your fertility and increase your odds of welcoming a healthy baby into your life, acupuncture can be your trusted companion.
Recent research has illuminated the tangible benefits of acupuncture in IVF treatments. A 2023 systematic review and meta-analysis involving 4,757 participants found that acupuncture:
- Increased implantation rates by 28%
- Increased IVF clinical pregnancy rates by 33%
- Increased live birth rates by 33%
- Decreased the risk of biochemical pregnancies by 51%
If you’re looking to optimize your fertility and increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy, acupuncture is a promising option.
Improving Uterine Receptivity:
Before an embryo transfer, many fertility clinics conduct tests to ensure the window of implantation and often adjust the timing of transfer based on these tests. At the 2023 Canadian Fertility Andrology Society (CFAS) held in Toronto the poster titled “Does the Shift of the Window of Implantation Really Exists? concluded the strategy of improving receptivity on the standard transfer day should be considered to provide patients with the best care management. Shifting the window of implantation based on this study still seems to be unproven.
The takeaway is uterine receptivity is the most important factor inside the window of implantation. Even if timing is right, if uterine receptivity is not optimal then there is a greater risk of implantation failure. So, more care is required to improve uterine receptivity.
Combining Acupuncture and LLLT:
Incorporating low-level laser therapy (LLLT), also known as photobiomodulation (PBM), during the 3-5 weeks preceding your frozen embryo transfer (FET) can potentially enhance uterine receptivity for a successful implantation. A study conducted in 2018 focused on in-vitro endometrial cells exposed to targeted Low Level Light Therapy. This groundbreaking research revealed that specific light therapy could significantly augment the proliferative and functional capacity of these cultured endometrial cells, offering promising insights into the potential of LLLT in improving endometrial receptivity (Study: “Has The Time Come To Use Low Level Light For Endometrial Receptivity“).
At Acubalance, we combine LLLT with acupuncture sessions in the weeks leading up to embryo transfer. We also offer onsite IVF acupuncture and LLLT on the day of transfer (contact Acubalance directly to schedule this service), all to support our patients during their IVF journey. These treatments can enhance uterine receptivity and improve the odds of a successful pregnancy and live birth.
Olive Fertility Centre in Vancouver conducted a retrospective chart review of patient records involving frozen embryo transfers (FET) with chromosomally screened embryos. They compared the outcomes of FET cycles among those who received Acubalance’s laser acupuncture and acupuncture onsite at Olive Fertility with those who did not. The selection of chromosomally screened embryos for this study was aimed at ensuring the results were not influenced by abnormal embryos, which are less likely to successfully implant.
The findings were encouraging: patients who underwent Acubalance’s acupuncture and laser acupuncture on the day of transfer experienced a higher pregnancy rate and lower miscarriage rate compared to those without Acubalance IVF acupuncture transfer day support. Even more promising, patients who received a series of acupuncture and laser acupuncture sessions in the 3-5 weeks leading up to their FET day demonstrated an even higher pregnancy rate and a lower miscarriage rate. These results underscore the impact that acupuncture and laser acupuncture can have on improving IVF success rates and nurturing a healthy pregnancy journey.
Your journey to parenthood through IVF can be challenging, but there are steps you can take to increase your chances of success. Acupuncture and low-level laser therapy are emerging as valuable tools to improve uterine receptivity and support implantation.
As the science continues to evolve, these therapies offer hope and promise for couples on their path to pregnancy. We also provide probiotic suppositories to impact the vaginal and uterine microbiome to support implantation. Our approach at Acubalance is holistic and comprehensive when it comes to optimizing embryo quality and uterine receptivity to support IVF/FET success.
This blog focused on acupuncture and LLLT. When it comes to what else you can do differently before you start a cycle or after an unsuccessful cycle, we also include functional medicine testing, Chinese herbs, diet, lifestyle, nutritional IV therapy, supplements, and mind-body tools to prepare you to be at your peak fertility potential before you start your medications for your IVF or FET cycle to increase your chances of success.
If you’re considering IVF or have an upcoming FET or want to learn more about how acupuncture and LLLT can benefit you, reach out to us at Acubalance. Together, we can work towards making your dream of becoming parents a reality.
Has the time come to include low-level laser photobiomodulation as an adjuvant therapy in the treatment of impaired endometrial receptivity?
Electroacupuncture Improves Pregnancy Outcomes in Rats with Thin Endometrium by Promoting the Expression of Pinopode-Related Molecules
Effect of Transcutaneous Electrical Acupuncture Point Stimulation on Endometrial Receptivity in Women Undergoing Frozen-Thawed Embryo Transfer: A Single-Blind Prospective Randomised Controlled Trial