What is IVF and ICSI?
IVF (in vitro fertilisation) and ICSI (intro-cytoplasmic sperm injection) are assisted reproductive techniques that may be offered to you if you and your partner have been experienced trouble conceiving. IVF involves the fertilisation of an egg with sperm in the laboratory (in vitro) followed by the transfer of one or more fertilised embryos back into the womb. In ICSI a single sperm is chosen and injected directly into an egg and may be recommended to you and your partner if sperm abnormalities are apparent, or where low fertilisation rates have been seen in your previous IVF attempts.
How can I access IVF and ICSI treatment?
You can fund IVF and ICSI treatments yourself privately but you may also be eligible for help through the NHS if this is part of the guidance provided by your local clinical commissioning group (CCG). Although the decision to provide funding rests with your CCG, they must take into consideration national recommendations laid out in the most recent NICE guidance. Success rates for IVF/ICSI treatments vary from around 32.3% for women under 35, gradually decreasing to approximately 1.9% for women aged over 44.
Our patients have received treatment from some of the most successful fertility clinics in the London and Hertfordshire areas and the success rates published by each clinic are:
- Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre in Upper Wimpole Street (70.9%) (June 2013)
- Lister Fertility Clinic in Chelsea, 44.9% (July 2012 - June 2013)
- Herts and Essex Fertility Centre in Cheshunt, 43.7% (January 2013 - July 2014)
- IVF Hammersmith 41.1% (2014 results)
- London Fertility Centre 36% (2012 results)
*All success rates shown are for females under 35 where pregnancies have led to a baby i.e. 'live-birth', rather than relying only on detection of a foetal heartbeat at 8 weeks, known as a 'clinical pregnancy'.
What does the research say about acupuncture and chinese medicine?
If you and your partner have opted for IVF treatment, your clinic may also recommend other ways to supplement your treatment such as acupuncture. Research published in the British Medical Journal in 2008 suggested that acupuncture used alongside IVF treatments can increase the chances of achieving a live birth by 91% and clinical pregnancy by a considerable 65%.
Clinical studies and reviews to date have suggested that acupuncture may improve chances of success during IVF in a number of ways:
- Improving response to hormonal medications and embryo quality (Rashidi 2013)
- Improving implantation rates (Villahermosa 2013)
- Reducing rates of miscarriage (Hullender Rubin 2013)
- Reducing anxiety levels (Anderson 2007)
- Reducing side effects of IVF medications and surgical procedures (Sator-Katzenschlager 2006)
- Reducing pain during egg collection (Kwan 2003)
When should I start Acupuncture or chinese medicine?
We find that patients get the most benefit when they undergo a 3-month fertility preparation programme before undergoing IVF or ICSI treatment. This is always a tailored package of sessions that give you and your body the chance to prepare for upcoming treatment by:
- regulating different aspects of the cycle
- reducing stress and anxiety
- providing additional focus on wellbeing and nutrition.
Acupuncture is the most commonly used as supportive treatment but this may also be used alongside other treatments such as moxibustion (commonly used to regulate ovulation, or after egg collection to reduce pain, or during stimulation phase to improve pelvic circulation); and ear-acupuncture (useful for reducing stress and anxiety, and on the day of embryo transfer).
Although we believe it's important for all women to feel prepared for their IVF treatment, those with gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome may find our treatments particularly beneficial.
what can i expect during my IVF treatment?
Our recommendation is for acupuncture to be carried out once a week during down-regulation and stimulation phases of your IVF treatment. Treatment is frequently offered at the particularly influential times of egg collection and embryo transfer, and can be tailored to any specific previous problems you may have had - for example, we would recommend a different schedule if a previous IVF attempt was not successful because of suspected implantation issues.
We will always discuss optimal treatment times with you as you come up to your fertility treatment and provide you with specific advice or recommendations to help support you during what can be a stressful and busy time.
If you are interested in finding out more about acupuncture and Chinese medicine to support you during upcoming fertility treatment, please drop us a call for a no-obligation consultation and further advice for your particular situation.