Infertility and IVF

Chinese Medicine refers to life force ‘Qi’ (energy). This represents the bio-energy that flows through out the body. It is the vital force that creates the harmony of healthy functioning systems.

TCM treats infertility on the basis of careful differential diagnosis to resolve underlying patterns of disharmony. Reproduction like other areas of health is about balance.  TCM describes the female reproductive system as a network of energy systems with complementary organs and hormonal responses. The hormonal system is responsive to stress, chemical exposure, diet, lifestyle and emotions.

Traditional Chinese Medicine can be used to strengthen and balance general health often providing the foundation for conception to naturally occur. Clinical evidence and research has highlighted the importance of using acupuncture to treat infertility.

More recently research has found that Acupuncture can enhance the success rate of IVF. A study published in Fertility and Sterility found that 26 percent of women undergoing IVF became pregnant following the procedure compared to 43 percent who received acupuncture before and after IVF. This represents nearly 50 percent increase in effectiveness of IVF combined with acupuncture. Women in both groups were matched for age, number of transferred embryos and number of previous cycles among other criteria.


There is individuation to selection of points used for each patient which varies from session to session. The woman’s natural cycle phase will dictate what points are used at the different phases. For patients undergoing IVF or IUI, the treatment is modified according to the stages of the woman’s fertility treatment.

Kerri uses both the Western anatomy (autonomic nerve innervations) as well as the more traditional points to influence reproductive organs.

Traditional Chinese Medicine:

The classical point ZiGong known as the Uterus point located in the lower abdomen is frequently used to strengthen uterus and promote fertility. The point Conception Vessel 4 known as Guanyuan famous for its hormonal replenishing  and regulating affects. This point is often used in conjunction with moxibustion. Other points commonly used are located on the legs such as Spleen 6 known as Xiangu, also well known and used for its gynaecological and obstetric benefits. There are many other points in reproductive medicine that that are located along the legs and in the abdominal region.

Western anatomy/physiology

From the Western anatomical perspective the meridian points along the back along the dermatomes of T11 TO L2 dermatomes(sympathetic, mainly lower abdominal, low back, and upper buttock areas) and S2 to S4 (parasympathetic mainly sacrum, buttocks, and the back of the legs) dermatomes are the focus.   Japanese and Swedish researchers have demonstrated that stimulating different spinal and sacral nerve segments in a specific manner increased or decreased blood flow of the ovaries or uterus. The research demonstrates that the effectiveness of acupuncture is not solely dependant of the selection of points used, but also on other factors such as depth of needle insertion and intensity of stimulation.

Acupuncture can be employed to help alleviate some of the tension and anxiety inherent in treatment procedures. It has been well documented that stress negatively effects the outcome of Assisted Reproductive Therapy. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine’s Fertility and Sterility Journal, reported that stress impairs the success rate of IVF cycles up to 93 percent.

The National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health Fertility (NCCWCH) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology, has established plausible mechanisms to explain how acupuncture may benefit fertility:

· regulating fertility hormones – stress and other factors can disrupt the function of the hypothalamic pituitary-ovarian axis (HPOA), causing hormonal imbalances that can negatively impact fertility. Acupuncture has been shown to affect hormone levels by promoting the release of beta-endorphin in the brain, which affects the release of gonadotrophin releasing hormone by the hypothalamus, follicle stimulating hormone from the pituitary gland, and oestrogen and progesterone levels from the ovary (Ng 2008, Huang 2008, Lim 2010, Stener-Victorin 2010).

Further details of these processes are emerging, for example mRNA expression of hormones, growth factors and other neuropeptides (He 2009)

· increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs – stress also stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which causes constriction of ovarian arteries. Acupuncture inhibits this sympathetic activity, improving blood flow to the ovaries (Stener-Victorin 2006, Lim 2010), enhancing the environment in which ovarian follicles develop. It also increases blood flow to the uterus (Stener-Victorin 1996, Huang 2008), improving the thickness of the endometrial lining and increasing thechances of embryo implantation.

· counteracting the effects of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) – PCOS is one of the most common causes of female infertility. By reducing sympathetic nerve activity and balancing hormone levels, acupuncture has been shown to reduce the number of ovarian cysts, stimulate ovulation, enhance blastocyst implantation and regulate the menstrual cycle in women with PCOS (Stener-Victorin 2000, 2008, 2009, Zhang 2009). It may also help to control secondary effects such as obesity and anorexia (Lim 2010).