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Acupuncture Protocol to Optimise the IVF Procedure in Toowoomba

Infertility Treatments and the IVF Procedure have continued to be more successful, allowing infertile couples to conceive their very own “test-tube baby”. The world’s first successful “test-tube baby” Louise Joy Brown was born on July 25, 1978, in Great Britain. Two 2 years later, Australia’s first ‘test tube baby’ was born in 1980. Due to treating the symptoms of infertility, including excessive stress, acupuncture treatments have increased the success rate of the western medical IVF Procedure and Infertility Treatments during that time and allow infertile females and males the opportunity to conceive. Various aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) including acupuncture and Chinese herbs have a long successful track-record of helping couples optimise their health and well-being. When ancient acupuncture and modern IVF Procedures including Embryo Transfer (ET) combine, the likelihood of a fruitful outcome is enhanced. Recent scientific research confirms there is an improved outcome when acupuncture is used prior to Infertility Treatments and the IVF Procedures. 

There are many simple natural inexpensive procedures that can increase the circulation to the pelvic cavity, thereby possibly increasing egg production and endometrial thickness and vitality. This can further enhance the established beneficial synergistic effect of acupuncture on Infertility Treatments and the IVF Procedure. But be warned! Many acupuncture points can cause great harm including a miscarriage if used incorrectly. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that the Acupuncture treatment course is applied by an appropriately trained and qualified acupuncturist.  My name is Louis Gordon and I am a suitably qualified acupuncture practitioner. I practice acupuncture from ANTRAC Acupuncture Clinic in Middle Ridge, Toowoomba, 4350, Queensland, Australia. I have over 3 decades of acupuncture experience, I can assist in all aspects associated with male and female Infertility Treatments and especially when used alongside the IVF Procedure. Call for more information on (07) 4636 6100.

 MISSION STATEMENT: “I aim to get my patients as WELL as possible, as quickly as possible, and then to keep them WELL”.

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Toowoomba Acupuncturist Discusses IVF Infertility Treatments


Acupuncture Treatment Options to Help Treat the Symptoms of Infertility Naturally (e.g. stress) or Via IVF Infertility Treatments

Various acupuncture treatment options exist to support you throughout your Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) journey – including intrauterine insemination (IUI), In vitro fertilisation (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI, pronounced “eeksee” or “icksy”). Acupuncture treatments may increase your likelihood of a successful pregnancy and also elevate your mood. Available options range from having just one or two acupuncture treatments during the day of embryo transfer (ET) to a complete course of acupuncture prior to the day of embryo transfer, and then subsequently throughout the pregnancy.

What Different Treatment Options Exist Regarding Acupuncture and IVF?

Numerous scientific studies suggest that a course of Acupuncture treatment may improve your chances of conception. There are several different mechanisms at play including regulation of stress hormones which may have a positive effect on follicle development and the successful implantation of the embryo in the endometrium.

Option 1: Acupuncture treatments once per week for 12 weeks and beyond for both males and females to optimise the likelihood of couples falling pregnant naturally without any Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) intervention:

  • May increase blood flow to the uterine lining and developing follicles,
  • Relieves the effects of stress and anxiety, and
  • May increase implantation and pregnancy rates.

Option 2: Acupuncture treatments once per week for 12 weeks prior to IVF egg retrieval and then two treatments as close as possible before and after the embryo transfer:

  • May increase blood flow to the uterine lining and developing follicles,
  • Relieves the effects of stress and anxiety,
  • May increase implantation and pregnancy rates, and
  • May induce relaxation on the day of embryo transfer.

Option 3: Two acupuncture treatments as close as possible before and after the IVF embryo transfer:

  • May increase blood flow to the uterine lining,
  • May increase implantation and pregnancy rates, and
  • May induce relaxation on the day of embryo transfer.

Option 4: Acupuncture treatments weekly throughout the first trimester of pregnancy:

  • May provide emotional support and calms the mother,
  • May increase blood flow to the fetus, and
  • May relieve nausea and vomiting.

How Does A Course of Acupuncture Optimize My Chances Of Falling Pregnant Naturally or Through IVF?

Acupuncture is a simple medical procedure that involves using small acupuncture needles to stimulate defined acupoints on the skin. Numerous recent medical research articles suggest that acupuncture MAY:

  • Reduce stress to increase overall well-being,
  • Improve pregnancy rates in conjunction with IVF & Clomid medication,
  • Improve blood flow to the reproductive organs,
  • Balance reproductive hormones,
  • Regulate immune function required for implantation,
  • Regulate the menstrual cycle and ovulation,
  • Improve vital sperm parameters,
  • Reduce painful conditions and inflammation.

What If I Have Had Previous Failed IVF Cycles?

In this case it is wise to consider having a course of acupuncture treatments for 3-6 months prior to the ART procedure, to allow sufficient time to prepare the body for the next ART procedure and reduce stress levels and balance the meridians. Apart from the acupuncture treatments, many lifestyle changes will likely be required and Chinese herbal medicine may be required prior to your next IVF cycle. It has been said ‘You must nourish the soil before you plant the seed’ to optimize your chance of a successful pregnancy to term.

Should I Have an Acupuncture Treatment Between Egg Retrieval and Embryo Transfer?

Absolutely. The side-effects are often pronounced after egg retrieval, because even though the eggs have been removed, due to the prescribed fertility medications the hormone levels are still very high, and the empty follicles may engorge with fluid and cause the sensation of abdominal fullness. Acupuncture treatment may cause the symptoms of abdominal fullness and pain to subside. Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) may occur in severe cases. Acupuncture may be quite beneficial in this situation also.

Acupuncture may also be beneficial to reduce the inflammation that results from the tissue trauma of egg retrieval, thus allowing the uterine environment to be more conducive to implantation. Further, women with a thin lining of the endometrium will benefit from acupuncture in the days prior to embryo transfer.

Can Acupuncture Treatment Help Reduce Your Stress Levels And Anxiety?

Yes. Acupuncture is renowned for its potent effect on relieving stress. Many couples turn to acupuncture treatment before and during their IVF cycles to help reduce their stress and alleviate anxiety. During these stressful times, finding suitable coping mechanisms for your wellbeing is important to optimize the success rate of conception. High levels of stress in the body cause stress hormones e.g. cortisol to flood the blood and adversely affect many organ systems including the reproductive organs. Blood is the carrier of nutrients, oxygen, and gonadotropic IVF medications to the developing eggs and endometrial lining. Successfully managing stress and anxiety when trying to conceive may increase the success rate for falling pregnant and carrying to term.

Generally, 1-2 acupuncture treatments per week for several months leading up to embryo transfer may help reduce stress levels and optimize the ovaries response to IVF procedures.

Can Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Help My Egg Quality?

Inferior quality eggs are often due to faulty chromosomal or mitochondrial issues. The cause may be from years of accumulated damage, due to faulty lifestyle practices. Problems in the chromosomal DNA can result in an unsustainable embryo or with a baby with genetic defects. Problems in the mitochondrial DNA can reduce metabolic energy, which might adversely affect the survival and growth of the embryo during its first few days.

Acupuncture treatment and Chinese herbal medicine might possibly be able to correct damage related to advanced age. It is believed that Acupuncture increases blood flow to the ovaries and subsequently optimizes the nourishment of the developing follicle and appears to increase the responsiveness of the follicles to IVF drugs.

There is some evidence that mitochondrial function can be boosted due to the antioxidant effects of therapeutic components in the Chinese herbs. Mitochondria are the fuel cells of the body. Coenzyme Q-10 is a component of the electron transport chain in mitochondria, and participates in aerobic cellular respiration, generating energy in the form of ATP. As ninety-five percent of the human body’s energy is generated this way, it is good to supplement with Coenzyme Q-10 to enhance mitochondrial function.

In the event of an unsuccessful IVF procedure you may consider undertaking a more comprehensive course of acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatment program prior to your next IVF cycle.

I Was Diagnosed With A Thin Endometrial Lining. Can Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Help?

Possibly yes. A major cause of infertility and IVF failure is a thin endometrial lining of the uterus, and insufficient blood flow to the uterus, i.e. a poor uterine artery pulsatility index. Acupuncture treatment has been shown to increase the blood flow to the uterus. It should be noted that from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) point of view, stress, lack of exercise, insufficient rest, lack of joy, and consumption of certain foods can reduce blood flow to the uterus and the ovaries. The following treatments have been shown to be effective to increase the thickness of thin endometrial linings.

Acupuncture to increase the thickness of thin endometrial linings

Scientific research suggests that acupuncture increases blood flow rate to the reproductive organs (uterus, ovaries, testes). This may be a major reason why acupuncture is so beneficial to women going through IVF fertility treatments. Blood brings the fertility medications to the ovaries and the uterus, and if the blood flow is unimpeded, then more IVF medications arrive at their intended target, which results in better responses and increased positive outcomes.

Chinese Herbal Medicine to increase the thickness of thin endometrial linings

Many Chinese medicinal herbs have been shown to increase the blood flow to the reproductive organs. Many herbs are said to ‘quicken and invigorate blood’. Other herbs are said to ‘nourish and build blood’. Scientific research is now showing that many of these herbs have physiological effects similar to Viagra (Sildenafil), a medication known for its effect on erectile function. Both of these preparations increase blood flow to the uterus, ovaries, and penis (causing erections) due to the release of Nitric Oxide, a substance that dilates blood vessels. L-arginine is an amino acid that occurs naturally in the diet. L-arginine-rich foods include plant and animal proteins, such as dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, and nuts. In the body L-Arginine is used to make nitric oxide naturally.

The following procedures are recommended for you to do at home to increase blood flow to the reproductive organs and to optimize the thickness and nutrient supply to the endometrium.

Using the Castor Oil Pack to Increase Circulation to Pelvic Organs
Castor oil has a long history of traditional medical use dating back as far as ancient Egypt. Castor oil is derived from the castor bean, and is used externally as a castor oil pack placed on the skin to increase the local circulation and to promote elimination and healing of the underlying tissues and organs, including the ovaries and uterus. It has been shown to stimulate the liver, relieve pain, increase lymphatic circulation, reduce inflammation, and improve digestion.

Therapeutic Castor oil packs are prepared by soaking a facecloth in castor oil and placing it over the lower abdomen just above the pubic bone. The castor oil soaked facecloth is covered with a sheet of plastic that has been cut 5 cm wider than the facecloth on all 4 sides, and then a hot water bottle is placed over the plastic to warm the abdomen. Note that cut-down ALDI reusable shopping bags are ideal as a cover.

Castor oil packs have also been found helpful when placed over the lower abdomen in cases of menstrual irregularities and uterine and ovarian cysts.

Please note that Castor oil should not be taken internally, should not be applied to broken skin, and should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Using the Castor Oil Circulation Boosting Pack

Place the facecloth in a dedicated container and add castor oil to the cloth. Soak the facecloth  in castor oil so that it is saturated, but not dripping. Place the facecloth directly over the abdomen above the pubic bone, and cover it with the plastic sheet. Place the hot water bottle over the plastic sheet. Perhaps you can secure the pack using an old belt. Leave the pack on for 45-60 minutes. Rest and relax while the pack is in place.

Administer the pack for 10 days in the follicular phase of your menstrual cycle generally between day 3 to day 12. It is recommended to perform this procedure in the evening at the same time as taking the hot water foot soak, as discussed below.

After removing the pack from your abdomen, cleanse your skin with a dilute solution of warm water and bicarbonate of soda. After use, store the facecloth in the covered container in the refrigerator. Each facecloth may be reused up to 30 times, or approximately 3 months before it is discarded.

As castor oil will stain clothing and bedding, wear old clothes when using the pack and avoid getting any castor oil on bed clothes and towels as it may well stain them.

Hot Water Foot Soak to Increase Circulation to Pelvic Organs
Research has shown that hot water foot-baths at around 49° Celsius tend to boost female fertility. So before going to bed, especially during the follicular phase of your menstrual cycle, (that is from day 3 to day 12) soak both of your feet in a basin of hot water for 20 minutes.

Femoral Artery Compression to Increase Circulation to Pelvic Organs
From the end of your period until your ovulation (or egg-retrieval date if you are undergoing an IVF procedure), perform the following procedure 2-3 times on each leg once or twice per day. This procedure increases the blood flow to the pelvic organs, providing more nourishment to the uterus and ovaries, testes and penis.

The femoral artery of your thigh can be located level with your pubic bone, just beneath the crease in your groin between your thigh and lower abdomen. With fairly heavy pressure compress the femoral artery with your fingers. When you feel that blood flow down the leg has ceased, firmly maintain pressure there for 30 seconds. The interrupted blood flow will then back up and increase the pressure gradient in the iliac arteries which forces more blood into the pelvic arteries. This temporary blockage floods the pelvic organs and genitals with more blood. When the pressure is released, you should feel a sensation of warmth rushing down your leg as the normal blood supply returns to the lower extremities.

Do not perform this procedure if you:

  • are pregnant,
  • are post-transfer during an IVF cycle,
  • have high blood pressure,
  • have heart disease or circulatory problems (aneurisms, varicose veins, phlebitis, thrombosis), or
  • have a history of strokes or detached retinas.

Foods that Promote a Thick Uterine Lining

Normally, the uterine lining grows 1 to 2 mm every other day in response to estrogen. After ovulation, a lining of between 8 and 13 mm is considered normal. If the lining doesn’t develop to this thickness, it is more difficult for the embryo to successfully implant. A few reasons this may happen include infection, scarring from D&Cs, low estrogen levels, poor uterine blood supply and sometimes endometrial antibodies.

Following are a few dietary principles that appear to promote a thick uterine lining.

1 – Eat blood-nourishing and iron rich foods, such as protein. Remember to eat meat lean and organic only. Besides animal protein, other good blood builders include: rice and oats, lentils and other types of beans and legumes, green leafy vegetables, cabbage, celery, mushrooms, and nuts and seeds.

2 – Eat Foods Containing Phytoestrogens

  • Beans – split peas, millet, lentils, lima beans, chickpeas, black eyed peas, navy beans, red beans, mung bean sprouts.
  • Grains and Seeds – barley, brown rice, oats, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds.
  • Veggies – celery, beets, bok choy, broccolli, cauliflower, carrots, cucumbers, mushrooms, brussel sprouts, seaweeds of all kinds, squash, tomatoes,
  • Fruits – apples, cherries, pears, plums, prunes.
  • Herbs – ginger, hops, oregano, red raspberry, sage, thyme, tumeric, cloves.

3 – Avoid sour foods when you are menstruating (e.g. yogurt, vinegar, pickles, grapefruit, currants, and green apples. Also avoid peas, as they’re a natural contraceptive, and eat soy with caution, as it contains a lot of phytoestrogens.

4 – Eat more blood-nourishing foods when you are menstruating such as eggs, carrots, spinach, dates, and goji berries.

5 – Consume more blood invigorating foods when you are menstruating such as fish, fish oil, ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric.

6 – Vitamin D3 is known to be deficient in many women and a number of studies have indicated that vitamin D3 deficiency adversely effects IVF success and cause infertility. Vitamin D2 is not the same and should be avoided.

Does Acupuncture improve the embryo implantation rate?

Many studies suggest that Acupuncture may increase implantation rates during IVF procedures. Please note that acupuncture treatments may also encourage implantation when couples are trying to conceive naturally too. In this case having acupuncture treatments close to ovulation and in the 4-5 days after ovulation may offer maximum benefit. Having intercourse on the first day of presentation of egg-white fertility mucosa, and then daily for the next 3 days is essential for maximum likelihood of falling pregnant in any one cycle.

One study (1) examined exactly how acupuncture influences the uterus and how acupuncture influences implantation by measuring changes in various endometrial receptivity factors, including endometrial morphology, hormone concentrations, and protein expression of endometrial leukaemia-inhibitory factor (LIF) and osteopontin (OPN). These are all measurable indicators of endometrial receptivity.  The study was performed on rats and compared acupuncture treatment to clomiphene citrate (Clomid). The study showed that when compared to the Clomid group, acupuncture was able to improve glandular development of the uterus lining with significant improvements in endometrial LIF and OPN, both measures of endometrial receptivity.

The researchers concluded “These results suggest that acupuncture can improve certain aspects of endometrial receptivity in CC-induced rat model during implantation period, which might result in endometrial state better suited to female reproduction.”


(1) Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:606514. Epub 2010 Sep 30. Acupuncture on the Endometrial Morphology, the Serum Estradiol and Progesterone Levels, and the Expression of Endometrial Leukaemia-inhibitor Factor and Osteopontin in Rats. Fu H, He Y, Gao Y, Man Y, Liu W, Hao H.


Scheduling Acupuncture Treatments for the Day of Embryo Transfer

When your fertility specialist advises you that your follicles (eggs) are ready, you will be given an injection of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is ‘the trigger’. At this stage, the dates of your embryo transfer are defined. Your oocyte pick-up (OPU) or egg retrieval will occur two calendar days after the hCG injection. Then, three to five days after the oocyte pick-up (OPU) will be your transfer dates. This day will be determined by the fertility technician’s opinion of how the embryos are progressing. However, it’s only the day before your actual embryo transfer date that you will be told the precise time your embryo transfer procedure will be.

Therefore, regarding your acupuncture treatment on the day of embryo transfer, there are 2 important times to call (07) 4636 6100 for your appointment times:

  • As soon as you know the date of your hCG ‘trigger’ injection and/or the date of oocyte pick-up (OPU) so that they can schedule you for tentative day 3 or 5 transfer dates, or
  • When you get the phone call from the IVF clinic telling you the actual embryo transfer (ET) date and the precise time that your procedure will occur.

On the day of embryo transfer (ET), it is optimal to have the prior acupuncture treatment as close to the ET as possible. The acupuncture treatment will take about 50 minutes.

The embryo transfer is the last procedure of the IVF process. It is a critically important procedure. No matter how sophisticated the IVF-laboratory culture environment is, the physician can ruin everything with a carelessly performed embryo transfer. The entire IVF cycle depends on delicate placement of the embryos at the proper location near the middle of the endometrial cavity, with minimal trauma and manipulation.

Then, after the embryo transfer procedure, the second acupuncture treatment is administered. These treatments help calm you and may optimize uterine receptivity. Note that an acupuncture treatment should be administered as soon as possible after the ET. Research indicates that an acupuncture treatment administered as long as 2 days after the embryo transfer is generally not considered to be beneficial.

A Special Note About Active Birth-Control Pills Taken Up Until Pill-Stop Day

Remember to take active birth-control pills until the “pill-stop day”. If your protocol leads in with birth control pills, it is critical that you know that the first 21 pills in the pack are “real” pills while the last 7 are “fake sugar pills.” If you have been instructed to stay on birth-control pills, you must stay on active “real” pills. If your “pill-stop day” is, for example, 26 days away, then you must take 21 “real” pills from one pack, and discard the last 7 “fake sugar pills”, and then start a fresh new pack in order to make it to your “pill-stop day”. IVF protocols are designed around the birth control pills being taken at bedtime.

 A Special Note About Filling Your Bladder Before The Embryo Transfer

A significantly higher pregnancy rate is achieved with routine bladder distension before embryo transfer, probably attributable to the smooth and easy insertion of the embryo transfer catheter (1).

You should start drinking sufficient water as instructed by the IVF clinic early in the morning on the day of the ET procedure. If your fertility specialist requires that your bladder is full prior to the ET procedure, we will assess the condition of your bladder when you arrive for your acupuncture treatment prior to the embryo-transfer-procedure. If your bladder is too full, you will be able to partially empty your bladder and then drink 500 mL of water after the acupuncture treatment is administered, before you leave the clinic on your way to the ET procedure .

If your fertility specialist does not encourage this simple but uncomfortable procedure, research confirms the increased likelihood of a successful pregnancy.


(1) Anon. “The role of uterine straightening by passive bladder distension before embryo transfer in IVF cycles.” J Assist Reprod Genet. 1997 Jan;14(1):32-4.

(2) “Increasing Pregnancy by Improving Embryo Transfer Techniques.” Tahereh Madani and Nadia Jahangiri. Available from

The information and opinions expressed on this website are in no way a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You must consult with your fertility specialist, pharmacist, or health care provider before implementing any suggestions or taking any supplements or following any treatment advice suggested by information on this site. Only your personal health care provider, your personal physician, or your pharmacist can supply you with advice that is deemed safe and effective for your individual health needs or diagnose medical conditions based on your personal medical history.

Accupuncture, Acupunture or Accupunture common misspelling

Note that “Acupuncture” is often misspelt as accupuncture, acupunture or accupunture, that is with either too many c’s or not enough c’s. I would love to be able to clear up this very common spelling mistake, and set the record straight.

Ac·u·punc·ture – pronounced ak-yoo-puhngk-cher; Origin: 1675–85; < Latin acū with a needle (ablative of acus  needle) or acu- (as combining form of acus ) + puncture.


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