What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a therapeutic approach for the treatment of reversible disorders and uses needles (steel, gold or silver) inserted at very specific points in the skin.
This is one of the oldest invasive treatment techniques, which started 4,000 years ago in China. In the Western World, it began gaining ground approximately 160 years ago. It first appeared with the Dutchman Jacob de Bondt in 1658, the German Andreas Cleyer 1686 and the Swedish Engelbert Kampfer in 1712. The first Greek physician acupuncturist was the Athenian Constantine Tragas in the 1950s.
Surveys and their evidence
Acupuncture causes the release of encephalins and endorphins into the nervous system, which act on the human body, particularly affecting the autonomic nervous system.
The basic function of the autonomic nervous system is the regulation of bioelectric forces in muscles and endocrine glands. The ion balance distribution inside and outside the smooth muscle is essential for the conservation of the natural functions of the viscera. Acupuncture is capable of causing changes in the electrical potential of the cell membrane, restoring the balance when it is disturbed by internal or external factors.
Detailed studies have found that acupuncture:
• addresses a significant number of diseases but does not cure everything
• is indicated especially when there is a disruption of an operation and less so when there is serious structural damage to any organ system.
• as a therapeutic technique seems to provide significant help for:
• pain (headaches, migraines, pain in the arms or legs, sciatica)
• psychosomatic diseases
• gastrointestinal tract disorders (anorexia, hyperphagia-obesity, constipation-intestinal disorders)
• sexual disorders
• neurological diseases
• ear nose and throat diseases
• vascular diseases (hypertension, hypotension)
• respiratory diseases etc.
Especially for Assisted Reproductive Technology, acupuncture appears to:
• improve the response to assisted fertilisation treatment
• increase blood flow to the ovaries and other organs of the genital system
• stabilise the endocrine system
• improve psychological factor that appear to play an important role in conception
How does acupuncture help in IVF? Where does acupuncture treatment fit within an IVF cycle?
For a woman following an IVF programme, acupuncture is recommended one to two times a week during the treatment for oocyte retrieval. Acupuncture is also important on the day of embryo transfer and two days after. This approach aims to maintain the high perfusion and function levels of both ovarian and endometrial tissue, which is where the embryos are transferred. It also strengthens the woman and boosts her psychologically throughout the duration of the precious attempt.
Are there any risks?
One of the characteristics of acupuncture is the total absence of side effects! In addition, there is no risk of overdose, while in cases of parallel systemic medication acupuncture seems to work in synergy with these drugs and not in competition.
Head of Acupuncture Programme
Embryolab Assisted Reproduction Unit