Research: Chinese Medicine and IVF

Using the Full Breadth of Chinese Medicine Can Improve IVF Outcomes

In a recent published study, women going through IVF were grouped in three different ways to assess pregnancy and live birth rates: no acupuncture with their IVF, protocol-based acupuncture and customized Chinese medicine treatments, where treatments were individualized according to patient's needs and Chinese medicine pattern diagnosis, while aiming to support the goals of the IVF phase.

Of 1,231 fresh cycles, live birth rates were 61.3% in the "whole systems" group compared to IVF alone (48.2%) and protocol acupuncture (50.8%).

In conclusion, when using the full breadth of Chinese medicine including diagnosis specific to the individual, which lends itself to customized acupuncture, herbal therapy, supplements, nutrition and lifestyle advice, the outcomes are even better than simply using protocol acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer (even though that's also much better than none at all!).

So, based on research, Integrative Fertility recommends getting preparatory acupuncture prior to your IVF cycle. However, we're happy to dive in with you wherever you are and support you to the best of our ability.


Lee E. Hullender Rubin, Michael S. Opsahl, Klaus Wiemer, Scott D. Mist, Aaron B. Caughey, Impact of whole systems traditional Chinese medicine on in vitro fertilization outcomes, Reproductive BioMedicine Online (2015)

The Sunny Side of Vitamin D

Hippocrates suggested that it was optimal to live on the southern face of a hill - this would have been the sunny side. He may have been a real estate mogul, but considering his investment and contributions to medicine, it is more likely that he was the first person to correlate the significance of our exposure to the sun as a primary source of Vitamin D and disease prevention. Today there is a growing aversion to sun exposure. Subsequently, Vitamin D levels have significantly decreased.

What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D isn't actually a vitamin at all. It's a prehormone that is catalyzed into useable vitamin D by a heat reaction, which may account for part of the reason that sun exposure is necessary for Vitamin D conversion. Vitamin D can be obtained through dietary intake, but unless you have a diet rich in reindeer meat, lichen or seagull eggs, it is unlikely that you are getting adequate dietary sources.

Vitamin D and Pregnancy Preparation
Without the prehormone Vitamin D, we do not have the substrate for calcitriol (the hormonally active form of Vitamin D), which is pivotal for brain development - especially during pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins do not prevent Vitamin D deficiency. They basically contain a homeopathic level of Vitamin D. So, during pregnancy preparation or early pregnancy, it is advisable to supplement with 5,000 IU and increase to 6,000 IU in later stages of pregnancy (5,000 for mom and 1,000 for baby).

What's a typical level and dose of Vitamin D?
A healthy hunter gatherer-style dose of Vitamin D in the blood is about 46 ml (the lab test you want to get is 25-hydroxy vitamin D test). If you're low, you can supplement with 5,000 IU/day for the days that you're not out in the sun (without sunblock). Also take into account that genetic variations and obesity can change ones response to Vitamin D uptake. So, it's not sufficient to just supplement. You also need to periodically recheck your Vitamin D levels to make sure it’s working, and of course remember that any imbalance may be related to broader health conditions. It's always worth putting any finding into the context of your collaboration with your health care practitioner.

Contributed by Caylie See, L.Ac., FABORM


What are Xenoestrogens?
Xeno comes from the Greek word for foreign, and xenoestrogens are environmental compounds such as plastics and certain foods that imitate estrogen in the body. These estrogen-producing substances can suppress gonadotrophins, or sex hormones and potentially have a negative impact on both male and female reproductive health – especially in estrogen-sensitive conditions such as endometriosis or adenomyosis.
Some of the main culprits to avoid are:

plastic cups and containers that are not BPA free • foods reheated in plastic or styrofoam containers • Shampoos, lotion, soaps, cosmetics, toothpastes that contain paraben or phenoxyethanol

It’s postulated that some phytoestrogens, or plant-based estrogens may be an age old mechanism of plants producing estrogen to fend off their herbivore predators by rendering them infertile. The following foods have naturally occurring estrogen and should be minimized while pursuing fertility treatment:

Lavender • Sage and rosemary • Red Clover • Alfalfa Sprouts • Tea tree oil (melaleuca) • Sunflower seeds and Sunflower oil • Pomegranate – The Greeks used this plant as a contraceptive • Dates • Fennel • Licorice • Oregano

You certainly don’t have to live in a bubble (especially a plastic bubble made from BPAs) to get pregnant, but being mindful of how much exposure you have to xenoestrogens may help to optimize your fertility pursuits.

Hughes CL (June 1988). "Phytochemical mimicry of reproductive hormones and modulation of herbivore fertility by phytoestrogens". Environ. Health Perspect. 78: 171–4.
Alleva E, Brock J, Brouwer A, Colborn T, Fossi MC, Gray E, Guillette L, Hauser P, Leatherland J, MacLusky N, Mutti A, Palanza P, Parmigiani S, Porterfield, Santi R, Stein SA, vom Saal F (1998). "Statement from the work session on environmental endocrine-disrupting chemicals: neural, endocrine, and behavioral effects". Toxicol Ind Health 14 (1–2): 1–8.
Brock J, Colborn T, Cooper R, Craine DA, Dodson SFM, Garry VF, Gilbertson M, Gray E, Hodgson E, Kelce W, Klotz D, Maciorowski AF, Olea N, Porter W, Rolland R, Scott GI, Smolen M, Snedaker SC, Sonnenschein C, Vyas NB, Welshons WV, Whitcomb CE (1999). "Statement from the Work Session on Health Effects of Contemporary-Use Pesticides: the Wildlife / Human Connection". Toxicol Ind Health 15 (1–2): 1–5.
Massart F, Parrino R, Seppia P, Federico G, Saggese G (June 2006). "How do environmental estrogen disruptors induce precocious puberty?". Minerva Pediatr. 58 (3): 247–54.
Charlier C. Effects of environmental pollutants on hormone disturbances. Bull Mem Acad R Med Belg. 2006;161(1-2):116-24; discussion 124-6.

 contributed by Caylie See, L.Ac., FABORM