I use electroacupuncture frequently in my practice in many different scenarios such as PCOS, during IVF and other types of medicated cycles such as clomid or IUI or just for clients trying to become pregnant and with concerns about their eggs or implantation.
What is electroacupuncture?
Electroacupuncture involves the needles inserted as in a normal acupuncture session but a tiny electrode is attached to them. The electrode provides a gentle vibration to the needle.
How does it feel?
Electroacupuncture is often described as a gentle tickle and is very soothing in sensation. The technique is very localised to precise points on the body and as such any current only moves a short distance between the needles. It is not moving around your body. NO spiky hair I promise.
What qualifications do you have?
As well as being a trained nurse and qualified acupuncturist I have post-grad training in the specialism of electroacupuncture. It is quite a complex subject. My extra training covered evidence and research, positioning of electrodes, settings for each condition and what contraindications are applicable.
I have also been using it for many years so have a wealth of experience.
Have there been any studies into its use?
There have been many studies looking at the effects of electroacupuncture. Many do focus on IVF and other medicated fertility cycles. It is easier for researchers to monitor patients when they are in and out for scans through a cycle so makes them good subjects for observation.
In one such study electroacupuncture was used twice weekly for the four weeks leading up to egg collection. Dr Magarelli showed it can have a positive impact on the endocrine stress hormones Cortisol and Prolactin. During an IVF cycle it helps to correct the negative changes of these two hormones and bring patients into the balance of homeostasis.
An NIH study on rats receiving ovarian stimulation concluded that decreased amounts of a specific enzyme contributed to the eggs failing to fully mature. Performing acupuncture at specific points and specific frequencies increased the amount of this enzyme in the body leading to more mature eggs.
I use this technique with IVF clients and also those going through other medicated cycles such as clomid or IUI.
A successful IVF procedure involves not only the transfer of a viable embryo, but also an optimal uterine environment. While much emphasis is placed on improving the sperm and the egg; receptivity of the womb is an often forgotten concept to pregnancy success.
Pulsatility Index and Blood Flow to the Uterus.
The pulsatility index has been a tool used in multiple studies to assess endometrial receptivity or even predict IVF success .In numerous studies, a higher index has been associated with a decreased pregnancy rate following embryo transfer. In fact, Steer et al. demonstrated that a pulsatility index of 3.0 or more at the time of embryo transfer could actually predict 35% of failed pregnancies .
Can Electroacupuncture Increase IVF Success?
Luckily, the pulsatility index can be modified. Electroacupuncture was shown to reduce blood flow impedance to the uterine arteries. In this study, a group of women undergoing IVF received a series of 8 acupuncture sessions over the course of 4 weeks. In these women, a statistically significant drop in the pulsatility index was measured by the end of the 8th sessions, and this benefit was maintained even 10-14 days after the treatment period had ended. Following the series of acupuncture treatments, the pulsatility index fell within the desired range for optimal uterine receptivity of 2.0 – 2.99, for the majority of the women in this study.
Optimal endometrial receptivity at the time of implantation is a requirement for successful pregnancy. Studies have repeatedly noted that measuring blood flow impedance in the uterine arteries, can be a useful assessment for endometrial receptivity and even IVF success. The findings of the current study suggest that a series of 8 electroacupuncture treatments can increase uterine artery blood flow and promote endometrial receptivity in women undergoing IVF.
PCOS and electroacupuncture
I also use it with my PCOS clients to promote ovulation and help with regulating any problems with elevated prolactin or cortisol. Acupuncture may increase blood flow to the ovaries and reduce ovarian volume and number of cysts in polycystic ovarian syndrome
In one study into obesity and accompanying anxiety and depression by Cabioglu and Tan showed that electroacupuncture was an effective therapy in women. A useful tool in helping clients with PCOS who have problems with weight loss. It is lovely to be able to proactively help with this as so many times clients are just told to lose weight and left on their own to do it with no support. It can be lonely and a disheartening time.
As you can see I use electroacupuncture regularly for a myriad of conditions.
If you would like to know more about how it may be used with your issues please get in touch. I am happy to help.
References and further reading.
R.K. and Steptoe, P.C. Doppler ultrasound studies of the uterine artery in spontaneous ovarian cycles. Hum. Reprod. 1988; 3, 721-726.
Goswamy, R.K., Williams, G. and Steptoe, P.C. Decreased uterine perfusion – cause of infertility. Hum. Reprod. 1988; 3, 955-959.
Steer, C.V., Campbell, S., Tan, S.L. et al. The use of transvaginal colour flow imaging after in vitro fertilization to identify optimum uterine conditions before embryo transfer. Fertil. Steril. 1992; 57, 372-376.
Steer, C.V., Tan, S.L., Mason, B.A. and Campbell, S. Vaginal color Doppler assessment of uterine artery impedance correlates with immunohistochemical markers of endometrial receptivity required for the implantation of an embryo. Fertil., Steril. 1995; 61, 101-108.
Sterzik, K., Hütter, W., Grab, D. et al. Doppler sonographic findings and their correlation with implantation in an in vitro fertilizalion program. Fertil. Steril. 1989; 52, 825-828.
Tekay, A., Martikainen, H. and Jouppila, P. Blood flow changes in uterine and ovarian vasculature, and predictive value of transvaginal pulsed colour Doppler ultrasonography in an in- vitro fertilization programme. Hum. Reprod. 1995; 10, 688-693.
Coulam, C.B., Stem. I.J., Soenksen D.M., Britten, S. and Bustillo, M. Comparison of pulsatility indices on the day of oocyte retrieval and embryo transfer. Hum. Reprod. 1995; 10, 82-84.
Stener-Victorin, E., Waldenström, U., Andersson, S.A. and Wikland M. Reduction of blood flow impedance in the uterine arteries of infertile women with electro- acupuncture. Hum Reprod. 1996;11, 1314-1317.
stener-Victorin Ovarian blood flow responses to electroacupuncture. Autonomic Neuroscience. 2003
Stener-Victorin Effect of electroacupuncture stimulation on ovarian blood flow in anaesthetised rats with steroid induced PCOS. Reproductive biology and Endocrinology.2004