Spring May increase fertility, but acupuncture gives it wings.
By Richard Collisson LicAc, MBAcC
Recent scientific research now supports the belief that Spring is a fertile season. Researchers at the Countess of Chester Hospital and Liverpool Women's Hospital observed that 20 per cent of IVF cycles from May to September resulted in a successful pregnancy, compared to 16 per cent for the rest of the year. These findings are supported by similar research presented at the World Congress of Fertility and Sterility in 2010, which found higher fertilisation rates in women undergoing IVF in spring.
Increasing daylight levels in spring stimulates women's bodies to produce higher levels of estradiol (a hormone important for fertilisation of the egg and development of the embryo), confirmed by blood samples taken from the participants in the study, which showed higher levels of this hormone detected in springtime and that those who had treatment in March, April or May were 1.5 times more likely to conceive than at any other time of the year.
Increasing levels of sunlight in springtime raise Vitamin D levels, lack of which have been linked to infertility. A study at Yale University School Of Medicine found 93 per cent of women with ovulation problems had low levels of the Vitamin D which appears to play a key role in ovulation and other studies also suggest it also damps down the body's immune response to a fertilised egg (which contains foreign DNA), increasing chances of implantation.
Acupuncture & IVF
The impact of Spring on IVF only accounts for about a 4% increase in success rates, a slightly significant effect, whereas the majority of studies into the impact of acupuncture on IVF have shown a highly significant improvement in the outcome, often demonstrating an increase in not only pregnancy, but also ongoing pregnancy and live birth rates of about 50%.
The ‘Paulus Protocol’ is the name given to a landmark study which took place in Germany in 2001 which was the first major scientific attempt to investigate the impact of acupuncture on the outcome of IVF treatment. It’s results demonstrated a greater than 50% increase in pregnancy rates if acupuncture was used in combination with IVF compared to IVF alone. A few years later, Danish researchers (Westergaard, 2005) performed a similar study and also recorded a 50% increase in the pregnancy rate, but further discovered that this effect persisted in ongoing pregnancy rates at 18 weeks. Other German researchers (Dieterle, 2005) further confirmed that ongoing pregnancy rates were doubled if acupuncture was combined with IVF.
Finally, in 2008, two major reviews were carried out in the UK. First the British Medical Journal published a systematic review of seven randomized controlled trials, since 2002, involving 1,366 women and concluded that acupuncture improves both pregnancy and live birth rates. Secondly, researchers at Southampton University (Cheong, 2008) reviewed 13 studies involving more than 2,000 women again concluded that acupuncture with IVF achieved a live birth rate 50% greater than IVF alone.
Interestingly psychologists studying the effect of placebo in scientific studies believe it is irrelevant with respect to the outcome of acupuncture with IVF, because unlike pain, which is subjective, being pregnant is an objective fact, you either are pregnant or you are not – ie. believing you are pregnant will not make you any more pregnant.
* (All studies published in the journal Fertility and Sterility)