Tuesday, September 9, 2008

East meet West. West meet East.

I met with my acupuncturist today.  We did a consultation and treatment session.  Now, some call acupuncture a 'very expensive nap' (I, myself, do tend to fall asleep during the sessions).  There are also claims that no relationship exists between acupuncture and an increased success rate for pregnancies in IVF patients.

I'll tell you what I've been told by Western doctors and my acupuncturist, as well as the limited research I've done on the topic.

My fertility doctor's view on acupuncture:
  • Dr. Skywalker doesn't mind if I use acupuncture.  However, he did reference an article released this summer claiming acupuncture has 'no effect' on IVF pregnancy success rates.  I found something similar in the UK edition of THE TIMES.  While the findings are compelling, I'm sensing a hesitation from my doctor to tell me 'yes' or 'no' (therefore, I'm ignoring the article).
  • I was asked NOT to take Chinese herbal supplements while doing IVF treatment.  His rationale being the introduction of too many unknown medications make it difficult to follow my body's reaction to the hormonal injections (very logical, I willing follow advice).
  • He did NOT want me to do an acupuncture session directly after IVF transfer.  He wants me to go on strict bed rest as soon as I leave the clinic (who doesn't want to be treated like a princess for 48 hours, I willing follow advice.  Bring over some movies Ash!).
My primary care physician's view on acupuncture:
  • He is aware of research that does promote the use of acupuncture for allergies and carpal tunnel syndrome.  He is not aware of compelling research on the benefits for IVF patients (fair reply).
  • While he wouldn't endorse the use of acupuncture for IVF patients, he was willing to endorse the fact that acupuncture is harmless.  Basically if said patient (that would be me) wanted to spend the money,  he said research shows no harm in using acupuncture (Ah, just the nudge I needed to schedule my acupuncture appointment).
My acupuncturist's (obviously biased) view on acupuncture:
  • She recommended acupuncture once a week for pain management issues associated with the suppression phase of IVF treatment.  For me, that would be working to counter my existing side effects of the Lupron shots which are currently: fatigue, headaches, mild pelvic cramping and night sweats (session 1 complete and I feel great).  
  • She recommended acupuncture twice a week during IVF stimulation phase.  This is to help increase follicle/egg development as well as promote blood flow to build a thick uterine lining for implantation (here's where the West/East debate really begins).
  • She recommends one session the afternoon before egg transfer; in addition she'll give me some beads to place in my ear during day of transfer to promote relaxation.  She agrees with the bed rest post-transfer.  (Interestingly enough, she says there are public misconceptions concerning IVF and success rates.  Namely, she cautioned me to remember there are 2 ways an IVF patient can use acupuncture and consumers don't always pay attention to which method is cited in a given study.  First, is a series of treatments before and during the 4 - 6 weeks of IVF.  Second, is two sessions one directly before transfer and one immediately following transfer.)  
  • We did not discuss post transfer treatment plans.
The book in the waiting area's view on acupuncture:
  • It's called Acupuncture & IVF:  Increase IVF success by 40 - 60%.  It pretty much agreed with my acupuncturist (imagine that).  It did cite a German research study done in 2002 showing increased success when acupuncture was combined with IVF treatment.  This study also pointed out more research was needed to determine if the success was physiological (the needles) or psychological (the expensive nap).
  • The book also claimed acupuncture was helpful post-transfer to prevent a certain type of miscarriage.  However, the book points out of the 3 types of miscarriages, acupuncture only helps with 'threaten miscarriages' where there is uterine bleeding during a pregnancy but the cervix is still closed (if you are curious about the other types of miscarriages check out the American Pregnancy Association's website).
Alright folks, there you have it.  A not-so-clear view on whether acupuncture will increase my chances of a successful pregnancy.  As I said to Dave (when he asked how much this would cost), 'I am a desperate woman who does not want to be told No!' (kidding, I didn't really say that).

Here's where I'm mentally standing:
  1. In the end, my acupuncture sessions will amount to roughly 3% of the total cost of doing IVF.  
  2. If our first attempt at IVF does not work, I really don't want to deal with the mental baggage of 'what if I had tried acupuncture?'
  3. If later studies continue to confirm acupuncture has no effect on IVF pregnancy success but simple relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation do; well, I'm planning to read those while playing with my babies (i.e. I don't really care).

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