Is acupuncture the missing link to successful IVF outcomes, when IVF alone fails?

Explained by: Mike Berkley, The Berkley Center for Reproductive Wellness
Category:
Successful IVF outcomes and acupuncture.
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From this video you will find out:
  • How acupuncture and herbal medicine can help me to achieve a successful treatment?
  • Can acupuncture & herbs increase the egg and sperm quality?
  • Can acupuncture be helpful for PCOS patients or those suffering from endometriosis?
  • Why is it beneficial to get treated with acupuncture pre and post embryo transfer?
  • What is the best acupuncture treatment and how long should it last?

How can acupucture help in achieving successful IVF outcome?

Watch the webinar with Mike Berkley, licensed and Board Certified in Acupuncture in New York State, US, where Mike was discussing acupuncture and its impact on successful IVF outcomes.

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Questions and Answers from the event

I’m in Ireland, there are very few acupuncturists who are experienced using medicinal mushrooms for fertility. Do you advocate the mushrooms?

In Chinese medicine, we don’t use a thing, we don’t say here take these mushrooms they’re going to help you get pregnant. In Chinese medicine, we create formulas and formula means two herbs up to as many herbs as possible, you can have 30 herbs in a formula. I’m not sure what mushrooms you’re referring to, but even if you did tell me what you were referring to, I would say really you don’t want to take mushrooms, you want to take the proper formula for your pathology. What does that mean? It means what is your pathology, it means what is your height and weight, how old are you, do you have more than one pathology, etc. Many patients have endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome, so it’s a little more complicated than just saying which mushrooms, should I be taking.

I’m sorry, I can’t give you a better answer than that, but that’s pretty much what I have to say. If you want, I’m happy to work with you, and I can prescribe herbs, and you can get them sent to you from New York.

My husband has 29% sperm damage on the DNA fragmentation test. We had sperm sorting and ICSI. I got pregnant twice with donor eggs but had 2 miscarriages. My lining has always been 10mm -12mm. Anything you can advise on that?

I couldn’t really ask for a better question, this question elucidates what I was saying previously about sperm DNA fragmentation, and this is the proof. This is a woman who used a donor egg, so you have to assume that the donor was young and probably though not definitely a proven donor, and so usually, donor egg cases work, not always, but in this case, you did get pregnant with the donor egg but the sperm had 29% DNA fragmentation, so what happened was the egg and the sperm became a bad embryo, and that’s why you got pregnant and miscarried. The key here is to fix your husband’s sperm than do another donor egg cycle when his DNA fragmentation is much reduced, and you’ll probably get pregnant and stay pregnant.

I am on Lupron depot for adenomyosis since July. We are doing a donor cycle next month with the hope to transfer in November. Do herbs and acupuncture help with this condition, or should herbs be avoided due to the Lupron?

For those of you who don’t know what adenomyosis is, it’s a form of endometriosis, so what adenomyosis is, it’s the endometrium itself, it digs into the myometrium, which is the muscle layer of the uterus, and as a result of this, the uterus itself can become deformed, and as a result of that deviation from the normal shape, it is difficult to get pregnant.

I would have to say that this is probably, what I would consider, as it is an anatomical issue, I’m not sure that acupuncture and herbs are the right way to go for adenomyosis. Now, if it’s not severe adenomyosis and the uterine cavity has not been distorted anatomically. Then the lupron is a good thing to use, the lupron essentially will starve the body of estrogen, and estrogen is something that feeds endometriosis. Therefore, it will feed adenomyosis, and so I think lupron is a good way to go. I don’t think acupuncture and herbs are the right protocol for adenomyosis.

I have an incompetent cervix? Would acupuncture help?

Incompetent cervix is where the placenta and the baby can actually drop, and I don’t think that acupuncture and herbs again would help. This is an anatomical issue, I think that you need to have what’s called uterine or cervical surcharge, which is where they stitch up the cervix after you become pregnant, to prevent this fetus or the uterus itself from dropping down, I wouldn’t even call it surgery, but it’s more or less a procedure, and I think that’s the right way to go with this.

I’m taking cordyceps, Coriolis mushrooms. I have high cytokines and NK cells are a little bit high. I’m 43, miscarriages at 6 weeks.  

It’s a mushroom that has some positive qualities, but you wouldn’t make a chicken soup just by throwing a chicken in a pot of water, you use chicken stock, and you put in some maybe celery, potatoes, carrots, and some seasoning. That’s kind of the same with herbs, cordyceps is analogous to the chicken, you wouldn’t just use cordyceps, you really want to get a customized herbal formula that is specific for your presentation. The cytokines, they are coming as a result of the NK cells. For those of you who don’t know, NK cells are natural killer cells, 70% of which reside in the uterus, 30% are in the circulation.

People are not sure what they’re doing in the circulation. NK cells in the uterus are anti-carcinogenic cells, they spray something called TNFα, which stands for tumor necrosis factor-alpha. So if the NK cells see what looks like a cancer cell, they’ll spray it with TNFα to try to kill cancer, that’s the function of NK cells. These NK cells should not be activated in a patient who doesn’t have cancer, of course, this doesn’t mean that you have cancer, please don’t get nervous, there are many women with activated NK cells, that don’t have cancer.

This is an autoimmune issue, and the way to treat this is with something called intralipid therapy, which was discovered by a woman whose name is Dr Carolyn Coulam, and you can google her, but in any event, intralipid therapy is the way to go with this. You may want to consider acupuncture and herbs, not for the NK cells but because you’re 43, and even if you didn’t have the NK cells, you still have a low ovarian reserve and probably poor egg quality, so I would say yes, use acupuncture and herbs and get a customized herbal formula but use intralipid therapy to eradicate the NK cells. By the way, it doesn’t completely kill the NK cells forever and ever, so the way you use intralipid therapy is right before the transfer and then several times after the transfer.

Can men with sperm issues benefit from acupuncture? Are there any studies done on this?

The answer is yes, and no. I’ll start with a no, so if it’s an anatomical defect, congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens if it’s a genetic defect, microdeletion of the Y chromosome if a man had testicular cancer, and he had a radiation therapy – acupuncture and herbs are going to do nothing for that man. However, if you have men that have minor varicoceles, and it is where the blood vessels and the testicles expand blood pools there and stay there, and as a result of it staying there, it causes an inflammatory process, inflammation kills the sperm, so if you have a minor varicocele, acupuncture and herbs are very effective.

If you have idiopathic sperm problems, meaning that you have sperm problems, but there’s no anatomical nor a genetic defect, you just happen to have poor morphology or motility or a low sperm count, absolutely acupuncture can help. There are many studies, I provided such studies on one of my PowerPoint slides, which include studies on sperm anomalies and acupuncture and, of course, you can simply go to Google and type in studies on acupuncture and poor sperm quality, and you’ll probably come up with hundreds of different studies.

What percentage of sperm DNA fragmentation will stop you from getting pregnant and staying pregnant? Can sperm sorting cure this? This is what my clinic did and then froze my husband’s sperm.

I’ll give you the percentages. If a man has sperm DNA fragmentation from 0 to 15%, there’s a good fertility outcome, sperm DNA fragmentation from between 15 to 29% is good to fair outcomes, and above 29% or above 30%, there are very few good outcomes. What do most embryologists and even reproductive endocrinologists think about sperm DNA fragmentation, they think, and I’m not saying this in a way, I’m smart, and they’re not, I know more than they do, I’m not, that’s not where I’m coming from, I’m simply saying we all have different experiences.

In the reproductive endocrinological clinic, they believe that a man that has sperm DNA fragmentation is no problem, we know that high DNA fragmentation presents in a way that the sperm cannot penetrate the egg, so what are we going to do about it – we’re going to do ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), we’re going to take a syringe, put sperm in it, take the egg and go pop and push the sperm into the egg and that’s the answer, but if you remember 4 or 5 questions ago, there was a woman who said that she did donor egg twice, her husband had a sperm DNA fragmentation index of 29%, she got pregnant twice and miscarried twice, so DNA fragmentation is a bad thing. There are times when a doctor will do ICSI, and guess what, the woman will get pregnant and have a baby, but many times as this previous patient, it fails. If a man has sperm DNA fragmentation even above 25%, I would get it treated, and certainly, above 29%, you must get it treated. Acupuncture and herbs are the way to go, there’s no western medicine intervention for this.

Which foods were good to eat besides taking pronogenol for male fertility.

I can’t recommend any foods, I have no real nutritional experience. If a man or a woman is too thin or too fat, it’s not good outcomes for fertility because being too thin or being too heavy alters the hormonal milia in the body and in the brain. Getting to a normal weight is fine, but what I said earlier was that there are some good nutraceuticals for men to take. Things like Coq10, pycnogenol, l-arginine, l-carnitine, zinc, selenium – I’m pretty sure selenium is a good nutraceutical for male factor as well.

I think that these nutraceuticals can be helpful, I don’t think that they obviate the need for acupuncture and herbs, they’re not as strong as acupuncture and herbs. I would recommend doing the whole thing, doing this takes the nutraceuticals and do acupuncture and herbs.

My husband has a DNA fragmentation of 30,20, how can you help him? What acupuncture protocol and herbs you would suggest?

I’m not sure what 30, 20 means, but maybe you mean, it was 30, and it went down to 20. If it went down to 20, I don’t think there’s a problem, but if you mean to say that your husband has a sperm DNA fragmentation index of 30%, that is not a good thing. If he has a DNA fragmentation of 30%, he should get acupuncture and herbs. I really can’t tell you what herbs, you have to realize there are thousands of herbs, the way herbs work are like food, so like if you were going to have a party and 4 people out of the 20 people that came to your party had hypertension, you would make sure not to use salt in the preparation of their food where the other guests can take salt because they don’t have hypertension.

When it comes to herbs, they are made specifically for that individual. Is your husband overweight, is he of normal weight, is he too thin, does he have a history of other illnesses, does he have illnesses now, or what’s his age, does he have any testicular injury, etc? Many things go into creating a herbal formula, it doesn’t work like this. The formulas are specific for each individual person.

I’m 42 and had 2 failed IVF. I have a 3-year-old conceived quickly. I have a cyst with no markers. My AMH is 13.33 pmol/l, the tests are normal, and sperm tests are normal as well. I do acupuncture, but I’ve never taken herbs. Any suggestions?

What’s probably going on is the same old story, it’s advanced maternal age, meaning lower ovarian reserve and poor egg quality, so you got pregnant when you were 39 years old, I guess, and you conceived, and you have a 3-year-old, so what I want to say to you, is that’s awesome and wonderful and congratulations, and I love to hear that, but I also want to say that you were lucky. It doesn’t mean that at 42, having 2
failed IFVs, that you cannot conceive, unfortunately, this is a game that’s going to give you bruised knees.

It’s an arduous, difficult, tortuous, demanding journey, and so if you have the time and the money and the emotional fortitude, I would say, do some more IVF attempts and try to get acupuncture, which you said you’ve done, but also take herbs. Herbs are much stronger, and more efficacious than acupuncture, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use acupuncture, it stimulates blood throughout the body, it’s very important, but herbs can do a lot more, they’re much more efficacious and so try to take herbs if you can.

I am 38 years old. I have had two failed IUIs, and have just finished my second IVF. During our first round of IVF, we were able to freeze one egg, yet our second round, we canceled because we only had one follicle grow. How often would you suggest getting acupuncture? Do you have any suggestions?

What’s going on undoubtedly, is that this is an age-related issue. I can tell you that for two reasons. Number one because you’re 38, once you’re on this side of 35, it doesn’t mean that you won’t get pregnant, but you’re less fecund, fecundity means the ability to conceive in any given month, so you’re less fecund when you’re over 35, but remember many 45-year-old patients get pregnant naturally, so don’t fret, you’re going to be okay. Number two, when you wrote you were able to freeze one embryo, that’s also an indication of low ovarian reserve and poor egg quality, the only reason you were able to freeze one embryo and not more is either because you got a lot of eggs retrieved, which I doubt, but maybe you did, but they were all bad quality and they died, and you were just left with one embryo, or else you did a retrieval of your two or three eggs, and you got one good embryo.

I would again recommend acupuncture and herbs, I treat all of my patients, twice weekly and I definitely think that as long as you have a regular period, you have a chance of getting pregnant, and you should stay with it. I definitely think that in vitro fertilization is more efficacious than IUI, and I think that acupuncture and herbs may be of utility to you, and I wish you godspeed on your journey to family.

Do you also do electroacupuncture? Are there different effects compared to acupuncture?

I use it intermittently, I typically prefer not to use it. Sometimes pre-embryo transfer, I’ll do electrical stimulation on the needles because I want to get very aggressive in stimulating blood flow to the uterus. Now, everybody on this chat might be thinking, well if that’s a more aggressive treatment, that sounds like a better treatment, why not always use electroacupuncture. So the answer is like anything else in life, once you do this all the time, your body becomes used to it, and then its effectiveness diminishes. I like to use it less rather than more, and if you use electroacupuncture once in a while, you’ll have a good effect. If you use it every single treatment, it becomes just like using regular acupuncture.

The acupuncture protocol for the day of embryo transfer is the same as the others? I’m from Spain, and I don’t know if here there are so good specialists in acupuncture.

This is what I’d suggested doing. I’m stating the obvious, you’ve probably done this, but I have nothing else to offer, well maybe a little more to offer. Get on Google and type in: fertility acupuncture specialists in your city, in Spain, and see what comes up – if nothing comes up, then do a phone consult with me. I will design an acupuncture protocol specifically for you and either email it to you or email it to any acupuncturist, it doesn’t matter who you pick, you can pick an acupuncturist that just does back pain all day, it makes no difference because when I’ll send that acupuncturist the right protocol, as long as they know where the acupuncture points are, which I’ll assume that they do, they just follow my protocol and they’ll be doing the right thing for you.

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Authors
Mike Berkley

Mike Berkley

Mike Berkley is the founder and director of The Berkley Center for Reproductive Wellness. He is licensed and Board Certified in Acupuncture in New York State and certified in Chinese herbology by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Mike graduated from The Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in New York in 1996, and he has been treating reproductive disorders since then. Mike is the first acupuncturist/herbalist in the United States to work exclusively in the field of reproductive medicine.
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Event Moderator
Caroline Kulczycka

Caroline Kulczycka

Caroline Kulczycka is an International Patient Coordinator who has been supporting IVF patients for over 2 years. Always eager to help and provide comprehensive information based on her thorough knowledge and experience whether you are just starting or are in the middle of your IVF journey. She’s a customer care specialist with +10 years of experience, worked also in the tourism industry and dealt with international customers on a daily basis, including working abroad. When she’s not taking care of her customers and patients, you’ll find her travelling, biking, learning new things or spending time outdoors.

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