A frozen embryo transfer is a cycle in which frozen embryos are thawed and then inserted into the uterus; these frozen embryos are sourced from a fresh donor or IVF egg retrieval cycle. In order to have the highest possible success rate, the health of the uterus and quality of the lining is critical. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can enhance the success of a frozen embryo transfer (FET) by increasing blood flow to the uterus, reducing stress hormones that can interfere with implantation and improve uterine receptivity and live birth rates. Since acupuncture is cumulative, for the highest chance of success, we recommend acupuncture for 2-3 cycles before your FET and at a frequency of 2 times per week. If you have a history of thin lining, we will tailor your treatment plan accordingly.
Studies have suggested that traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture in particular improve outcomes significantly for those who choose frozen embryo transfer.In one study, women undergoing FET were randomly assigned to receive electrical stimulation on specific acupuncture points used to promote uterine health in Chinese Medicine, or to receive mock treatments (Shua et al. 2014). Women in both the treatment and control groups had six treatments per cycle for three cycles prior to the frozen embryo transfer. Researchers found that embryo implantation, clinical pregnancy and live birth rates were all higher in the treatment group. In addition, the uterine linings of the women in the treatment group had greater signs of uterine receptivity on ultrasound examination as well.
Here are some recommendations to enhance the success of your transfer:
- Vitamin E increases thickness of uterine lining. Consider taking 200IU/day.
- Vitamin D decrease inflammation and improve odds of implantation and supporting pregnancy. Consider taking 5000IU/day
- L-Arginine can improve endometrial thickness and enhance implantation. Take 1000mg BID (please avoid if you have a history of herpes).
- Red Raspberry Leaf tea. 1 cup per day supports conception by improving environment of uterus.
- Stay away from extreme heat or cold. Avoid prolonged baths, hot yoga, saunas and frozen, iced beverages.
- Try to avoid environmental toxins such as perfumes and chemical cleaners (laundry soap, household cleaners). These are endocrine disruptors.
- Avoid smoking cigarettes and marijuana.
- Eat a healthy diet comprised of organic fruits and vegetables, organic sources of lean protein and whole grains
- Try to avoid caffeine, sugar, alcohol, spicy food such as onions, garlic and hot sauce.
- Consume blood building foods to help proliferate a healthy uterine lining such as:
- Dark leafy green salads with avocado
- Warm chicken salad
- Red meat – (In traditional Chinese medicine meat is viewed as a strong blood building food eaten in small amounts (two to four ounces per serving, taken several times a week).
- 8 weeks prior to FET: begin weekly acupuncture (for a total of 8 pre-FET sessions)
- Alternatively: 4 weeks prior to FET: begin twice-weekly acupuncture (for a total of 8 pre-FET sessions)
- Day of FET: Acupuncture pre-and post-FET. The FET treatments are ideally performed on-site at your IVF clinic.
- Focus on positive things and integrate practices that bring you joy. For example, keep a gratitude journal, watch funny movies, meditate, spend time with supportive family and friends.
- Keep your stress to a minimum.
- Avoid strenuous physical activity in preparation for your FET. High intensity training and running are not recommended at this time.
- Spend the day of your FET resting if you can and then return to regular activity. Avoid lifting anything heavy or any strenuous activity which engages your pelvic muscles such as yoga and pilates.
Reference: Shuai Z. et al. 2014. Effect of transcutaneous electrical acupoint stimulation on endometrial receptivity in women undergoing frozen-thawed embryo transfer: a single-blind propective randomized controlled trial. Acupunct. Med.; Oct 10.