Understanding The Western Approach
First, it’s helpful to understand the process of ART and IVF, as many women who are having difficulty getting pregnant seek western approaches. The goal of IVF is to stimulate a woman’s ovaries to produce a number of eggs to be collected and fertilized. The developed embryos are then transferred back into the uterus for implantation. Acupuncture can be very useful to support each stage. To achieve this, the menstrual cycle is manipulated through several drug-based protocols.
Depending on your individual situation you may be given a long or short protocol to ensure your hormone levels are where they need to be to be ready for follicle-stimulating drugs (follicles release hormones that influence the menstrual cycle). Blood tests monitor the levels of estrogen produced by the follicles, and an ultrasound determines their size. Keep in mind, at this stage women can experience various side effects from the FSH stimulating drugs, (i.e. bloating, fatigue, headaches and emotional changes.) Two weeks after the eggs are large enough to be retrieved, a trigger hormone is given to stimulate ovulation.
It’s then time for “retrieval,” which is when the eggs are collected (the number of viable ones depends on age and other factors). The eggs are then fertilized with sperm in a Petri dish and monitored for 3-5 days. Next comes implantation, where the eggs are transferred back to the uterus. The success rate of this depends on the uterine lining and the quality and quantity of the embryos. This stage can be very anxiety provoking, as it’s really a wait-and-see situation. Genetic testing of the embryo can be performed to give an idea of the viability of pregnancy.