It's true! Laser Acupuncture can increase implantation success rates by up to 15% when administered just before and immediately after an embryo transfer. Jump down in the article for acupuncture FAQs and all the study details straight from Illume Fertility's expert acupuncturists.
Hearing the Truth About Laser Acupuncture as an IVF Patient
When I went through in vitro fertilization, or IVF, I would have done anything to improve my chances for success…
Run with the bulls? Absolutely.
Walk over fire coals? For sure.
Make a snow angel in a bathing suit? I’ll do it, but I won’t be happy about it.
But when my doctor told me that all I needed to do was lie down in a cozy room, listen to some relaxing, tonal spa music, and have a specially-trained acupuncturist shine a low-light laser on my “energy points,” I must have had an interesting look on my face. Laser acupuncture?! That is NOT what I expected to have to do to increase my rates so drastically.
I had only heard of traditional acupuncture… you know, the kind with the little needles. Up until this point, I had incorporated needle acupuncture into my fertility treatment, and while all my IUI cycles up until IVF had failed, I would highly recommend needle acupuncture to everyone… infertile, fertile, blue, purple – everyone. But more on that later.
Want to learn more about traditional acupuncture for fertility?
Let’s get back to laser acupuncture…
“It’s perfectly painless,” my doctor promised. She continued, “Laser acupuncture before and after your embryo transfer can cause your implantation success rates to jump by as much as 15%.” I thought I misheard her.
“I’m sorry… laser acupuncture? Like Dr. Evil’s laser-beams-attached-to-their-heads type of laser?” I thought.
And is it true? If you think about it, raising implantation rates by up to 15% is steep. Almost unbelievably steep…
Believe it, readers.
How to Raise Embryo Implantation Rates: The Study
Illume Fertility participated in a study published in May of 2009 that followed 1,000 women through their embryo transfer, conducting different forms of before-and-after treatment. (Read the full study here!) The women were split into 5 groups: some women were administered traditional (needle) acupuncture; others received laser acupuncture; another group received a fake-laser acupuncture; others were able to simply relax in a dimly-lit room and receive no acupuncture; and the final group received no treatment whatsoever. All groups had their treatment (or lack of treatment) 25 minutes before and after their embryo transfer.
The outcome? The women who received the laser acupuncture were 10-15% more likely to have an implanted embryo than her study counterparts. BOOM.
So at this point, you’re probably thinking, “sign me up!” I sure was when my doctor explained the outcomes to me. At that point, I really didn’t care if it was painful, more debt-inducing, or uncomfortable. It raises implantation rates by 15% - none of those things seemed to matter! After experiencing everything that I had with infertility, I was ready for this to be just another unpleasant next step.
Much to my surprise, laser acupuncture is anything but unpleasant.
Or maybe you aren’t convinced yet. I was skeptical of needle acupuncture at the beginning, so I understand your hesitancy. In order to further explain the phenomenon behind laser acupuncture and unveil an otherwise mysterious practice, I asked Illume Fertility’s Dr. Amy Matton and Dr. Elaine Malin everything you’d want to know about Laser Acupuncture:
Does Laser Acupuncture Really Work in Raising Implantation Success Rates?
“According to our trial, the group of women who received pre- and post-embryo transfer laser acupuncture had up to a 15% increase in embryo implantation rates. That’s hugely significant, not only quantitatively, but emotionally. When a woman can do a simple, painless, one-time thing to raise her rates so drastically, the evidence of the direct impact is so hopeful and exciting!”
Does Laser Acupuncture Hurt?
“Laser acupuncture is painless. Really! We are applying a gentle wavelength of light energy to stimulate acupuncture points instead of needles. The acupuncture points chosen are designed to stimulate blood flow and relax the body.”
I can totally corroborate this answer. It is truly, completely painless. Not that “virtually painless” nonsense that people say about laser hair removal (that is NOT painless) – you can’t even feel laser acupuncture. Not even the heat from the light!
If it Doesn’t Hurt, What Does Acupuncture Feel Like?
“Most people say they feel nothing with laser acupuncture. Occasionally, someone will say they have the slightest tingle or sensation, but it is totally comfortable. Most people say it is very relaxing. When it comes to needle acupuncture, we use very thin, sterile needles – nothing like a hypodermic. In fact, fertility patients usually laugh at my needles. It’s nothing compared to what they are used to. And while it’s normal to have a sensation like a mild ache or tingle, it is not painful.”
In my experience, I felt nothing during the actual laser usage. It was only after my acupuncturist had exited the room and left me there to bask in my relaxation that I felt something. Much like with needle acupuncture, the sensations come in waves after a few minutes of lying there. For me, the sensations from laser acupuncture were less than those with needle acupuncture but were still present. I actually fell asleep during my pre-transfer laser appointment and had possibly the best 20-minute nap of my life.
Another patient of Illume Fertility recently left this testimonial about the relaxing qualities of laser acupuncture before and after an embryo transfer, mentioning two of the practice’s acupuncturists…
“I cannot recommend laser acupuncture enough before an embryo transfer. Elaine and Amy are both amazing as their calming positive energy truly helped me to relax before the procedure. All three of my transfers I’ve had acupuncture before and after. It was helped me relax and get into the best mindset possible before going into the procedure.” – V.W.
And another patient quite perfectly stated, “I felt so relaxed, as I was in a cloud.” - Olga, UK.
Nailed it – a “cloud” is the perfect way to describe it. I couldn’t agree more with both testimonies!
What Does Acupuncture Cost?
At Illume Fertility, the fee for pre and post-embryo transfer laser acupuncture is $225. An initial consultation and treatment is $140 and follow up visits are $120.
Does Insurance Cover It?
No, generally insurance will not reimburse for laser acupuncture.
Should I Get Laser or Needle Acupuncture More Than Just Before and After an Embryo Transfer?
“The answer is a resounding YES. Emerging studies indicate that women who are doing regular acupuncture in the weeks or even months prior to their embryo transfer may have better outcomes. These studies were done with traditional needle acupuncture. Patients often ask if they should do more acupuncture after their transfer and the truth is, we believe preparing the body for transfer (acupuncture leading up to transfer) is more beneficial than after the transfer.”
I am a major fan of needle acupuncture. In addition to the added fertility benefits, it’s amazing.
(Let me preface my experience with traditional (needle) acupuncture with this: I hate needles. Just the thought of needles makes my legs go weak, and sometimes, there’s even fainting involved. So the fact that I’m a fangirl of acupuncture is a big, HUGE deal.)
After the first three minutes of silently freaking out that there are needles sticking out of my body (this part hasn’t gone away for me yet), it’s transportive. I experience this wave of chills that spans from the crown of my head to my big toe every single session. I finally feel relaxed. Infertility is far off thought. All that weighs me down is a full-body tingle. I don’t meditate or do anything “zen” usually, but acupuncture has changed my views on that. There’s something about only being with your breath (and having about ten needles sticking out of your body) that brings on a sense of calmness that resonates with me for some time even after I get up from the table.
Sounds like a trippy experience, right? If you try it, maybe you’ll buy into the zen-life, too…
Does Laser Acupuncture for IVF Really Work?
The outcomes of the study suggest that laser acupuncture is an added perk to the arduous, lengthy, painful (both emotionally and physically) process of IVF. It’s not a guarantee that you’ll definitely have a healthy baby by the end of all this, but it gives you a better chance. And isn’t that why we’re here in the first place? Isn’t that why we go through all the belly shots, the butt shots, the pills, the taking-off-everything-from-the-waist-down every other morning, and the blown-out arm veins?
We do all this for a better chance at family-building. So, if there’s something within our control and as enjoyable as laser acupuncture that could raise our implantation success rates by 15%, I know you’re with me when I say, “Bring in the laser!”
What is an Embryo Transfer procedure really like?
Virginia Hamilton Furnari is Illume Fertility's former Brand Specialist. In addition to helping mold the Illume Fertility brand through blogs, videos, and events, she was also a patient at Illume. Given her professional and personal involvement in the fertility community, she has immersed her mind, body, and soul in family-building education.