Randomized controlled trials investigating the impact of Acupuncture on IVF outcomes have recently been reported in F&S. Significant and/or numerically more ongoing pregnancies (O-PR) were reported in patients receiving acupuncture. Over the past 3 years, we have reported similar work and have determined the optimal treatment numbers for acupuncture (nine treatments), impact on embryology (none noted), and patient group specific outcomes (poor and good prognosis). This pilot study reports the results of a prospective investigation of two stress hormones – Prolactin (PRL) and Cortisol (CORT). We compare IVF patients treated with no acupuncture (controls) and those treated with acupuncture (Ac) before, during and after their stimulation and embryo transfer.
Prospective study comparing stress hormones levels, PRL and CORT, during their IVF treatments.
Materials and methods
A total of 22 patients undergoing informed consent prospectively agreed to participate in the study. Patients self selected to be treated with Ac. Serum was collected from all patients at the following times: new patient visit, treatment consult, lupron start, stim start, days 0, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 10, 11 of stimulation and pre/post hCG and at pregnancy test. An Immulite Auto Analyzer was used to determine PRL and CORT levels. Serum were frozen and batched for analysis.
Preliminary results demonstrate differences in the two groups. Figure 1 and Figure 2 presents a single patient’s hormone levels (she had both a non-Ac IVF cycle as well as a cycle in conjunction with Ac treatment. Figure 3 describes the average results of 9 complete data sets. There is a trend towards higher PRL levels in patients that did not receive Ac during the stimulation phase and an elevation towards the luteal phase. The CORT levels did not differ between the two groups, however a trend towards lower CORT levels were noted in the patient that had both a non Ac and Ac treatment (Figure 2).
Differences were noted in patient PRL levels as a result of Ac; lower in the stimulation phase and trending higher towards the luteal phase. This is consistent with better IVF outcomes as reported in the literature. There were no obvious trends noted in CORT levels in this pilot study. It appears that one potential, western medicine, view of the improvement in IVF outcomes in patients treated with Ac may be a lowering of the PRL levels before retrieval and elevation of these levels in the luteal phase.