While in vitro fertilization is the be-all and end-all of couples who suffer infertility, the thought of going through transvaginal oocyte retrieval (TVOR), not to mention the pain associated with it, puts women in tremendous stress and anxiety. TVOR is a surgical procedure of retrieving eggs from the woman's ovaries, a key component of IVF, which any aspiring mother will go through no matter what.
It's a good thing that they have the option to experience it without having anxiety creep up on them through auricular acupressure. This type of acupressure focuses on the acupoints on the ears to treat and manage a wide range of health conditions. There are hundreds of acupoints on the ears that connect to a network of meridian channels, or energy highways, which correspond to different organ systems in the body. Stimulating these points removes blockages in the meridians and improves physical, mental and emotional health.
A medical journal published in 2014 reveals how auricular acupressure can address anxiety during an IVF procedure. The authors of said study followed a randomised controlled trial of 305 infertile women with blocked fallopian tubes two days before TVOR, to find out if auricular acupressure can reduce their anxiety levels and improve their overall experience of IVF.
How Does Auricular Acupressure Treat Anxiety During IVF?
Auricular acupressure works the same way as acupuncture, albeit without the needles. It involves the application of pressure to certain points on the ears to reduce anxiety and stress and promote positive emotions.
To determine its level of efficacy in treating anxiety among women preparing for TVOR and improving the outcomes of IVF, Fan Qu, Dan Zhang and their fellow professors at Zhejiang University in China studied 305 women who were randomly assigned to three groups: AA group (101), Sham-AA group (102) and control group (102)
Patients in the AA group received ear acupressure, with the practitioner focusing on three acupoints:
- Shenmen (TF4) which is located at the antihelix of the ear
- Endocrine (CO18) which is between the tragus and antitragus
- Internal Genitals (TF2) which is in front of the triangular fossa
In Chinese medicine, stimulating the TF4 point relieves anxiety while doing it on the CO18 and TF2 acupoints improves the functions of the endocrine system and female reproductive system, respectively.
The Sham-AA group received the same treatment protocol as that of the AA Group, except the focus of the therapist was on the Triple Energizer (CO17), Stomach (CO4) and Large Intestine (CO7) acupoints. No auricular acupressure was applied to the control group.
Five days after receiving treatment, the subjects in the AA group exhibited a significant decrease in their anxiety levels leading up to the embryo transfer in IVF.
The same cannot be said about the women assigned to the Sham-AA and Control Groups. Although Fan Qu and colleagues found that the former's level of need-for-information was lower than that of the latter, working on their CO17, CO4 and CO7 points did not make any difference to their levels of anxiety. There were also no visible improvements in the functions of their endocrine and reproductive systems.
Why Is It Important to Avoid Anxiety During IVF?
Anxiety can have a negative impact on the outcome of an IVF treatment and reduce birth rates. Based on their ongoing study, researchers found that the invasive nature of the procedure causes a woman's anxiety and stress levels to shoot up during the procedure. In fact, their data shows that 23.2% of Chinese women undergoing IVF manifest symptoms of anxiety, while 30% of patients in Sweden experience depression and anxiety throughout the treatment.
Auricular acupressure is a safe and noninvasive procedure for reducing the anxiety levels of patients who are receiving IVF. Citing their comparative study, Fan Qu and fellow researchers stressed that no side effects have been reported by participants in either the AA group or Sham-AA group, thus making it a reliable tool for assisting women as they go through a painful process which promises a lifetime of joy.