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NHS must end IVF 'postcode lottery' – watchdog says

The NHS must end “unacceptable” restrictions on fertility treatment for thousands of women in England, the national health watchdog has said.

Official guidance from the National Institute for Health and Social Care (Nice) says that all women under 40 who have failed to get pregnant after two years of trying should get three cycles of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).

However, fewer than one in five local NHS funding bodies offer couples in their area the full number of cycles, perpetuating what Nice called “a postcode lottery” for couples.

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at Nice, said infertility could have “potentially devastating” effects on couples and that IVF should be considered a core NHS service, despite funding pressures.

“It is unacceptable that parts of England are choosing to ignore Nice recommendations for treating infertility,” she said. “This perpetuates a postcode lottery and creates inequalities in healthcare across the country.”

Fertility and Acupuncture

Acupuncture for IVF
Before IVF

Ideally, preparation for IVF should start at least 3-4 months prior to the IVF cycle, although even one month can make a difference. It aims to bring the body to the optimal pre-conception condition to maximize the chance of success. Normally a combination of acupuncture and herbs is used during stage. Both male and female should be involved at this stage.

During IVF

Weekly acupuncture is advised to women from the first day of medication through to embryo transfer. Acupuncture helps:

reduce the side effects of the drugs;
produce more follicles and maximize egg quality;
optimize the thickness of the endometrium to prepare for the transfer of embryos.

Where there is no male factor infertility, recommends a single acupuncture treatment is recommended prior to egg collection to relieve anxiety. Where there is male factor infertility, acupuncture treatments should have already started from the preparation stage.

Embryo Transfer

An acupuncture treatment is recommended before and after embryo transfer to improve pregnancy rate. Ideally, this is on the same day as close to your embryo transfer appointment. Choosing points that relax uterus optimizes endometrial receptivity, thus helping embryo implantation.

After Embryo Transfer

One or two acupuncture treatments are recommended during the two-week waiting period before a pregnancy test is taken. This is primarily to support emotionally, to ease anxiety and promote relaxation.

Once pregnant

Acupuncture is recommended weekly through the first trimester, up to week 12/13 as there is a higher risk of miscarriage in IVF induced pregnancies. The treatment aims to support implantation and help promote a healthy pregnancy.

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