Can L-arginine help poor IVF response? Maybe. One study in 1999 showed remarkable results when L-arginine was given as an adjunctive therapy during IVF to women who were categorized as poor IVF responders. This study also showed that a likely mechanism through which L-arginine may work is through increasing the blood flow within the arteries which supply the ovaries. This mechanism alone may allow more gonadotrophins, hormones and nutrients to flow to the ovaries which may enhance IVF response.
Previous studies have shown that decreasing the 'pulsatility index' (a measure of blood flow) through the arteries which supply the ovaries and uterus can have a positive effect upon pregnancy rates. So critical is the level of blood flow to the ovaries that top infertility clinics - with enviable success rates - always measure the ovarian blood flow before IVF to ensure that blood flow is adequate. A pulsatility index (PI) below 3.0 is considered to be ideal.
If ovarian blood flow is sub-par, a specific acupuncture treatment is proven to help. Acupuncture - at certain points with specific electrical frequencies - twice a week in the month prior to IVF is proven to open up the blood flow to the ovaries and uterus.
This acupuncture treatment has also been shown to improve IVF success rates, take-home baby rates and has been shown to decrease miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy rates too. An ABORM (American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine) certified acupuncturist will be familiar with the technique. Blood thinning medications are also used to improve pelvic blood flow dynamics.
In the L-arginine study 34 women undergoing IVF were divided in two groups; both groups were using a flare protocol and one group also received L-arginine at a dose of 16 grams a day. In the L-arginine treated group there was a significantly lower cancellation rate and an increased number of oocytes at egg pick-up.
The women in the L-arginine group also showed increased levels of nitric oxide (NO2-/NO3-) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) in both serum and follicular fluid. Levels of L-arginine and citrulline were increased too, both are though to be markers of healthier follicle development. Citruline is an amino acid with similar activity to L-arginine.
The L-arginine group had three pregnancies compared to no pregnancies in the other group and the study concluded that:
"...oral L-arginine supplementation in poor responder patients may improve ovarian response, endometrial receptivity and pregnancy rate."
Because so few studies have been done it is difficult to know whether L-arginine is helpful or not but is may be worth asking your physician about especially if poor ovarian/uterine blood flow maybe a big part of your problem.
This article is for purely informational purposes and is not intended to diagnose or to treat medical problems or to replace medical or dietetic advice.
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(1) Adjuvant L-arginine treatment for in-vitro fertilization in poor responder patients. Battaglia C. et al. Hum Reprod. 1999 Jul;14(7):1690-7.�