Acupuncture is an ancient practice used to stimulate the body’s ability to heal itself and promote well-being. Small needles are placed in very specific areas based on your needs. Ancient medicine believes that the needles help to relieve blocked energy pathways. Modern medicine believes the process stimulates the nervous system to release beneficial chemicals. Regardless of the conflict in theory, acupuncture is gradually becoming an accepted option for a variety of health issues. It is typically used in conjunction with modern medicine for the best results.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) on the other hand, is a very modern medical procedure. In IVF, an egg and sperm are combined for fertilization in a laboratory dish. If an IVF procedure is successful, an embryo transfer moves the embryo to a woman’s uterus. It is a complicated procedure that can be influenced by many factors. The success rates can be anywhere from 10-35% depending on individuals. Research is ongoing to help improve the success rates of this procedure.
Researchers gathered information about acupuncture use with IVF from seven previous studies. The results, published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) , showed that pregnancy rates improved with the addition of acupuncture.
About the Study
To evaluate the effect of acupuncture on the success of in vitro fertilization, researchers reviewed and combined results from 7 randomized trials. The studies followed a total of 1,366 women having one treatment of in vitro fertilization. Within one day of embryo transfer the women had one of the following:
- Needle acupuncture
- Sham acupuncture (A simulated procedure so the patient believes she is receiving a treatment. This helps eliminate the possibility of a placebo effect)
- No acupuncture.
The women were then followed until the end of their pregnancies. Acupuncture did help increase the rates of success for in vitro fertilization.
- In an analysis of 1,366 women, pregnancy was achieved in 32% of those who had acupuncture and 26.7% of those without.
- In an analysis of 690 women, pregnancies continued beyond 12 weeks in 30% of those who had acupuncture and 18.9% of those without.
- Finally, in analysis of 226 women, live births occurred in 30.6% of those who had acupuncture and 19% of those without.
How Does This Affect You?
Every year 10-15% of couples seek medical help for infertility. Techniques that improve the success rate are important to decrease the length, cost, and stress of these procedures. This review has shown the potential to improve conception rates with no negative side effects. Future studies should provide more details. If you are currently undergoing IVF, talk to your physician about using acupuncture.
- Reviewer: Larissa J. Lucas, MD