Acupuncture: possible effects on fertility
Acupuncture has been used in China for centuries to regulate the female reproductive system. Three potential mechanisms for its effects on fertility have been postulated.
Acupuncture may mediate the release of neurotransmitters which may in turn stimulate secretion of hormones from the pituitary which stimulate the ovaries. ,
Acupuncture may stimulate blood flow to the uterus
Acupuncture may stimulate the production of opioids -the natural opiates of the brain, which may decrease biological stress.
“New” Acupuncture study combines the results of several smaller studies
The authors of this study looked through several databases to identify studies in which acupuncture was used as an adjunct to IVF. In order to be selected, the study must have had the acupuncture performed on the day of embryo transfer. They included only studies in which acupuncture involved the insertion of needles into traditional meridian points. They excluded studies using laser acupuncture and electro-acupuncture without needle insertion because most authorities believe acupuncture involves needle insertion.
A variety of statistical tests were done to try to validate the results. In particular, they looked at whether acupuncture had a benefit in IVF in three specific conditions.
- Use of extra acupuncture sessions in addition to the sessions before and after the embryo transfer
In studies where only women with good quality embryos were enrolled
- A comparison of studies in which the pregnancy rates without acupuncture were below or above 28%, (the European average).
Results of the Acupuncture in IVF Study
Ultimately, the study looked at seven randomized controlled trials with a total of 1366 participants. Based on the results, the authors determined that acupuncture improved IVF pregnancy rates.
- Clinical pregnancy rates (a fetus seen on ultrasound) — 65% improvement with acupuncture
- Ongoing pregnancy rates (ultrasound showed viable fetus after the 12th week of pregnancy) — 87% improvement with acupuncture
- Live birth – 91% better with acupuncture
Summary: Should I have acupuncture with IVF or not?
- There may only be a benefit if your IVF success rate without acupuncture is less than 28% per transfer
- Only acupuncture performed on the day of embryo transfer can be said to have an effect. When additional days of acupuncture were analyzed, there was no further benefit seen
- Only acupuncture performed at established meridian points was studied.
- Roughly 9 embryo transfer need to be performed to see one additional pregnancy