Acupuncture aids IVF conception: study

Source:, Tamara McLean, 22nd October 2008
Getting acupuncture during IVF treatment could significantly increase a woman's chance of a successful pregnancy, a controversial new study has found. A review presented at a medical conference in Brisbane shows that acupuncture administered for 25 minutes both before and after an embryo is transferred to the uterus improves the likelihood of a live birth. On the basis of the current level of evidence we have, if nine women have acupuncture around the time of embryo transfer with IVF there will be one extra live born baby," said lead researcher of the New Zealand study, Professor Neil Johnson, medical director of Fertility Plus in Auckland."That figure looks pretty good, especially to women wanting to do all they can to have a baby.


But Australian specialists have received the findings with scepticism, saying the statistic “stretches the current scientific data too far”.

Prof Johnson reviewed the latest major studies on the benefits of the ancient Chinese therapy on assisted reproductive technology, and fertility in general, to find a definitive answer on its effectiveness.

“In a nutshell there is evidence that acupuncture administered around the time of embryo transfer really does help,” he said.

“But doing acupuncture at other times in IVF treatment doesn’t appear to be helpful, and there’s no really robust evidence about the effectiveness of acupuncture for couples trying to get pregnant naturally.”

He said while traditional Chinese practitioners believed acupuncture worked by improving energy flow through pathways in the body, the view in conventional medicine was that it inhibited the nervous system, which improves pelvic blood flow or makes the uterus “quieter”.

“It might just be that relaxing and having some TLC at this stressful time is where the benefit comes in, but it would seem there’s something more at work,” Prof Johnson said.

He said the therapy had been widely embraced by IVF patients in Auckland, with those who had the poorest pregnancy chance benefiting the most.

But doctors and specialists have been hesitant to accept the benefits, he said.

Professor Michael Chapman, from IVF Australia, said acupuncture had the strongest evidence of any alternative therapy for use in fertility, but the studies were small and “relatively inconclusive”.

“The evidence to date would suggest it’s not harmful but I certainly wouldn’t recommend every IVF patient rush out and get it,” Prof Chapman said.