Acupuncture can improve a couple’s chances of IVF success. Studies show higher success with embryo transfer and also with live birth.
Acupuncture Improves IVF Success Rate
Dutch and American researchers analysed results from seven clinical trials (selected as eligible from a total of 108), all published since 2002 and carried out in four Western countries. They included data on 1366 women and compared acupuncture given within one day of embryo transfer, with sham acupuncture or no additional treatment. All except one used a similar acupuncture protocol (based on Paulus et al). The analysis showed that combining real acupuncture with embryo transfer was associated with significant and clinically relevant improvements in clinical pregnancy rate. Women who underwent acupuncture were 65% more likely to have a successful embryo transfer procedure and 91% more likely to have a live birth. On the basis of ‘number needed to treat’, this means that ten women undergoing IVF would need to be treated with acupuncture to bring about one additional pregnancy.
(Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilisation: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2008 Mar 8;336(7643):545-9).
Acupuncture benefits IVF
Results from a meta-analysis by Chinese authors indicate that acupuncture, especially around the time of controlled ovarian hyperstimulation, can improve pregnancy outcomes in women undergoing IVF. The paper also suggests that more positive IVF outcomes can be expected if treatment is individualised to each patient. Twenty-three trials (a total of 5598 participants) were included in the analysis, including nine studies that had not been included in previous systematic reviews of acupuncture for IVF. The pooled clinical pregnancy rate (CPR) from all acupuncture groups was found to be significantly higher than that from all control groups, whereas the live birth rate (LBR) was not significantly different between the two groups. However, the results were quite distinct when the effect of the type of control procedure used and/or the timing of acupuncture treatment were examined in a sensitivity analysis. (The role of acupuncture in assisted reproductive technology. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:543924. Epub 2012 Jul 2).
Electrical acupoint stimulation increases IVF success
Transcutaneous electrical acupoint stimulation (TEAS) has been found by Chinese researchers to significantly improve pregnancy rates in women undergoing embryo transfer (ET). A total of 309 patients undergoing ET were randomly allocated to three groups: a mock TEAS treatment 30 minutes after ET (group I); a single TEAS treatment 30 minutes after ET (group II); or a double TEAS treatment, 24 hours before, and 30 minutes after ET (group III). The clinical pregnancy rates, embryo implantation rate, and live birth rate of group I (29.3%, 15.0%, and 21.2%, respectively) were significantly lower than those in group II (42.7%, 25.7%, and 37.3%, respectively) and group III (50.0%, 25.9%, and 42.0%, respectively). (Increase of success rate for women undergoing embryo transfer by transcutaneous electrical acupoint stimulation: a prospective randomized placebo-controlled study. Fertil Steril. 2011 Oct;96(4):912-6).