Fertility and Acupuncture Research Summary
From the desk of Jessica L. Molleur, Lic.Ac., DNBAO... April 24-30th is National Infertility Awareness Week. In honor of this week, I've posted a brief summary of recent research related to fertility and acupuncture from the May 2006 issue, Volume 85, Issue 5 , Pages 1341-1351 of medical journal Fertility and Sterility.
Here are the study results:
Study #1: Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer (ET) significantly improves the reproductive outcome in infertile women: a prospective, randomized trial
In this study, Westergaard LG, et.al., set out to evaluate how the use of acupuncture effected pregnancy rates in patients treated with IVF/intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). 273 patients were randomly assigned to one of three groups: One group had acupuncture on the day of the transfer, a second group had acupuncture on the day of the transfer and then again 2 days after the transfer, and a third control group did not receive acupuncture.
The results clearly showed that the first acupuncture group that received treatment the day of the transfer had a statistically significant higher rate of pregnancy than the control group (37 of 95 [39%] vs. 21 of 87 [26%]). Comparison of ongoing pregnancy rates also favored the acupuncture group (34 of 95 [36%] vs. 19 of 87 [22%]). There was no improvement on the reproductive outcome by adding an acupuncture treatment 2 days after ET.
Study #2: Effect of acupuncture on the outcome of in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection: a randomized, prospective, controlled clinical study
In this study, a joint collaboration between researchers in Germany and China, Stefan Dieterle M.D and his colleagues set out to determine the effect of luteal phase acupuncture on the outcome of IVF/ICSI. 225 IVF/ICSI infertile patients were randomly assigned to 2 groups. One group received Traditional Chinese acupuncture and the other half received sham acupuncture. As in the previous study, in the group that received true acupuncture, the clinical pregnancy rate and ongoing pregnancy rates (33.6% and 28.4%, respectively) were significantly higher than in sham acupuncture group (15.6% and 13.8%).
Study #3: Influence of acupuncture stimulation on pregnancy rates for women
undergoing embryo transfer
This study from Australia, lead by Caroline Smith Ph.D., examined 228 women and again compared a true acupuncture to a placebo group. The design of this study was to treat the women three separate times: the first session on day 9 of stimulating injections, the second session before ET, and the third immediately after ET. They reported their results as follows: The pregnancy rate was 31% in the acupuncture group and 23% in the control group. For those subjects receiving acupuncture, the odds of achieving a pregnancy were 1.5 higher than for the control group, but the difference did not reach statistical significance. The ongoing pregnancy rate at 18 weeks was higher in the treatment group (28% vs. 18%), but the difference was not statistically significant. They did conclude that acupuncture was safe for women undergoing embryo transfer.
Study #4: Acupuncture and IVF Outcomes
At the October 2004 meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) another study was presented that confirms the value of acupuncture to the success of IVF treatment. The research, done at Reproductive Medicine and Fertility Centre in Colorado Springs, studied 114 women undergoing IVF. Half of the women received acupuncture and the control group did not. The acupuncture group showed improved outcome in the following ways:
1. Acupuncture group 51% pregnancy rate compared to 36% in control group
2. Acupuncture group 08% miscarriage rate compared to 20% in control group
3. Acupuncture also was found to reduce the risk of tubal pregnancy and increase the live birth rate. The live birth rate for each IVF cycle was 23 % higher than the cycles for the control group.
Study #5: Acupuncture & IVF Outcomes
Highlights in Fertility and Sterility (Vol. 77, No. 4, April 2002)
Results from a recent study in Germany indicate that adding acupuncture to the treatment protocol of IVF patients greatly enhances their chances of becoming pregnant. While the physiologic mechanisms by which acupuncture may affect the uterus and reproductive system have not been identified, the researchers found that as a practical matter, at least among their small study population, the technique worked. In a study of 160 patients undergoing in vitro fertilization, researchers utilized acupuncture, an important element in the 4,000-year-old tradition of Chinese medicine, before and after the embryo transfers of half their patients. The patients, who were all required to have embryos of good quality, were evenly and randomly divided into two groups similar in age and diagnosis. The group receiving acupuncture treatments had one treatment before transfer and another after embryos had been transferred to their uteruses. Sterile needles were inserted into the patients' bodies at very specific points. According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, energy flows through the body along defined pathways, or meridians. Acupuncture is a means of influencing this energy to induce a desired physiological effect. Points were chosen for these patients along the spleen and stomach/colon meridians in an effort to positively influence blood flow and energy to the uterus and to provide a sedative effect. Additional needles were inserted in the patients' ears to influence the uterus and stabilize the endocrine system. Needles were left in place for 25 minutes while the patients rested. The control group also rested, lying still for 25 minutes after embryo transfer, as part of the IVF protocol. The difference between pregnancy rates for the two groups was notable. Patients were examined using ultrasound six weeks after their IVF procedures. In the control group, 21 out of 80 patients became pregnant. Of the patients who had received acupuncture treatments, 34 of 80 became pregnant. The researchers plan to conduct further studies to try to rule out possible psychological or psychosomatic effects.
Jessica L. Molleur is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and massage therapist in Massachusetts and California. She holds a Masters of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine from the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, CA. Her training also includes a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of California at Davis, CA. Jessica first became interested in acupuncture as a soccer player searching for an alternative to knee surgery.
She is a National Diplomate of Acupuncture, Oriental Medicine and Chinese Herbology through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Following her acupuncture licensure, she became a Diplomate of Acupuncture Orthopedics. This orthopedic specialty certification is held by fewer than 300 acupuncturists in the United States. Areas of specialty include women's health, infertility, pediatrics, and sports medicine.