Acupuncture & IVF Research Summary
From the desk of Jessica L. Molleur, Lic.Ac., DNBAO... In the past 10 years, there has been a growing amount of research connecting acupuncture to the success of IVF. Below is a handful of summaries compiled from research taking place in Germany, Australia, Sweden, and the United States. Acupuncture can be used in conjunction with IVF not only to increase fertilization rates as these studies suggest but also to decrease the side effects of medications, reduce complications following egg retrieval and embryo transfer, reduce the risk of hyper-stimulation, and help any patient deal with the amount of emotional and physical stress that typically accompanies each cycle.
ACUPUNCTURE INCREASES CHANCES OF SUCCESS IN IVF by 65%
Overview: In 2008, the British Medical Journal published research that concluded acupuncture can be offered as a significant, clinically relevant adjunct to IVF, relaxing the uterus and increasing blood flow for the successful implantation of an embryo within the uterine lining. Acupuncture was delivered either just before or just after embryo transfer – the moment when the fertilized embryo must attach itself to the wall of the womb to establish a pregnancy. The research was carried out by scientists from the University of Maryland in America and the VU University Amsterdam in Holland. Researchers claim that because acupuncture costs only about $75 per session compared to $6000 to $10,000 per cycle for IVF, it would be a cost effective, safe and efficient way of boosting success rates in fertility treatment.
Outcome: Current preliminary evidence suggests that acupuncture given with embryo transfer improves rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilization.
INFLUENCE OF ACUPUNCTURE ON THE PREGNANCY RATE IN PATIENTS WHO UNDERGO ASSISTED REPRODUCTION THERAPY
Overview: To evaluate the effect of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in assisted reproduction therapy (ART) by comparing a group of patients receiving acupuncture treatment shortly before and after embryo transfer with a control group receiving no acupuncture.
Outcome: Clinical pregnancies were documented in 34 of 80 patients (42.5%) in the acupuncture group, whereas pregnancy rate was only 26.3% (21 out of 80 patients) in the control group. Acupuncture seems to be a useful tool for improving pregnancy rate after ART.
ACUPUNCTURE ON THE DAY OF EMBRYO TRANSFER SIGNIFICANTLY IMPROVES THE REPRODUCTIVE OUTCOME IN INFERTILE WOMEN: A PROSPECTIVE, RANDOMIZED TRIAL
Overview: 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.
Outcome: Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer (ET) significantly improves the reproductive outcome in infertile women. 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.
ACUPUNCTURE AND FERTILITY RESEARCH SUMMARIES
EFFECT OF ACUPUNCTURE ON THE OUTCOME OF IN VITRO FERTILIZATION AND INTRACYTOPLASMIC SPERM INJECTION: A RANDOMIZED, PROSPECTIVE, CONTROLLED CLINICAL STUDY
Overview: In this study, a joint collaboration between researchers in Germany and China 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.
Outcome: 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%). Luteal-phase acupuncture has a positive effect on the outcome of IVF/ICSI.
INFLUENCE OF ACUPUNCTURE STIMULATION ON PREGNANCY RATES FOR WOMEN UNDERGOING EMBRYO TRANSFER
Overview: 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
Outcome: 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.
ACUPUNCTURE BEFORE AND AFTER EMBRYO TRANSFER RESULTS IN HIGHER PREGNANCY RATES
Overview: 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.
Outcome: The acupuncture group showed improved outcome in the following ways: 1. The acupuncture group had a 51% pregnancy rate compared to a 36% in the control group 2. The acupuncture group had an 8% miscarriage rate compared to a 20% in the 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.
1. Manheimer, E., et. al. Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilization: systematic review and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal. February 2008;336:545-549.
2. Fertility and Sterility - April 2002 (Vol. 77, Issue 4, Pages 721-724)
3. Fertil Steril. 2006 May;85(5):1341-6. Epub 2006 Apr 5.
4. Fertil Steril. 2006 May;85(5):1347-51. Epub 2006 Apr 17.
5. Fertility and Sterility Volume 85, Issue 5 , May 2006, Pages 1347-1351
6. Highlights in Fertility and Sterility (Vol. 77, No. 4, April 2002)
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. For patients interested in learning more about acupuncture for fertility and IVF, please click here.