Acupuncture and IVF – Have They Proven it Helps?

April 7th, 2021 by dayat Leave a reply »

If you and your partner are struggling to conceive a child and have a successful pregnancy, you may be wondering about some of the alternative therapies that are available today – one of the most important being the combination of acupuncture and IVF. The problem with researching these alternative therapies – such as group therapy, yoga, acupuncture, and herbal supplements – is that you’re likely to find a lot of conflicting information. Some people will say that alternative therapies don’t boost your fertility at all, and others will say that they’re all you need to have a baby. However, evidence is mounting that greater care for one’s general health leads to a improvement in reproductive health, and adding acupuncture to one’s IVF procedure shows a strong indication of higher pregnancy success.

Not unlike most complementary therapies, there are some studies that suggest acupuncture is not particularly effective for enhancing pregnancy rates. However, as more studies are conducted worldwide, the growing body of knowledge strongly indicates that acupuncture combined with an IVF procedure will help increase pregnancy rates, in some cases by a remarkable amount. While acupuncture isn’t a magic bullet to getting pregnant, it’s certainly a treatment you’d be wise to try.

The Evidence for Acupuncture’s Effect

Again, if you run a random Internet search for acupuncture and its effects on infertility, you’ll find all kinds of conflicting data. There are, however, plenty of studies that strongly support acupuncture as an aid to IVF in particular, so you should certainly look at the results of these studies when making your decision.

The first major study on acupuncture’s effects on IVF success rates was conducted in 2002 in Germany. During this study, 43% of women who underwent acupuncture before and after a round of IVF became pregnant, and only 26% of women who didn’t use the complementary therapy became pregnant. In a later American study, 51% of women who used acupuncture to complement IVF became pregnant, but only 36% of the women who used IVF alone became pregnant. And in that same study, they found that the acupuncture group had a miscarriage rate reduced to only 8% of the women who became pregnant, while the non-acupuncture group miscarried 20% of the time. A study out of Italy shows that acupuncture made women 24% more likely to become pregnant.

Another study conducted by the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine reviewed 1,366 women who had undergone IVF, and compared those who received acupuncture against those who received either “fake” acupuncture treatments or no additional therapy at all. The results were astounding – those women who received “real” acupuncture had an increase in pregnancy rates 65% higher than those who received the fake treatment or none at all. These studies point very strongly toward acupuncture as a great complementary therapy for IVF.

In seeming conflict is another study from the University of Hong Kong that suggests “placebo acupuncture” may be as much or more effective that real acupuncture. Published on November of 2008 in Human Reproduction, placebo acupuncture is described as using needles that retract into the handle, still giving the sensation and appearance of entering the skin. Women who received this therapy actually had a slightly higher pregnancy rate than those receiving the real thing. Analysts attempting to explain these results suggest that placebo acupuncture is quite similar to acupressure, which is already a recommended pregnancy-enhancing therapy. Another view is that women who undergo these treatments significantly reduce their stress levels, another known positive factor in pregnancy success.

While scientists are still debating about whether or not acupuncture is helpful in itself and, if so, what makes it helpful, the evidence continues to mount. More and more doctors and researchers are taking on this interesting issue and are seeing results.

Who it Helps

One problem with the studies on acupuncture is that the groups of women these studies have chosen are very different. Some studies collect results after the fact – that is, the patients have already decided for themselves whether or not to add complementary therapies like acupuncture to their IVF procedure, and the pregnancy rates are analyzed after the procedures have taken place. Criticism of this analysis method includes the suggestion that couples with more severe infertility problems may be more likely to choose acupuncture on their own, therefore skewing the test results. Other doctors endeavor to eliminate this possibility by asking couples to be part of a study and dividing the agreeing groups randomly into acupuncture and non-acupuncture groups.

How it Helps

Scientists who can’t agree on whether or not acupuncture helps during IVF are even less likely to agree about how the process actually works. Those who put some stock in the complementary therapy, though, tend to think that the treatment relieves stress, and there is significant evidence that women who are less stressed are more likely to become pregnant. Some skilled acupuncturists even say that the therapy can balance hormones in the body, which also makes sense in helping boost fertility rates. Others describe specific acupuncture methods that increase blood flow to the uterus, therefore thickening the wall and making it more receptive for the new embryo.

Regardless of how it works, though, there is certainly plenty of evidence out there that acupuncture does work for many couples trying to conceive. Besides this, it’s a very safe therapy, and it’s relatively affordable. While there are never any guarantees in the inexact science of Assisted Reproductive Technology, acupuncture is certainly worth a shot if you’re about to undergo IVF.


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