Acupuncture and IVF: research update, May 2018

Acupuncture and IVF: research update, May 2018

A new study was published on May 15 2018 looking at acupuncture performed three times during a stimulated IVF cycle to see if this type of acupuncture would improve live birth rates (Smith et al, 2018). 

The study included 824 women with an average age of 35.4 years old. It looked at acupuncture performed once during ovarian stimulation (between day 6-8), and then before and after embryo transfer. The participants were split into two groups, a) true acupuncture and b) sham acupuncture (fake acupuncture so to speak). 

Not to my surprise, the results showed that there was not a significant change in outcome between the two groups. The pregnancy rate was 25% in the true acupuncture group vs 21% in the sham acupuncture group. The live birth rate was 18.3% in the true acupuncture group vs 17.8% in the sham acupuncture group. Although there was slight improvements in the true acupuncture group over the sham, these were not considered statistically significant (strong enough).

The conclusion is that two to three acupuncture sessions during an IVF cycle have very little to no effects on improving IVF outcomes. Whats interesting about this is that all acupuncturists would agree with this. The true value of acupuncture, herbal medicine, or natural medicine, is in changing the uterine environment BEFORE an IVF cycle begins. Once an IVF cycle has begun, it is almost too late to have any effect on IVF outcomes. 

An analogy of this study would be if a trial was conducted where patients with headaches took 1/2 a paracetamol (ie. Panadol) tablet while the other half of the patients took 1/2 a placebo tablet, the results would show that there was no major improvement in headaches amongst the groups. This is simply because the dosage of the paracetamol was too low to have a clinical effect, and not because paracetamol does not work for mild to moderate headache pain. Those who have taken paracetamol for pain are aware that their doctors often recommend that two tablets are to be taken every 4-6 hours, and not 1/2 a tablet once daily. This simply does not work as the dosage is too low, much like the dosage of the acupuncture in this study was too low. 

More research should be conducted to reflect actual clinical practice. Future research should look at acupuncture/herbal medicine in the months/weeks BEFORE an IVF cycle begins, and then through the IVF cycle (Hullender Rubin, Anderson & Craig, 2018). 

Systematic reviews such as those performed by Shen et al 2015 and Qian et al 2017 that have shown improvements in IVF outcome, have pointed out that acupuncture performed leading into transfer is the most important, not once transfer is actually taking place. 

More well designed research into acupuncture that reflects best clinical practice is required to access the role that acupuncture and Chinese medicine may play in improving IVF outcomes. 



Hullender Rubin, L.E., Anderson, B.J. & Craig, L.B. (2018). Acupuncture and in vitro fertilisation research: current and future directions. Acupuncture in Medicine, BMJ Journals. Published Online First: 10 February 2018. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2016-011352

Qian, Y., Xia, X.R., Ochin, H., Huang, C., Gao, C., Gao, L., et al (2017). Effect of acupuncture on the outcomes of in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Arch Gynecol Obstet, 295(3), 543-558.

Shen, C., Wu, M., Shu, D., Zhao, X. & Gao, Y. (2015). The role of acupuncture in in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Gynecol Obstet Invest, 79 (1), 1-12. 

Smith, C.A., De Lacey, S., Chapman, M., et al (2018). Effect of Acupuncture vs Sham Acupuncture on Live Births Among Women Undergoing In Vitro FertilizationA Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2018;319(19):1990–1998. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.5336



IVF Acupuncture Research Review

IVF Acupuncture Research Review

Research into acupuncture and fertility first began to pick up steam in 2002 when Paulus and his group published the first study of acupuncture in conjunction with IVF (Paulus et al, 2002). Because this yielded such good results, more research was conducted over the following years and there is still ongoing research being conducted in understanding how acupuncture may improve IVF success rates.

Although some previous reviews were unclear, a recent systematic review of research in acupuncture and IVF published in 2017 found that "based on the analysis of the studies, acupuncture improves the Clinical Pregnancy Rate among women undergoing IVF" (Qian et al, 2017). This review was published in the Archives of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, and included 30 trials and 6344 participants.

A previous review conducted in 2015 suggested similar results (Shen et al, 2015). More research is required to fully understand the role that acupuncture may have in supporting female fertility, IVF, and pregnancy outcomes. 

For more information on Acupuncture and IVF, please visit this page. 



Qian, Y., Xia, X.R., Ochin, H., Huang, C., Gao, C., Gao, L., et al (2017). Effect of acupuncture on the outcomes of in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Arch Gynecol Obstet, 295(3), 543-558.

Shen, C., Wu, M., Shu, D., Zhao, X. & Gao, Y. (2015). The role of acupuncture in in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Gynecol Obstet Invest, 79 (1), 1-12. 

Essendon Natural Health - Our new home.

Essendon Natural Health - Our new home.

Hi Everyone, 

As many of you may already realise, I have now moved to my own clinic space and can proudly report that I am now the clinical director of Essendon Natural Health, located at 187 Bucket Street in Essendon, Victoria. 

Working with me is my colleague and friend Lachlan McDonald, a skilled acupuncturist and herbalist who has a background in social work (psychology); my mother Rose Gentile who is renowned in for her healings, counselling and hypnotherapy; my esteemed osteopath colleague Dr. Sonia Dolatian whom I have worked with for the past 6 years; and our wonderful, warm massage therapist Irene Fitzpatrick. 

We are located in the old heritage 1890 Pioneer Store Building, which has been transformed into a wonderful healing space. 

If you would like to know more about our clinic or our practitioners, please visit our new website at or call the clinic on 0393378572 to speak to one of our lovely receptionists. 

Kindest regards,

Robert Gentile, OMD. 

Acupuncture shown to reduce period pain!

Acupuncture shown to reduce period pain!

Acupuncture can help combat period pain in sufferers, as well as relieve associated headaches and nausea, a study by Australian and New Zealand researchers has found.

A small pilot study of 74 women aged between 18 and 45 found that more than half had at least a 50 per cent reduction in the severity of their period pain after undergoing acupuncture treatment for three months, with the effects lasting for up to a year.

Many of the women also reported less need to use painkillers to treat their period pain and an improvement in secondary symptoms, including headaches and nausea , according to the study published in the international journal PLOS One.

Known in medical circles as primary dysmenorrhea, period pain is most common in women aged under 25 and the most common gynaecological problem among women generally, with four in five encountering it during their reproductive years.

The researchers from Western Sydney University and the University of Auckland also found that manual acupuncture, where thin needles are inserted at certain points on the body, provided more relief than electro-acupuncture, which involves a small electrical current passing through the needles.

"Our pilot study found that using manual stimulation of the needles, rather than an electrical pulse, commonly used in many Chinese studies for period pain, resulted in reduced need for pain-relieving medication and improvement in secondary symptoms such as headaches and nausea," said Dr Mike Armour, a postdoctoral research fellow at Western Sydney University's National Institute of Complementary Medicine.

"The latter was unexpected and will be explored further in future, larger trials."

During the study, the women kept a diary and underwent one of four types of manual or electro acupuncture treatments.

Twelve treatments were carried out either once or three times a week over three menstrual cycles.

The women reported significant reductions in "peak pain" during the first three days of their period and in "average pain" experienced over their entire period, with the effects sustained for 12 months.

Many also experienced improvements in PMS-related symptoms such as mood swings.

"Treatment timing appears to play a small role, with high frequency of treatment providing greater improvements in health-related quality of life," the researchers wrote.


What does the latest science say about acupuncture?

What does the latest science say about acupuncture?

According to a major recent review of all the scientific research to date, acupuncture has now been conclusively proven for 8 conditions, with good to moderate evidence supporting another 38 conditions, and some evidence for a further 71 conditions.

Conditions that contain strong and moderate scientific evidence include the following:

  • Hayfever and allergies
  • Knee osteoarthritis, chronic lower back pain, acute lower back pain, neck pain, sciatica, TMJ syndrome, plantar foot pain, shoulder pain, tennis elbow, post-stroke pain and recovery, pregnancy related back and pelvic pain, and labour pain
  • Tension headaches and migraine prevention
  • Chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting, post-operative nausea and vomiting, post operative pain and recovery
  • Anxiety, depression (with medication), insomnia, and schizophrenia (with medication)
  • IBS, obesity, and constipation
  • High blood pressure (with medication), menopausal hot flushes, adult asthma, dry eye, and smoking cessation

The authors ended the study concluding that:

"It has been estimated that there is a 17-year time lag in translating clinical research into clinical practice (5). During this time patients are being deprived of the benefit of a proven therapy. Health policy makers now have clear conditions associated with a significant burden of disease where acupuncture should be integrated into current clinical guidelines without further delay."

At Essendon Natural Health, we believe in the integration of natural and convention approaches. If you or your medical doctor would like to discuss how acupuncture could be integrated into your current healthcare plan, please feel free to contact us and we would be happy to write to your medical doctor about how we could help and what evidence there is to support our natural drug-free treatments.

Source: McDonald J, Janz S. The Acupuncture Evidence Project: A Comparative Literature Review (Revised Edition). Brisbane: Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association Ltd; 2017.

Acupuncture successful for pain and depression

Acupuncture successful for pain and depression

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of York has demonstrated that true acupuncture increases the effectiveness of standard medical care for chronic pain - beyond any sham/placebo effect.

The study, based on 29 high quality clinical trials, showed acupuncture reduced the number of headaches and migraine attacks, the severity of neck and lower back pain, and the pain and disability of osteoarthritis, resulting in less reliance on anti-inflammatory medication.

Further, acupuncture was found to be cost-effective. Acupuncture was also found to be both clinically- and cost- effective for depression.

In conclusion, based on current evidence, Acupuncture should be considered as a primary or adjunct therapy for pain.

Acupuncture Successful for Migraines

Acupuncture reduces migraines better than leading drugs and with fewer side effects

In a very recent review published in June 2016, true acupuncture was shown to reduce migraine episodes significantly over sham acupuncture (less accurate and placebo acupuncture) in just under 5000 participants. The results in the acupuncture group were also better than the leading migraine preventative drugs but with far fewer side effects, and thus greater tolerability. 

"Our findings about the number of days with migraine per month can be summarized as follows. If people have six days with migraine per month on average before starting treatment, this would be reduced to five days in people receiving only usual care, to four days in those receiving fake acupuncture or a prophylactic drug, and to three and a half days in those receiving true acupuncture." 

This systematic review and meta-analysis of the research was conducted by the Cochrane database, which is considered the highest level of peer reviewed evidence. The authors concluded that acupuncture can be considered a treatment for migraine prevention in those who wish to undertake this treatment option.

Acupuncture doubles the success rate of IVF

Acupuncture doubles the success rate of IVF

In a recent study conducted by Homerton University Hospital in London 160 female patients undergoing IVF were placed into two groups; one group having four sessions of acupuncture over the course of the IVF cycle and the other having standard IVF without acupuncture. 

Results showed that 46.2% of patients in the acupuncture group became pregnant, versus 21.7% of patients in the standard IVF group. 

These results add to many previous trials showing that acupuncture combined with IVF significantly increases the chances of achieving a pregnancy. The difference with this study is that it particularly looked at acupuncture sessions over the course of the IVF cycle as opposed to just on the day of embryo transfer - preparation of the uterine environment is key to success.