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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. 

 

References 

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. 

 

References: 

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. 

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. 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/04/acupuncture-doubles-chance-of-having-a-baby-with-ivf-study-sugge/