A review of seven clinical trials of acupuncture given with embryo transfer in women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) suggests that acupuncture may improve rates of pregnancy. An estimated 10 to 15 percent of couples experience reproductive difficulty and seek specialist fertility treatments, such as IVF. IVF, which involves retrieving a woman's egg, fertilizing it in the laboratory, and then transferring the embryo back into the woman's womb is an expensive, lengthy, and stressful process. Identifying a complementary approach that can improve success would be welcome to patients and providers.
According to Eric Manheimer of the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Center for Integrative Medicine and colleagues who conducted the systematic review, acupuncture has been used in China for centuries to regulate the female reproductive system. With this in mind, the reviewers analyzed results from seven clinical trials of acupuncture in women who underwent IVF to see if rates of pregnancy were improved with acupuncture. The studies encompassed data on over 1366 women and compared acupuncture, given within one day of embryo transfer, with sham acupuncture, or no additional treatment.
The reviewers found that acupuncture given as a complement to IVF increased the odds of achieving pregnancy. According to the researchers, the results indicate that 10 women undergoing IVF would need to be treated with acupuncture to bring about one additional pregnancy. The results, considered preliminary, point to a potential complementary treatment that may improve the success of IVF and the need to conduct additional clinical trials to confirm these findings.
Manheimer E, Zhang G, Udoff L, et al. Effect of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilization: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ.; 336(7643):545-9.2008