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Acupuncture Does Not Improve IVF Birth Rates

Among the most frequent questions that our patients ask are those regarding the complementary, Traditional Chinese Medical techniques of acupuncture. Several previously published meta-analyses (quantitative statistical analyses of separate studies to test the pooled data for statistical significance) have shown no benefit of acupuncture in the IVF setting. Another such study of over 800 Australian and New Zealand women undergoing acupuncture treatment during their IVF cycle has confirmed no significant difference in live birth rates relative to controls. The findings published some months ago in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) support recent guidelines from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the previous, high-quality meta-analyses.

The researchers from NICM Health Research Institute (NICM), Western Sydney University, Flinders University, UNSW Sydney, University of South Australia, University of Adelaide and Greenslopes Private Hospital studied the effects of acupuncture administered prior to and following an embryo transfer (ET). Performed in 16 IVF centers in Australia and New Zealand, the randomized clinical trial involved 848 women aged 18 to 42 undergoing an IVF cycle using fresh embryos between June 2011 and October 2015, in which participants were given either acupuncture or a sham acupuncture control (a non-insertive needle placed away from the true acupuncture points).

The results showed the rate of live birth was 18.3 per cent among participants who received acupuncture versus 17.8 per cent who received the sham acupuncture control, a non-significant difference.

The authors concluded that while a short course of acupuncture may statistically be no better than sham at improving live birth and pregnancy outcomes, a psycho-social benefit (relaxation, stress relief, increased sense of wellbeing) from acupuncture was reported by some women undergoing IVF.

Reference:

  1. Caroline A. Smith et al. Effect of acupuncture vs sham acupuncture on live births among women undergoing in vitro fertilization: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA, 2018 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2018.5336

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