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Acupuncture does not affect IVF success rate

21 May 2018
Appeared in BioNews 950

Acupuncture during IVF treatment does not increase the chances of having a baby, according to new research. 

A study published this week in JAMA and led by Professor Caroline Smith from Western Sydney University, Australia, compared the birth rate in women who received traditional acupuncture during their course of IVF to those who received a sham acupuncture treatment. 

A very small difference (0.5 percent) in the live birth rate was observed, but the authors showed that it was not statistically significant, saying: 'The findings do not support the use of acupuncture to improve the rate of live births among women undergoing IVF.'

The randomised clinical trial followed over 800 women from 17 fertility centres across Australia and New Zealand as they had IVF treatment. The women were split into two groups, those receiving traditional Chinese acupuncture, and those receiving a sham treatment, where a non-invasive needle was placed on the skin away from known acupuncture points. 

They received one session of acupuncture during the period of follicle stimulation, prior to egg collection, and two sessions on the day of the embryo transfer: before and after the transfer took place. 

The study found a small difference in the number of live births between the groups, with 74 of 405 (18.5 percent) women receiving acupuncture going on to have a baby compared to 72 of 404 (17.8 percent) women receiving the sham treatment. However, this difference is not statistically significant, meaning that it is within the normal variation expected due to chance.

While this study suggests it is unlikely that acupuncture improves IVF birth rates, the authors suggest there may still be some psychological benefits. 

Professor Michael Chapman from the University of New South Wales, Australia, who co-authored the paper said: 'Feeling relaxed and reporting relief from stress and women feeling good about themselves is to be welcomed for women as they undergo an IVF cycle.'

15 February 2016 - by Ryan Ross 
A third of general practitioners believe that the NHS should not fund IVF treatment, according to a recent poll...
20 April 2015 - by Ruth Retassie 
Some people may be genetically more likely to experience the 'placebo effect', according to a review of recent studies...
22 November 2010 - by Harriet Vickers 
NHS Surrey is the latest Primary Care Trust to stop providing IVF for new patients. Facing a £125 million budget deficit this year, the trust has decided to suspend all new courses of the treatment, although women nearing 40 will be considered and ongoing treatments will be continued. Previously it funded up to two full cycles of IVF per couple, if the woman was aged between 23 and 39...
6 April 2010 - by Harriet Vickers 
Alternative therapies - especially acupuncture - are employed by a substantial proportion of Americans trying to get pregnant, say researchers. Nearly a third of couples followed in a Californian study tried acupuncture, herbal therapy and massage....
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