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Acupuncture may reduce the success of IVF

23 October 2007
Appeared in BioNews 430

Contrary to the widely held belief that acupuncture enhances a woman's chances of successfully becoming pregnant whilst undergoing IVF treatment, a study at the University of Oklahoma found that women who combine acupuncture and IVF were 37 per cent less likely to conceive than those who underwent IVF treatment alone. The new findings caused head researcher Dr LaTasha Craig, to warn that acupuncture should not be recommended until further research has been conducted to resolve the discrepancy between this study and earlier research.

Previous studies had appeared to indicate a marginal increase in IVF efficacy or showed no obvious benefit, allowing some to scientifically postulate that the ancient far eastern medical practice of acupuncture might somehow affect certain muscles and glands of the nervous system to help the lining of the uterus become more receptive to embryo implantation.

The latest study evaluated the results of 97 patients with an average age of 35 who were randomly divided into two groups. One group received acupuncture for 25 minutes before and after embryo implantation. The pregnancy rate for the IVF group without acupuncture was 69.9 per cent compared to the 43.8 per cent less successful pregnancy rate for those who received the two-pronged acupuncture 'therapy' approach.  Dr Craig suggested that other factors may have counteracted any therapeutic effect of acupuncture such as the stress from undergoing acupuncture just before IVF or from travel in traffic to external acupuncture clinics and onto IVF appointments.

Some clinics regularly offer acupuncture with its IVF services, according to Mark Bovey from the British Acupuncture Council, who was alarmed by the results. Although the number of women who undergo IVF alongside acupuncture procedures has skyrocketed, many doctors believe that the placebo effect is a likely explanation for any perceived benefit.

Acupuncture 'may cut IVF chances'
BBC News Online |  16 October 2007
Acupuncture may harm chances of IVF pregnancy, say researchers
The Guardian |  17 October 2007
U-turn on wisdom of IVF and acupuncture
The Scotsman |  17 October 2007
19 July 2010 - by Sarah Pritchard 
Women given acupuncture during IVF treatment are no more likely to become pregnant than their counterparts who undergo needle stimulation to body areas not used in acupuncture, a US study has shown...
26 October 2009 - by Dr Will Fletcher 
Reducing stress may increase fertility, a new study suggests. At a fertility centre in Boston, US, some women took part in a stress management program in parallel with their IVF treatment whilst others did not. It was found that the program had no effect on how many women conceived at the first try. However, women who failed at the first attempt and were trying to get pregnant a second time, whilst using the stress management techniques,experienced a 160...
17 November 2008 - by Katy Sinclair 
By Katy Sinclair Two new studies have found that acupuncture does not increase the chances of conception through IVF. The first study was conducted by Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago, and was presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in San Francisco, and the second was published in...
14 July 2008 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
Scientists have failed to establish a link between the use of acupuncture on fertility patients and IVF success rates. In what is said to be one of the most thorough studies into the issue, close to 2,500 women were studied across 13 clinical trials looking into the...
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