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.