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.
Dr Irene Moy and her team at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, gave 160 IVF patients either 'true' or 'sham' acupuncture before and after embryo transfer, and compared the outcomes. The women who underwent the sham procedure had a higher rate of pregnancy (52.7 per cent) than those who underwent the true procedure (45.3 per cent), although this difference was not statistically significant..
Despite showing a lack of evidence that it can improve outcomes, Dr Moy and her team reported that 'there were no significant adverse effects observed during the study, suggesting that acupuncture is safe for women undergoing embryo transfer'.
The British Fertility Society (BFS) has previously warned couples undergoing IVF that there is no evidence to show acupuncture increases the chance of getting pregnant. In a study by BFS researchers earlier this year of 2,000 people, no matter what stage the acupuncture was given, it made no difference to the pregnancy or live birth rate.
Professor Adam Balen, head of the BFS's policy and practice committee, said that there was 'a great deal of discrepancy' in the way trials were designed and the type of acupuncture used, and that IVF patients need to be aware of the lack of evidence on acupuncture before undergoing the treatment.
The British Acupuncture Council issued a statement in support of the therapy, saying 'fertility focused acupuncture treatment has been found to help increase blood flow to the reproductive organs, balance hormone levels, regulate the menstrual cycle and help improve the lining of the uterus and the quality of eggs released'.
However, Professor Edzard Ernst an expert in complementary medicine from Exeter University in England, called these latest studies 'long overdue clarification' that Chinese medicine cannot help infertile women get pregnant.
Of the BFS review, Dr Ernst said: 'Infertile women have been misled for some time now to think that traditional Chinese medicine can help them get pregnant'.