Acupuncture and Infertility – What does the research say?
In this edition of Research Roundup, we’ll examine how acupuncture can be used to help achieve pregnancy, especially during IVF (in-vitro fertilization). Infertility is reported to affect up to 15% of all couples worldwide, and acupuncture has been used to improve the conditions necessary for ovulation and clinical pregnancy rates (CPR). While there are many causes and factors that have been offered for infertility, this edition of Research Roundup is focused on improving ovarian response in those women undergoing IVF. Does acupuncture promote successful ovulation and does it also enhance the success of the IVF protocol? The article chosen for this Research Roundup is a systematic review (we like these as they represent a high-level critique of the reviewed literature to answer these questions). The article can be found here.
This systematic review evaluated those with a poor ovarian response (POR), which predicts successful pregnancy outcomes. It is diagnosed by having met two of the following three conditions: 1. advanced maternal age (≥40 years); 2. a previous POR (≤3 oocytes after a conventional stimulation protocol); or 3. an abnormal ovarian reserve test (which evaluates the number of available follicles – follicles contain the eggs).
All forms of acupuncture (manual, ear, and electroacupuncture) were included with electroacupuncture being the main focus. The systematic review focused on evaluating randomized controlled trials only – this is good as it helps to weed out lower-quality research. In the article, there is a list of the acupuncture points used (Table 2 for those interested and note that Ren 4 and Spleen 6 were used in all studies). The controls (non-acupuncture) were conventional medical approaches. Unfortunately, sham acupuncture was included. See my previous comments on sham acupuncture here.
So what did they find? What would be the most important outcome in this scenario? Clinical pregnancy rates! Those rates were higher in those receiving electroacupuncture. This was attributed to having higher numbers of oocytes (eggs) retrieved and improved hormone environments.
Acupuncture is safe to use in conjunction with conventional IVF protocols. Dr. Rhoads can work with your primary care provider to help with pregnancy.
Guven PG, Cayir Y, Borekci B. Effectiveness of acupuncture on pregnancy success rates for women undergoing in vitro fertilization: A randomized controlled trial. Taiwan J Obstet Gynecol. 2020 Mar;59(2):282-286. doi: 10.1016/j.tjog.2020.01.018. PMID: 32127151.