Last updated May 16, 2018 at 12:01 pm
An Australian study with over 800 women shows that acupuncture treatment during IVF has no effect on live birth rates.
If you or anyone you know has ever been through IVF you’ll know it’s a pretty tough process, physically, emotionally and financially. Women undergoing IVF have been shown to have the same sort of stress levels as cancer patients. With Australian success rates around 33% for the first cycle, patients are increasingly looking for complementary approaches to boost the odds of success.
There is not a lot of recent data on how many women are using acupuncture during IVF. A ten-year old study of South Australian IVF patients found that 72% of patients were using complementary therapies, and 10% of those using acupuncture.
“Our experience suggests that this figure is notably higher today” says Prof Caroline Smith from the University of Western Sydney, who conducted trial reported today in JAMA.
No difference in real vs sham acupuncture
The trial assigned women undergoing IVF to receive three sessions of acupuncture treatment, one during ovarian stimulation and two on the day of embryo transfer. The control group received sham acupuncture treatment, where a non-invasive needle was placed on the body away from known acupuncture points. 824 Australian women were involved in this randomised controlled clinical trial.
There was no significant difference in how many babies were born between the two groups, with success rates of 18.3% for acupuncture and 17.8% for control groups.
This finding is consistent with other meta-analysis showing no support for the use of acupuncture to improve birth outcomes for women undergoing IVF.
Prof Smith hopes that this research will help women made evidence informed decisions about the use of acupuncture to improve their reproductive outcomes.
While there was no difference in live birth rates, Caroline Smith indicated that the women in the trial still reported emotional benefits from acupuncture.
“Our unpublished findings (at present) highlight a supportive role from acupuncture with reducing stress, increased relaxation and improving how women feel about themselves whilst undergoing the demands of IVF treatments.”
“These findings suggest other outcomes from acupuncture are valued by women whilst undergoing the emotional turmoil of IVF.”