acupuncture for IVF - new research

An extensive new review of 31 randomised controlled trials of acupuncture during IVF found improved pregnancy rates in 20 trials and no difference in 9 trials (Gu et al. 2019). Another review which pooled results from 27 studies suggests more benefit with increased frequency of acupuncture during IVF (Xie et al. 2019). An Australian meta-analysis this year found increased pregnancy and live birth rates, and reduced miscarriage when acupuncture was performed around the time of embryo transfer (Smith et al. 2019). Not all studies show benefit but a majority do.

New research from China investigates the effect of acupuncture on RNA sequencing in endometrial samples from women with a variety of fertility problems having IVF. It suggests that the acupuncture may help endometrial receptivity and pregnancy rates via an epigenetic effect on the endometrium (Cheng et al. 2019) (Shen et al. 2019).

6 trials show approximate doubling of pregnancy rates with acupuncture during ivf

  • embryo transfer acupuncture resulted in a clinical pregnancy rate of 60.9%, compared to 33.3% in the control group (Coksuer et al. 2019)

  • acupuncture improved pregnancy rates in IVF patients with previous recurrent implantation failure, pregnancy rate 32.8% in acupuncture group, 16.4% in control group (Shuai et. al 2019)

  • acupuncture during the IVF cycle doubled the pregnancy rate in a study of 160 couples at the Homerton Hospital (The Telegraph reporting on Gellerman et al. ESHRE conference proceedings 2016)

  • acupuncture after embryo transfer and again 3 days later doubled the pregnancy rate, 33.6% in acupuncture group, 13.6% in control group (Dieterle et al. 2006)

  • higher pregnancy rate with acupuncture at embryo transfer, 39% in acupuncture group, 26% in control group (Westergaard et al. 2006)

  • acupuncture at embryo transfer resulted in higher pregnancy rate, 42.5% in acupuncture group, 26.3% in the control group (Paulus et al. 2002)

embryo Transfer acupuncture - how important is it?

In the above research showing doubling of pregnancy rates all studies treated at embryo transfer and some treated at other stages of the cycle. Since the successful Paulus study in 2002 which only used acupuncture at transfer much emphasis has been placed on this, however…

  • a review suggests more benefit from acupuncture treatment throughout the IVF cycle than just at embryo transfer (Shen et al. 2015)

  • better embryo development was seen in women with PCOS when acupuncture was performed throughout the IVF cycle (Rashidi et al. 2013)

evidence for acupuncture helping implantation failure, poor responders & stress and hormone balance during IVF

  • acupuncture combined with medication improved hormone levels and ovarian response in women with poor ovarian response having IVF (Dong et al. 2019)

  • higher pregnancy rates were shown with IVF acupuncture in

    • women with poor ovarian reserve having IVF (Zhou et al. 2016)

    • women where implantation had failed on 2 or more previous IVF cycles (Villahermosa et al. 2013)

    • embryo transfer acupuncture - acupuncture pregnancy rate 64.7%, control group 42.5% - and the women also experienced reduced stress and anxiety (Balk et al. 2010)

  • benefits to hormone balance with acupuncture treatment were demonstrated during IVF (Magarelli et al. 2009)