A recent British trial using acupuncture alongside IVF has demonstrated that acupuncture more than doubles women’s chances of having a baby. There has been a suggestion that acupuncture should be offered on the NHS to support IVF cycles. I would fully support this, although my suggestion would be that it is acupuncture administered by practitioners who have undertaken a full 3 year training, rather than those who have done a minimal training in dry needle technique.
In the recent trial; 71 women received acupuncture and IVF, 21 of these became pregnant. Compared to 6 of the 69 in the IVF only group. Of course, critics will say “there was no placebo and the study was small and therefore not significant’. But this will not deter women from seeking acupuncture.
As acupuncturists we have known that acupuncture increases the chances of IVF and optimizing natural fertility for a long time; 14 years ago the Paulus (2002) study demonstrated excellent results. And couples have been flocking to acupuncturists ever since. The paper published in Fertility and Sterility; demonstrated a 42.5% pregnancy rate in the acupuncture and IVF group verses a 26.3% success rate in the IVF group.
Acupuncture is one of the oldest treatments in existence with a long recorded history of efficacy. Of course trials are difficult and expensive to run and it is not easy to find a suitable placebo for acupuncture. It is not like popping a pill. Researchers have struggled to find a placebo that does not create a change in the body in a similar way to acupuncture. Trials are expensive to run and, unlike drugs companies who have huge budgets and make a lot of profit, no one stands to profit that much from promoting acupuncture. This is the conflict within medicine and it is only the couples that suffer if they are not offered effective treatments that are easy to administer, do no harm and are relatively inexpensive.
I totally disagree with peddling treatments that do not work or give patients false hope. I am as angered as the pro-scientists about websites claiming that they cure everything from headaches to breast cancer.
One of my personal frustrations has been that, to date, all the research has been focused on before and after embryo transfer (though this recent study gave 4 not 2 treatment). 14 years later why are we still asking the same question? I would love to see the researchers look outside of this tiny window and extend their research question; ‘If acupuncture can do this during IVF then what can it do outside of IVF to optimize’.
Emma Cannon Clinic – IVF SUPPORT
In my clinic, we find we have the best results when acupuncture is administered throughout the IVF cycle. Our experience has demonstrated that this may improve the growth of the follicles, helping to balance growth on each ovary. Help to prepare the endometrium so that the correct thickness is achieved. Acupuncture can also reduce discomfort, constipation and bloating around egg collection; helping to prepare the body for transfer.
An additional benefit is that patients report feeling calmer and more relaxed, releasing endorphins.
We also use acupuncture as preparation for IVF, or in between failed IVF cycles. Men too can benefit from using acupuncture prior to and during IVF, particularly if there is male factor infertility or they have high stress levels. Many men enjoy being involved in the process and find acupuncture helps them relax.
5 Other reasons to use acupuncture
- To help support you in losing weight or stopping smoking
- To support you in early pregnancy, particularly following IVF
- To manage bloating, constipation and digestive issues
- To help alleviate stress and calm the mind
- For patients with unexplained infertility or immune issues
We have a long way to go in order to design trials that can measure the efficacy of acupuncture. It is also important to remember that many procedures used in medicine, have also not been rigorously tested. Early pregnancy scanning is one of these.
Acupuncture has the longest recorded record of safe and effective treatment than any other procedure. However, the evidence is growing and couples will vote with their feet. As one open minded IVF consultant said to me last week; “why wouldn’t you use acupuncture alongside IVF”.