Does Acupuncture Improve Fertility Treatment Success?

Women often use acupuncture in conjunction with fertility treatment to increase their chance of success, but a new study found that acupuncture may not be helpful.  The study, published in JAMA, found that acupuncture does not increase live birth rates for women undergoing in vitro fertilization. 

The study looked at IVF outcomes for more than 800 women in Australia and New Zealand, who underwent either real or “sham” acupuncture along with their IVF treatment.  The women ranged from 18 to 42 years old and all had fresh embryo transfers.  The women in the “sham” group were treated with non-insertive needles, which were placed away from true acupuncture points.

The results of the study found that the live birth rates were not significantly different between the two groups. The live birth rate was 18.3 percent in the real acupuncture group compared to 17.8 percent in the sham acupuncture group.

This study included a large number of women and certainly adds to the growing body of medical literature regarding acupuncture and fertility.  Based on this study alone though,  I don’t think we can conclude that acupuncture is an ineffective adjunct to fertility treatment.  Overall, the medical literature still seems mixed. Some studies show a benefit, while others don’t.

If nothing else, acupuncture can often promote relaxation and decrease stress, both of which are beneficial overall.  In general, I tell patients that if they are interested in acupuncture and the additional appointments don’t increase their stress levels, then they should go for it.  If the additional appointments seem hard to get to, then it may not be worth adding that stress.

At Reproductive Partners, we work closely with many acupuncturists in our area.  We have seen the benefits they provide for reducing stress in some patients and they certainly provide an additional arm of support for many women.

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