Acupuncture during IVF doesn't help increase pregnancy rate
Acupuncture during IVF does not increase a woman’s chance of falling pregnant, scientists claim.
A new extensive survey into the alternative form of medicine has found no increase in the pregnancy rate of those who practice it.
Acupuncture is currently the most popular form of complementary medicine of those undergoing IVF, with some hospitals even setting up on-site centres to cater for the demand.
It’s also a potentially lucrative business with practitioners charging large amounts of money for courses.
However, Sesh Sunkara, who led the new study at Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital in London, says reproductively challenged couples may be wasting their money.
‘If women come to me and ask if they should have acupuncture, I have to say there is no evidence that it helps,’ she said, during the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Barcelona.
‘Women are investing hope, energy and time in something that has not shown a definite benefit.
‘The reason we chose to do this was that in our IVF clinic, every day we have patients who ask whether they should have acupuncture to improve their success rate.
‘There have been all sorts of papers saying that sticking pins and needles increases the pregnancy rate, which have been widely reported in the media, and we are looking at women who are very vulnerable, who want to do everything possible to increase their pregnancy chances.
‘We wanted to look at this in an unbiased, open-minded way, to help us advise our patients. We wanted to know whether we should be doing acupuncture routinely and setting up a service in our clinic, or whether we should be advising people that there is no evidence that it works.’
The latest study is in contradiction to one which was published in February of this year, which claimed that pregnancy rates could be improved by as much as 65% if acupuncture was practiced at the same time as embryos were transferred to the womb.
The team at Guy’s say that paper has overlooked some important studies.
‘The BMJ [British Medical Journal] paper didn’t include all the studies, and if you include the negative ones there is no effect,’ comments Professor Peter Braude.
‘We can’t turn around and say it does not work, but there is no evidence it does and hand on heart we can’t come out and recommend it.’
In a statement, the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) told us: ‘We are aware of the research presented to the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona on 8 July and are somewhat surprised at the findings especially as it seems to fly in the face of a lot of the research previously published in this area.
‘There has been significant research which has found that acupuncture treatment can have a positive affect on those trying for a baby and can actually aid the conception process.
‘Fertility focused acupuncture treatment has been found to help increase blood flow to the reproductive organs, balance hormone levels, regulate the menstrual cycle and help improve the lining of the uterus and quality of eggs released. Additionally, conditions such as polycystic ovaries and endometriosis have also been shown to improve with acupuncture.
‘BAcC practitioners recognise that there are many factors which may cause infertility such as stress, irregular hormone levels and disrupted menstrual cycles. As a holistic therapy, acupuncture helps to identify underlying health issues which may cause disruption to the body’s natural balance, resulting in symptoms such as infertility.
‘Many BAcC registered practitioners have experienced positive results with their fertility patients when conventional methods alone have not been successful.’