The Latest Scoop on How Acupuncture Could Help You Get Pregnant

Photo: Veer / The Bump
Photo: Veer / The Bump

According to new research led by the University of Maryland School of Medicine and published in the journal of Human Reproduction Update, acupuncture, when used as a complementary or supplemental therapy for in vitro fertilization (IVF), may be beneficial for fertility.

The process of IVF is done outside of the womb at first (to fertilize a woman’s egg with sperm) and then implanted into a woman’s uterus, and according to researchers, acupuncture is the most commonly used addition to the process; a complimentary therapy among couples seeking treatment at fertility clinics throughout the United States.

In the latest study, researchers analyzed 16 previous studies with more than 4,000 patients and builds performed at the Center for Integrative Medicine’s 2008 review of acupuncture and IVF, which was published in the British Medical Journal. Those 16 studies found positive results in women using acupuncture undergoing IVF. These women had acupuncture performed on them during the embryo transfer. However, researchers noted that the conclusions from the past 16 studies were not conclusive across cultures.

According to the authors of the most current study, international differences may be one factor in the varying baseline pregnancy rates of the studies they analyzed. They determined that European clinics could have lower IVF pregnancy rates than U.S. clinics due to the fact that European countries are moving toward single embryo transfers. Another potential explanation for the different effects of acupuncture on fertility? Eric Manheimer, lead author and research associate at the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine, said “In trials with a higher versus lower baseline rate, if the IVF settings for the baseline pregnancy rates are already high, the added value of additional co-interventions, such as acupuncture, may be lower.

Our systematic review of current acupuncture/IVF research found that for IVF clinics with baseline pregnancy rates higher than average (32 percent or greater), adding acupuncture had no benefit. However, at IVF clinics with baseline pregnancy rates lower than average (less than 32 percent) adding acupuncture seemed to increase IVF pregnancy success rates. We saw a direct association between the baseline pregnancy success rate and the effects of adding acupuncture: the lower the baseline pregnancy rate at the clinic, the more adjuvant acupuncture seemed to increase the pregnancy rate,” he added.

Since their findings aren’t conclusive, Manheimer and his team press the need for more research to examine whether or not acupuncture might be useful as an add-on procedure in IVF clinics with lower baseline rates, which includes considerations of safety and cost-effectiveness for women and their partners. To date, research has not determined whether any benefits on IVF success rates are a result of adding acupuncture.

Did you use acupuncture as an adjuvant to your IVF treatments?

Plus, more from The Bump:

Can Alternative Medicine Boost Your Fertility?

Will Acupuncture Help With IVF?

IVF 101: Your Starter Guide to In Vitro Fertilization