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Acupuncture & Fertility-A Summary of Several Studies Published in Fertility & Sterility

The May 2006 issue of medical journal Fertility and Sterility presents several new studies
that confirm the efficacy of acupuncture as an aid to IVF. Here are the study results:
Study #1: Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer (ET) significantly improves
the reproductive outcome in infertile women: a prospective, randomized trial
In this study, Westergaard LG, et.al., set out to evaluate how the use of acupuncture
effected pregnancy rates in patients treated with IVF/intracytoplasmic sperm injection
273 patients were randomly assigned to one of three groups:
One group had acupuncture on the day of the transfer, a second group had acupuncture on
the day of the transfer and then again 2 days after the transfer, and a third control group
did not receive acupuncture.
The results clearly showed that the first acupuncture group that received treatment the
day of the transfer had a statistically significant higher rate of pregnancy than the control
group (37 of 95 [39%] vs. 21 of 87 [26%]). Comparison of ongoing pregnancy rates also
favored the acupuncture group (34 of 95 [36%] vs. 19 of 87 [22%]).
There was no improvement on the reproductive outcome by adding an acupuncture
treatment 2 days after ET.
Fertility and Sterility Volume 85, Issue 5 , May 2006, Pages 1341-1346
Study #2: Effect of acupuncture on the outcome of in vitro fertilization and
intracytoplasmic sperm injection: a randomized, prospective, controlled clinical
In this study, a joint collaboration between researchers in Germany and China, Stefan
Dieterle M.D and his colleagues set out to determine the effect of luteal phase
acupuncture on the outcome of IVF/ICSI.
225 IVF/ICSI infertile patients were randomly assigned to 2 groups. One group received
Traditional Chinese acupuncture and the other half received sham acupuncture. As in the
previous study, in the group that received true acupuncture, the clinical pregnancy rate
and ongoing pregnancy rates (33.6% and 28.4%, respectively) were significantly higher
than in sham acupuncture group (15.6% and 13.8%).
Fertility and Sterility Volume 85, Issue 5 , May 2006, Pages 1347-1351
Study #3: Influence of acupuncture stimulation on pregnancy rates for women
undergoing embryo transfer
This study from Australia, lead by Caroline Smith Ph.D., examined 228 women and
again compared a true acupuncture to a placebo group. The design of this study was to
treat the women three separate times: the first session on day 9 of stimulating injections,
the second session before ET, and the third immediately after ET.
They reported their results as follows:
The pregnancy rate was 31% in the acupuncture group and 23% in the control group. For
those subjects receiving acupuncture, the odds of achieving a pregnancy were 1.5 higher
than for the control group, but the difference did not reach statistical significance. The
ongoing pregnancy rate at 18 weeks was higher in the treatment group (28% vs. 18%),
but the difference was not statistically significant.
They did conclude that acupuncture was safe for women undergoing embryo transfer.
Fertility and Sterility Volume 85, Issue 5 , May 2006, Pages 1352-1358
Previous studies:
At the October 2004 meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine
(ASRM) another study was presented that confirms the value of acupuncture to the
success of IVF treatment. The research, done at Reproductive Medicine and Fertility
Centre in Colorado Springs, studied 114 women undergoing IVF. Half of the women
received acupuncture and the control group did not. The acupuncture group showed
improved outcome in the following ways:
1. Acupuncture group 51% pregnancy rate compared to 36% in control group
2. Acupuncture group 08% miscarriage rate compared to 20% in control group
Acupuncture also was found to reduce the risk of tubal pregnancy and increase the live
birth rate. The live birth rate for each IVF cycle was 23 % higher than the cycles for the
control group.
Independent.co.uk News Report
Below is the very first paper published on this research.
It is from the journal: Highlights in Fertility and Sterility
(Vol. 77, No. 4, April 2002)
Results from a recent study in Germany indicate that adding acupuncture to the treatment
protocol of IVF patients greatly enhances their chances of becoming pregnant. While the
physiologic mechanisms by which acupuncture may affect the uterus and reproductive
system have not been identified, the researchers found that as a practical matter, at least
among their small study population, the technique worked.
In a study of 160 patients undergoing in vitro fertilization, researchers utilized
acupuncture, an important element in the 4,000-year-old tradition of Chinese medicine,
before and after the embryo transfers of half their patients. The patients, who were all
required to have embryos of good quality, were evenly and randomly divided into two
groups similar in age and diagnosis.
The group receiving acupuncture treatments had one treatment before transfer and
another after embryos had been transferred to their uteruses. Sterile needles were inserted
into the patients' bodies at very specific points. According to the principles of traditional
Chinese medicine, energy flows through the body along defined pathways, or meridians.
Acupuncture is a means of influencing this energy to induce a desired physiological
effect. Points were chosen for these patients along the spleen and stomach/colon
meridians in an effort to positively influence blood flow and energy to the uterus and to
provide a sedative effect. Additional needles were inserted in the patients' ears to
influence the uterus and stabilize the endocrine system. Needles were left in place for 25
minutes while the patients rested. The control group also rested, lying still for 25 minutes
after embryo transfer, as part of the IVF protocol.
The difference between pregnancy rates for the two groups was notable. Patients were
examined using ultrasound six weeks after their IVF procedures. In the control group, 21
out of 80 patients became pregnant. Of the patients who had received acupuncture
treatments, 34 of 80 became pregnant. The researchers plan to conduct further studies to
try to rule out possible psychological or psychosomatic effects.
Sandra Carson, MD, President-Elect of ASRM, commented, "If these findings are
confirmed, they may help us improve the odds for our IVF patients' achieving

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