The jury is still out when it comes to declaring acupuncture a useful therapy for in vitro fertilization (IVF).
A recent study by the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine found mixed results when acupuncture was used in conjunction with IVF. The study, published in 2013 by the journal Human Reproduction Update, involved a review of 16 independent studies from around the world since 2002 and included more than 4,000 women.
When researchers compared the studies, it was found that patients who used an IVF clinic with a below-average success rate (lower than 32 percent), the use of acupuncture increased the pregnancy rate. However, for patients who used IVF clinics with higher-than-average pregnancy success rates, there was no added benefit in using acupuncture.
In addition, when all the trials were combined, reviewers found no statistically significant improvement when acupuncture was used in conjunction with IVF.
Though acupuncture may not have a direct influence on pregnancy rates, Dr. Laurence A. Jacobs of the Fertility Centers of Illinois in Chicago, thinks there may still be a benefit to IVF acupuncture.
“In my practice, I have noticed that patients who are in optimal health and are best able to manage the stresses of life and infertility have better success with treatment because they are able to persist during a difficult journey,” according to Dr. Jacobs, who has more than 30 years of experience in infertility treatments.
IVF & ACUPUNCTURE
During IVF, a woman’s eggs are fertilized with sperm in a laboratory. Then, a viable embryo is implanted in a woman’s uterus.
The process is emotionally and financially taxing. However, acupuncture helps release beta endorphins in the brain, which produces a calming effect and may offer an indirect benefit. By helping a woman manage the stresses of infertility treatments, acupuncture may help her persevere with treatments, which could ultimately result in a successful pregnancy.
EASTERN AND WESTERN MEDICINE
Acupuncture to improve fertility has been used in the Chinese culture for thousands of years. It involves inserting fine needles into specific “points” in the body to stimulate invisible lines of energy called Qi.
The Fertility Centers of Illinois integrates Eastern and Western medicine to alleviate stress with the goal of optimizing a patient’s fertility treatment. Services include acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and massage. Though there is no direct correlation between these alternative therapies and improved success rates, their calming benefits may indirectly help by managing stress.
The Maryland study researchers themselves note that no study has shown negative side effects from the use of acupuncture. So, if the process reduces stress or helps a woman cope with IVF treatments, than that may be incentive enough to consider acupuncture, particularly since the cost of acupuncture is relatively minimal when compared to the cost of fertility treatments.
If you face infertility issues, Dr. Jacobs is a Mayo Clinic-trained reproductive endocrinologist/infertility specialist and an expert in fertility problems. The Fertility Centers of Illinois combine the best of tried-and-true methods as well as the latest procedures to help patients build their family.
For answers to your questions about fertility treatments, we recommend you request a personal consultation.