A review of the evidence base acupuncture for IVF or ICSI

The BAcC produced a new briefing paper on acupuncture and IVF for the Fertility Show in November 2018. The authors, Lianne Aquilina and Mark Bovey, have now expanded this to provide a more comprehensive account of the current research and how this might impact on recommendations for practitioners and for further research.

British Acupuncture Council

These are the main points:

  • A 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis found acupuncture to have a significant treatment effect in improving the birth rates of subfertile women undergoing IVF or ICSI.
  • A summary of previous reviews from 2009 to 2017 found acupuncture had a beneficial treatment effect on clinical pregnancy rate.
  • It is recommended that future research should explore the impact of acupuncture administration during ovarian stimulation. The aim should be to improve embryo and blastocyst quality, rather than focus on acupuncture post-fertilisation.
  • Acupuncture may be a suitable treatment option to help reduce stress and anxiety levels for women suffering with subfertility.
  • Research indicates that the effectiveness of acupuncture may be dose-dependent, i.e. a sufficient number of acupuncture treatments are required over an adequate period of time.
  • The scientific methods applied so far have been largely inadequate and the evidence inconclusive. Nevertheless, currently, research supports the findings that acupuncture at varied time points for an IVF or ICSI cycle, with increased frequency during ovarian stimulation as well as around the time of transfer, can have a statistically positive treatment effect on clinical pregnancy and live birth rate.

What you should know

A 2018 comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis investigated the effects of
acupuncture on subfertile women during in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or intra-cytoplasmic sperm
injection (ICSI).1
A total of 3,188 subfertile women from 12 randomised controlled trials were included in this latest
investigation.

What did the research find?
Acupuncture significantly improved the live birth rate of subfertile patients undergoing IVF or ICSI

Why is this important?
In the UK, the overall birth rate following assisted reproduction is only 21% to 22% (fresh and
frozen transfer). The birth rate varies and decreases with age and the type of transfer (Table 1).

What this means
Live birth rate can be considered the most important measure of success for subfertile people
undergoing assisted reproductive treatment. Acupuncture has been shown to have a significant
treatment effect on live birth rates, indicating that acupuncture may complement an IVF or ICSI
cycle.

UK Birth Rates

The full research paper can be downloaded HERE 

To summarise, get in touch if you would like to add acupuncture treatment to your fertility protocol!   Evidence shows that it may be the one thing you can do to increase your chances of success!

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