Together – does it equal more babies?
Ironically, this past week the question of acupuncture and IVF came to me from two different directions. First, I received an e-mail from a patient who was going to be starting IVF in the near future and wondered if the addition of acupuncture would help increase her chances. Second, my sister mentioned she has a friend who is on her third cycle of IVF and plans to try acupuncture this time around, because she knows others who did it and now have children.
Because I didn’t know the answer I thought I’d look into so I could make a recommendation. Being a little short on time this week I went straight to reviews and meta-analysis on this topic.
For both my patient and my sister’s friend, the answer is promising! The best study I found was a meta-analysis from the British Medical Journal, suggesting that acupuncture done at the time of embryo transfer increased one’s chances of pregnancy and live birth.
The study by Manheimer 2007 identified 7 randomized controlled trials with a total of 1,366 participants that met their specific criteria. They specifically were evaluating acupuncture as it pertains to embryo transfer, and there are many steps before one gets to this stage in the IVF process. However, this review included those women who didn’t make it to the embryo transfer point, as they were often randomized at the start of their IVF “cycle”. A cycle begins when a woman starts stimulating her ovary to produce eggs that are ultimately retrieved, fertilized with her partner’s/donor’s sperm, and then placed back into the uterus. This has the effect of actually underestimating the potential benefits of acupuncture once a woman reaches the embryo transfer stage, however it prevents the researchers from saying there is a difference when in actuality there isn’t any. They required that acupuncture be administered within one day of the procedure, which could be before, after or done both before and after an embryo transfer. In fact, most of their studies had two sessions.
Ultimately, the bottom line is that they found the odds of a clinical pregnancy were increased by 65% in the group who underwent acupuncture compared to those who didn’t. When they calculated the number of women who would need to be treated for one additional pregnancy, they found that for every 10 patients who received acupuncture an additional pregnancy would result.
After reading this article, it is something I’d recommend patients try, if they are open to the idea of Eastern medical practice. Given the high cost of IVF treatment, in terms of actual monetary cost and time expended, it seems that anything that may increase the chances for success are worth trying and if nothing else, may give someone the sense of control over something where there is very little. If one finds a reputable acupuncturist the risks are low and the benefits potentially life changing.
Manheimer E, Zhang G, Udoff L, Haramati A, Langenberg P, Berman B, Bouter L (2007). Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilization: Systematic review and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal; Online First; pg1-8.