In 2008, a study was published in the British Medical Journal suggesting that acupuncture could increase the chances of pregnancy through fertility treatment by up to 65%. The study was widely publicised in all the major newspapers, but experts were quick to point out that the results might have been down to a ‘placebo effect’, rather than any real benefit associated with acupuncture itself.

So what does all this mean for couples undergoing IVF? Is acupuncture worth a try, or would you just be wasting your money?

The research behind fertility and acupuncture

The research team comprised scientists from the University of Maryland School of Medicine; Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington and the University of Amsterdam, Holland.

The study itself was a systematic review of seven different randomised controlled trials that compared acupuncture given one day after IVF treatment with fake acupuncture treatment or none at all; only trials in which pregnancy had been confirmed were included.

After analysing the results of all these trials, the team found that IVF in conjunction with acupuncture increased the chances of pregnancy (early ultrasound) by 65%, improved the odds of ongoing pregnancy (ultrasound at 12 weeks) by 87% and increased the chances of a live birth by 91%.

The case against

Whilst this all sounds very promising, when the researchers isolated the three studies conducted in the UK, they found that acupuncture did not have any significant impact on the chances of pregnancy.

Many experts have cited the ‘placebo effect’ as a possible reason for acupuncture improving a woman’s chances of success with IVF, as at least some of the women in the studies that were reviewed were aware whether or not they were having acupuncture treatment.

The study authors claimed this was unlikely, as pregnancy and birth are states that a woman has no mental control over, however it has been mooted that if a woman knows she is having acupuncture and believes it will help her to conceive, then she is more likely to be relaxed, which is known to have a positive impact on conception.

Does it matter?

Whether the impact of acupuncture on IVF treatment is real or the result of a placebo effect, if you feel it might help your chances of conceiving a child then the team here at IVF Chelsea is firmly behind you.

Anything that can reduce your stress levels and help you to relax can only play a positive part in the IVF process, and acupuncture is one of many complementary activities that we actively encourage our patients to partake in, alongside mindfulness, massage and regular exercise.