According to latest research, acupuncture does not increase the chances of success with in vitro fertilization (IVF). It is a latest trend among many IVF clinics – providing acupuncture as an additional treatment along with IVF for increasing chances of success.
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Mothers undergoing IVF have said that they feel more relaxed with acupuncture along with their medical procedures. The new study shows however that acupuncture did not increase the birth rates with IVF. The Australian study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Lead author Caroline Smith, professor of clinical research at the National Institute of Complementary Medicine and her colleagues found that acupuncture does help improve relaxation among the mothers and reduce the stress among the women who are undergoing IVF. She added that there are anecdotal studies and research that claim that acupuncture increases blood flow to the uterus and ovaries. This may in turn increase the fertility and chances of getting pregnant. She explained that this theory was proved wrong in this new study.
For this study the team involved 848 women from 16 IVF centres in Australia and New Zealand. The women were aged between 18 and 42 years. Half of these women were given real acupuncture and the other half received “sham” acupuncture wherein non-invasive needles were used in places that are not acupuncture points. The needles in this case disappear within the plastic holder when pressed upon the skin and does not pierce the skin like in true acupuncture. The acupuncture session was timed when the women were given hormones to stimulate their ovulation and again after the embryos were transferred within them for conception. The women as well as the staff were all kept in the dark regarding who was getting acupuncture and who was getting a sham procedure. The main points of acupuncture used were over the abdomen, arms and legs. These are all important to reduce the stress and also stimulate the nerves of the uterus and different areas of the body. The study was conducted between June 2011 and October 2015.
Results showed that little over 18.3 percent of the women who were given acupuncture became pregnant and could take a baby home compared to 17.8 percent in the sham acupuncture group. The results revealed that 25 percent of the acupuncture group conceived while 21 percent in the non-acupuncture group managed to conceive. The differences were not significant. This means that although there is a 4 percent difference, in real life this does not translate into increased chances of getting pregnant with acupuncture.
Researchers agree that stress can play a role in infertility and if stress and anxiety levels are lowered with the aid of acupuncture, the chances of getting pregnant may be higher. They add however that this study is based on concrete evidence that acupuncture per se does not increase the chances of getting pregnant.