A study discovered that a group of women who had received acupuncture had a miscarriage rate reduced to 8%, while the non-acupuncture group miscarried 20% of the time. Another study from Italy revealed that acupuncture helped women 24% more likely to become pregnant.A further study conducted by the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine reviewed 1,366 women who had undergone IVF, and compared those who received acupuncture against those who received either “sham or fake” acupuncture treatments or no additional therapy at all. The results were astounding – those women who received “real” acupuncture had an increase in pregnancy rates 65% higher than those who received the fake treatment or none at all. These studies point very strongly toward acupuncture as a great complementary therapy for IVF.
In another conflicting study from the University of Hong Kong, it’s suggested that “placebo acupuncture” may be as much or more effective that real acupuncture. Published in Human Reproduction, placebo acupuncture is described as using needles that retract into the handle, still giving the sensation and appearance of entering the skin. Women who received this therapy actually had a slightly higher pregnancy rate than those receiving the real thing. Analysts attempting to explain these results suggest that placebo acupuncture is quite similar to acupressure, which is already a recommended pregnancy-enhancing therapy. Another view is that women who undergo these treatments significantly reduce their stress levels, another known positive factor in pregnancy success.
While scientists are still debating about whether or not acupuncture is helpful in itself and, if so, what makes it helpful, the evidence continues to mount. More and more doctors and researchers are taking on this interesting issue and are seeing results.
Who it Helps
One problem with the research on acupuncture is that the groups of women in these studies are very different. Some studies collect results after the fact – that is, the patients have already decided for themselves whether or not to add complementary therapies like acupuncture to their IVF procedure, and the pregnancy rates are analysed after the procedures have taken place. Criticism of this analysis method includes the suggestion that couples with more severe infertility problems may be more likely to choose acupuncture on their own, therefore skewing the test results. Other doctors endeavor to eliminate this possibility by asking couples to be part of a study and dividing the agreeing groups randomly into acupuncture and non-acupuncture groups.
How it Helps
Scientists who can’t agree on whether or not acupuncture helps during IVF are even less likely to agree about how the process actually works. Those who put some stock in the complementary therapy, though, tend to think that the treatment relieves stress, and there is significant evidence that women who are less stressed are more likely to become pregnant. Some skilled acupuncturists even say that the therapy can balance hormones in the body, which also makes sense in helping boost fertility rates. Others describe specific acupuncture methods that increase blood flow to the uterus, therefore thickening the wall and making it more receptive for the new embryo.
Regardless of how it works, though, there is certainly plenty of evidence out there that acupuncture does work for many couples trying to conceive. Both for IVF and those wanting to conceive naturally.