A meta-analysis of seven clinical trials in which acupuncture was used to support embryo transfer during IVF has concluded that it improves rates of pregnancy and live birth. Dutch and American researchers analysed results from seven clinical trials (selected as eligible from a total of 108), all published since 2002 and carried out in four Western countries. They included data on 1366 women and compared acupuncture given within one day of embryo transfer, with sham acupuncture or no additional treatment. All except one used a similar acupuncture protocol (based on Paulus et al). The analysis showed that combining real acupuncture with embryo transfer was associated with significant and clinically relevant improvements in clinical pregnancy rate. Women who underwent acupuncture were 65% more likely to have a successful embryo transfer procedure and 91% more likely to have a live birth. On the basis of ‘number needed to treat’, this means that ten women undergoing IVF would need to be treated with acupuncture to bring about one additional pregnancy. (Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilisation: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2008 Mar 8;336(7643):545-9).
Or does it?
However, a new randomised controlled trial of acupuncture for embryo transfer support, carried out in America, found no increase in clinical pregnancy rate. The study, which involved 150 patients, also used the Paulus acupuncture point protocol and compared it with lying quietly as a control. The use of acupuncture was not associated with increased pregnancy rates, but patients who received it reported feeling relaxed and optimistic about their treatment. (The impact of acupuncture on in vitro fertilization outcome. Fertil Steril. 2008 Mar 1 [Epub ahead of print])