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Can Acupuncture Increase IVF Success?

By HCRM on June 08, 2014


A needle injecting sperm into an eggWhen treating infertility with in vitro fertilization (IVF), it’s understandable that women and couples want to boost their chances of success as high as possible. After all, every attempt takes time, money, and energy (both physical and mental). Therefore, acupuncture is sometimes sought as a viable supplemental treatment to increase one’s odds of a successful pregnancy and birth. But does acupuncture really work with IVF?

The results can be nebulous, especially given the multitude of factors that go into pregnancy. By parsing the numerous studies performed and examining the evidence, hopefully you can come to an educated decision regarding which treatments to pursue. To help you with this decision, our Omaha Center for Reproductive Medicine offers the following information.    

Why Seek Acupuncture for IVF?

Acupuncture is often claimed to help with numerous health problems and conditions, making it a widely disputed treatment option. Moreover, evidence of acupuncture’s efficacy tends to vary, especially among different treatment goals. Nevertheless, some doctors and researchers purport that it does make a difference, and patients who are satisfied with their experience will often underscore this notion.

The idea behind acupuncture for IVF is that it increases blood flow to the uterus; and at least this much is true. If there’s any chance that this also increases the likelihood of a successful embryo implantation, or improved egg quality in general, then there may be merit to the use of acupuncture after all.  

Success Rates of Acupuncture with IVF

In order to accurately evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture for IVF, one must look at the bulk of research completed on this topic. Unfortunately, the results are somewhat conflicting. For fertility clinics that already boast a higher-than-average rate of success with IVF, supplemental acupuncture does not seem to further improve one’s odds. On the other hand, fertility clinics with a lower-than-average success rate did show increased success with the addition of acupuncture.

An individual meta-analysis of other studies, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, suggested that overall IVF success is slightly increased with acupuncture, by up to four percent. It is not definitively known, however, whether these effects were truly caused by the acupuncture itself, a placebo effect, or neither.     

The Benefits of Acupuncture

Regardless of one’s opinion on the impact of acupuncture on IVF, treatment does provide a few benefits to patients. First, acupuncture does increase blood flow, specifically in the uterine area. This can have positive long-term benefits to one’s health, and provides short-term benefits by blocking pain receptors.

Second, acupuncture calms the nervous system and is typically utilized as a form of stress relief. In turn, lowered stress levels promote better health, hormonal levels, and possibly fertility. In fact, some studies suggest that stress plays a role in 30 percent of all infertility problems. 

Finally, acupuncture carries no side effects, making it a very safe supplemental treatment option. When compared with herbal supplements or drugs that can react negatively during IVF treatment, acupuncture offers potential benefits with little to no risk. Even if the advantages are primarily derived from a patient simply feeling better, it is often worthwhile for those looking to expand their treatment options.

Learn More about IVF Treatments

We want to do everything we can to help you treat infertility. Whether through IVF or an alternative procedure, we are happy to address all of your questions and concerns. Call or email our office for more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our knowledgeable endocrinologists.

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Each and every staff member at Heartland Center is tremendous. Dr. Maclin is a woman of grace, and a terrific medical doctor. She is a world-class surgeon, and we are so grateful to know her.

Lene - IVF Patient

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