HIGHLIGHTS FROM FERTILITY & STERILITY
Volume 77, Number 4, April 2002
Results from a recent study in Germany indicate that adding acupuncture to the treatment protocol of IVF patients greatly enhances their chances of becoming pregnant. While the physiological mechanisms by which acupuncture may affect the uterus and reproductive system have not been identified, the researchers found that as a practical matter, at least among their small study population, the technique worked.In a study of 160 patients undergoing in vitro fertilization, researchers utilized acupuncture, an important element in the 4,000-year-old tradition of Chinese medicine, before and after the embryo transfers of half their patients.
The patients, who were all required to have embryos of good quality, were evenly and randomly divided into two groups similar in age and diagnosis.The group receiving acupuncture treatments had one treatment before transfer and another after embryos had been transferred to their uteruses. Sterile needles were inserted into the patients’ bodies at very specific points. According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, energy flows through the body along defined pathways, or meridians. Acupuncture is a means of influencing this energy to induce a desired physiological effect.
Points were chosen for these patients along the spleen and stomach/colon meridians in an effort to positively influence blood flow and energy to the uterus and to provide a sedative effect. Additional needles were inserted in the patients’ ears to influence the uterus and stabilize the endocrine system. Needles were left in place for 25 minutes while the patients rested. The control group also rested, lying still for 25 minutes after embryo transfer, as part of the IVF protocol. The difference between pregnancy rates for the two groups was notable. Patients were examined using ultrasound six weeks after their IVF procedures. In the control group, 21 out of 80 patients became pregnant. Of the patients who had received acupuncture treatments, 34 of 80 became pregnant. The researchers plan to conduct further studies to try to rule out possible psychological or psychosomatic effects. Sandra Carson, MD, President-Elect of ASRM, commented, ‘If these findings are confirmed, they may help us improve the odds for our IVF patients’ achieving pregnancy.’
(Paulus, et al., Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy, Fertility and Sterility, Vol.77, No.4, April 2002)