Effects of acupuncture on pregnancy rates in women undergoing in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Zheng CH et al, 2012 Fert Steril, Vol. 97, Issue 3, 599-611 Fertility and Sterility 
Researchers from China have analysed results of nearly 6000 women participating in trials examining the effect of acupuncture during IVF. They found that pregnancy rates and birth rates were improved by acupuncture when compared to women having no acupuncture (but not when compared to women having placebo acupuncture with a blunt needle).



Objective: To evaluate the effect of acupuncture on in vitro fertilization (IVF) outcomes.

Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis.

Patient(s): Women undergoing IVF in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) who were evaluated for the effects of acupuncture on IVF outcomes.

Setting: Not applicable.

Intervention(s): The intervention groups used manual, electrical, and laser acupuncture techniques. The control groups consisted of no, sham, and placebo acupuncture.

Main Outcome Measure(s): The major outcomes were clinical pregnancy rate (CPR) and live birth rate (LBR). Heterogeneity of the therapeutic effect was evaluated with a forest plot analysis. Publication bias was assessed by a funnel plot analysis.

Result(s): Twenty-four trials (a total of 5,807 participants) were included in this review. There were no significant publication biases for most of the comparisons among these studies. The pooled CPR (23 studies) from all of the acupuncture groups was significantly greater than that from all of the control groups, whereas the LBR (6 studies) was not significantly different between the two groups. The results were different when the type of control was examined in a sensitivity analysis. The CPR and LBR differences between the acupuncture and control groups were more obvious when the studies using the Streitberger control were ignored. Similarly, if the underlying effects of the Streitberger control were excluded, the LBR results tended to be significant when the acupuncture was performed around the time of oocyte aspiration or controlled ovarian hyperstimulation.

Conclusion(s): Acupuncture improves CPR and LBR among women undergoing IVF based on the results of studies that do not include the Streitberger control. The Streitberger control may not be an inactive control. More positive effects from using acupuncture in IVF can be expected if an appropriate control and more reasonable acupuncture programs are used.