WOMEN having IVF treatment can boost their chances of falling pregnant by 65 per cent simply by having acupuncture.
A review combining the results of seven previous studies has found that acupuncture also increases the chances of having an ongoing pregnancy (beyond 12 weeks from gestation) by 87 per cent – and nearly doubles the chance of a successful live birth, increasing that by 91 per cent.
The authors of the review, published online yesterday by the British Medical Journal, said the results suggested that just 10 women would need to be treated with acupuncture in order to bring about one extra pregnancy.
In all the studies, together involving 1366 women, acupuncture was given within 24 hours of the embryo being transferred to the women’s wombs. It is poorly understood how fertility could be affected by acupuncture – the insertion of fine needles into the skin at specific points along invisible “meridians”.
The review’s Dutch and US authors suggested it might work by stimulating fertility hormones, increasing bloodflow to the uterus, or reducing stress.
They said that, although their results might have inflated the positive effect of acupuncture, it was probably still highly cost-effective because of the cost differential.
In Australia, women generally pay about $5000 out of pocket for IVF treatment, compared with about $100 for acupuncture.
There were more than 46,000 IVF treatment cycles provided in Australia in 2005, a rise of nearly 14per cent on the previous year.
The results were welcomed by Australian IVF experts. Peter Illingworth, medical director of the Sydney-based clinic IVF Australia, said his clinic already advised women about acupuncture and referred them to suitable providers.
Although there were many herbal and other complementary treatments claiming to boost fertility, the new study confirmed a belief that acupuncture was one of the few that actually worked. What this new study shows is that this effect is statistically significant, and is real,” Associate Professor Illingworth said.
As a doctor practising in Australia, I would regard it as fairly convincing evidence. But some couples might take the view that they have more than enough needles inserted into their bodies as it is with an IVF process.”