Acupuncture and herbal medicine in in vitro fertilisation: a review of the evidence for clinical practice

Cheong Y et al, Hum Fert 2010, Vol. 13, No. 1, Pg 3-12.
Human Fertility 

A further analysis by the authors of a previously published Cochrane review on the role of acupuncture at embryo transfer in an IVF cycle, included more trials. They included a trial which had previously been excluded due to the fact that its methodology introduced too much heterogeneity – this plus the inclusion of another trial which used placebo acupuncture reduced the measurable benefits of acupuncture at the time of embryo transfer to IVF patients  such that there was no difference apparent between acupuncture and control groups.


The objectives of this systematic review were to determine the effectiveness of (a) acupuncture and (b) Chinese herbal medicine on the treatment of male and female subfertility by assisted reproductive technologies (ART). All reports from RCTs of acupuncture and/or Chinese herbal medicine in ART were obtained via searches through The Cochrane Menstrual Disorders and Sub-fertility Group’s Specialised Register of controlled trials, and other major databases. The outcome measures were determined prior to starting the search, and comprised: live birth rate, ongoing pregnancy rate, clinical pregnancy rate, the incidence of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and multiple pregnancy, miscarriage rate and adverse effects arising from treatment. Overall, 14 trials (a total of 2670 subjects) were included in the meta-analysis. The results provided no evidence of benefit in the use of acupuncture during assisted conception. Further studies should attempt to explore the potential placebo, as well as treatment, effects of this complimentary therapy. Essential elements for a quality RCT will be the size of the trial, the use of a standardised acupuncture method and of placebo needles.