Obective: Acupuncture performed onsite before and after embryo transfer has been reported to improve in vitro fertilization (IVF) outcome in patients with good quality embryos. The purpose of this investigation was to evaluate whether acupuncture before and after embryo transfer would alter pregnancy rates in patients undergoing IVF regardless of embryo quality if the treatment was performed offsite.
Design: Multi-center, prospective, randomized study.
Materials and Methods: 107 patients undergoing IVF were randomized to acupuncture vs. control group. The treatment group received acupuncture by one of two licensed acupuncturists at an offsite location for 25 minutes before and after embryo transfer using a modified Paulus protocol (protocol described by Paulus et. al. 2002 with the addition of Cv6 before and K3 after transfer). The control group underwent embryo transfer without any other intervention. The IVF protocol was determined by the treating physician who was blinded to assigned group. The main outcome measures were a positive quantitative hCG, clinical pregnancy as manifested by fetal cardiac activity, and live birth (data pending). Chi-squared analysis and Student’s t-test were used for statistical analyses. Of the 107 patients randomized, 94 completed the study (10 IVF cycles canceled, 3 patients withdrew).
Results: The proportion of patients with a positive pregnancy test was higher in the control group (36/46) than the acupuncture group (25/48) (78.3% vs. 52.1%, respectively; P%0.01). More importantly, the clinical pregnancy rate was higher in the control group than in the acupuncture group (69.6% vs. 43.8%, respectively; P%0.03). The groups were statistically similar with respect to age, peak estradiol, number of oocytes retrieved, fertilization method, fertilization rate, number of embryos transferred, and the proportion with blastocyst transfer.
Conclusions: In contrast to previous reports, acupuncture before and after embryo transfer was associated with lower biochemical and clinical pregnancy rates when compared to the control group. The value of acupuncture in pateints undergoing IVF needs to be further examined before recommending it to patients.