ACUPUNCTURE AND BLOOD FLOW; Changes of Local Blood Flow in Response to Acupuncture Stimulation: A Systematic Review

Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Song-Yi Kim etal, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016; 2016: 9874207

doi: 10.1155/2016/9874207

This systemic review collected randomised control trials done on human subjects, that fitted strict inclusion criteria.

Of 8 RCTs, 7 indicated significant increases in microcirculation after acupuncture treatment.

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Effects of Acupuncture on the Endometrium in Anovulatory Cases Treated by Clomiphene: A Clinical Observation

HU Wenxiao, J Taishan Med College. 2016, (9):1029-1031

Journal of Taishan Medical College


Researchers in Taishan medical university discovered that when they gave women with anovulatory infertility Clomid alongside acupuncture and moxibustion treatment, they did significantly better than those who had just Clomid, or Clomid plus estrogen. The blood flow to the uterus and endometrium increased and the pregnancy rate was improved in the acupuncture group.


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Changes in serum cortisol and prolactin associated with acupuncture during controlled ovarian hyperstimulation in women undergoing in vitro fertilization–embryo transfer treatment

Magarelli, PC, D Cridennda, M Cohen. Fertil Steril. 2009 Dec;92(6):1870-9 Fertility and Sterility

A number of women going through IVF were given acupuncture to increase blood flow through the uterine arteries in the immediate weeks before egg collection (9-10 treatments). The researchers found that the women who had acupuncture showed changes in serum levels of stress hormones compared to the control group of women who did not have acupuncture. The acupuncture treatments appear to increase levels of cortisol and prolactin which may have been artificially depressed by the IVF drugs. The study noted a trend toward more normal fertile cycle dynamics in the acupuncture group. This may have implications for both egg quality and implantation. In addition the pregnancy and live birth rate was significantly higher in the acupuncture group. 

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A randomized double blind comparison of real and placebo acupuncture in IVF treatment.

So et al, Hum Reprod. 2009 Feb;24(2):341-8. Human Reproduction
While certain electroacupuncure protocols appear to increase blood flow to the uterus, the points (and no electroacupuncture) used at the time of embryo transfer have a different effect. This study showed that when these points were needled (either penetrating or pricking the acupuncture points) the vascularity of the lining of the uterus was reduced. The authors point out that a slightly hypoxic uterine environment may be beneficial for the embryo and its implantation.  


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Electroacupuncture Reduces Uterine Artery Blood Flow Impedance in Infertile Women

Ming H et al, 2009 Vol 48, Issue 2, Pages 148-151 Taiwanese Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology

This study of blood flow to the uterus examined the effect of electro-acupuncture during the drug stimulation phase of an IVF cycle. The blood flow in the uterine artery was increased in the group of women who had acupuncture but not in the control group. More women in the acupuncture group responded to the IVF drugs than in the control group, however the pregnancy rates were not significantly different between the 2 groups.

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A Pilot Study Evaluating the Combination of Acupuncture with Sildenafil on Endometrial Thickness

Yu W at the Pacific Coast Reproductive Society Annual Conference 2007
This small pilot study examined the effect of Viagra and acupuncture on the uterine linings of women who had a history of thin linings (<8mm) in previous IVF cycles (including patients who had previously used Viagra alone). They used the above mentioned protocols which improve blood flow to the ovaries and uterus. The researchers found that after acupuncture treatment the thickness of the lining improved to 10 mm or more in all participating patients.


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A randomized, controlled, double blind, cross-over study evaluating acupuncture as an adjunct to IVF.

Quintero R et al, Fertil Steril, 2004; 81(Supplement 3):S11-12 Fertility and Sterility
This pilot study showed that a significantly lower amount of gonadotropins (IVF drugs) was used when IVF was combined with standard acupuncture, ie the acupuncture appeared to make the ovaries more responsive to the drugs possibly due to increased blood supply to the ovaries. Increased ovarian responsiveness could be a useful effect for women who produce small numbers of eggs. This trial needs to be repeated with larger numbers of patients.


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Acupuncture & IVF Poor Responders: A Cure?

Magarelli P, Cridennda D. Fertil Steril, 2004; 81(Supplement 3):S20 Fertility and Sterility
This clinical trial combined the acupuncture protocol used on the day of embryo transfer with the acupuncture treatment protocol designed to increase blood flow to the uterus. The authors report that “Significant increases in pregnancy outcomes were confirmed by this study which demonstrated that both acupuncture treatment protocols could be used together with a synergistic effect.” They add that “this study is the first to demonstrate that the use of acupuncture in patients with poor prognoses (elevated Peak FSH, longer history of infertility, poor sperm morphology) can achieve similar pregnancy rates to normal prognosis patients.”


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Ovarian blood flow responses to electro-acupuncture stimulation at different frequencies and intensities in anaesthetized rats

Stener-Victorin E et al Autonomic Neuroscience 2003, Vol 108, Issues 1-2, Pg 50-55 Autonomic Neuroscience
The blood flow to the ovaries has also been shown to be enhanced by acupuncture by the same researchers. This study was done on anaesthetized rats, however it is likely a similar mechanism will operate in women.

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Acupuncture Treatment For Infertile Women Undergoing Intracytoplasmic Sperm injection

Emmons S and Patton P, Medical Acupuncture 2000, 12 (2) 18 - 20 Medical Acupuncture
This pilot studied is included here because it is the first of many studies which followed in subsequent years examining the effects of acupuncture on IVF patients. In this case several women were referred for acupuncture as a last resort after very poor response to high doses of FSH. More eggs were collected and more pregnancies were recorded in the acupuncture cycles compared to the non acupuncture cycles, possibly due to increased blood supply to the ovaries.   


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Reduction of blood flow impedance in the uterine arteries of infertile women with electro-acupuncture.

Stener-Victorin E, et al Hum Reprod 1996; 11:1314-1317. Human Reproduction

Previous studies have shown that reduced blood flow in the uterine arteries is associated with a decreased pregnancy rate following IVF-embryo transfer. This study shows that after 8 acupuncture treatments, blood flow to the uterus was markedly increased. Research carried out by one group of IVF clinics in California has shown that using this protocol to increase blood flow to the uterus, combined with acupuncture on the day of transfer has resulted in a significant improvement in pregnancy rates.

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