Xian Zhang et al, 2018, Eur Jnl Int Med, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eujim.2018.09.001
European Journal of Integrative Medicine.
The most recent meta analysis of outcomes for IVF patients concluded that those who had acupuncture during their cycle compared to those who had routine care, had a higher chance of having a live birth.
Junyoung Jo and Yoon Jae Lee, 2017 Acup in Med, online
British Medical Journal; Acupuncture in Medicine
A review of randomised and controlled trials that examined the effect of acupuncture on 430 PCOS patients undergoing IVF, indicates that acupuncture (both electro acupuncture and manual acupuncture) improved pregnancy rates and reduced the risk of OHSS. Acupuncture was delivered only during the IVF cycle and did not improve live birth outcomes in this review.
Data from nearly six and a half thousand women undergoing IVF reveals that acupuncture improves pregnancy rates especially when it is carried out in the stimulation phase of the IVF cycle when the follicles are developing. In general studies carried out in Asia using electro acupuncture showed a stronger trend to improved IVF outcomes than did non Asian studies that did not use electro-acupuncture.
A review of 21 Randomized Controlled trials (that included nearly 5,500 patients) concluded that while acupuncture administered to IVF patients only at the time of embryo transfer did not confer any significant advantage, acupuncture administered during the IVF cycle stimulation phase and/or during implantation phase in addition to treatment at the time of transfer showed significant improvement in pregnancy rates.
Huijuan Cao et al, PLOS one, 2013, Vol 8, 12, e81650
This collaboration between China and the UK analysed 20 eligible randomised trials that looked at the effect of Chinese herbal medicine taken during IVF cycles. Most IVF clinics in the west discourage the use of herbs during IVF, so the 20 trials used in this meta-analysis came from IVF clinics in China, and were reported in Chinese medical journals.The combination of Chinese herbal medicine with IVF significantly increased the pregnancy rate, though the authors express concern about a risk of bias since reporting and analysis requirements are different in Chinese journals.
Hullender Rubin L et al, Reprod Biomed Online, Vol 30, 602-612, 2015
Reproductive BioMedicine Online
Lee Hullender Rubin and her colleagues analysed the outcomes of more than a thousand IVF cycles, and found that women who used Chinese Medicine (acupuncture with or without herbs, dietary advice etc), had a higher live birth rate than those doing IVF alone. The proportion of live births was significantly higher in the Chinese Medicine group (61.3%) compared with either the usual IVF care (48.2%) or acupuncture only on day of embryo transfer (50.8%). Women in the Chinese Medicine group had on average 12 acupuncture treatments before and during the IVF cycle.
Fogarty S and Smith C, 2015 Eur Jnl Int Med, 429, pg 1876
European Journal of Integrative Medicine
Infertility patients in general, and IVF patients in particular, are a group who are vulnerable to false or inaccurate claims made by medical specialists or practitioners of various therapies. This survey analysed 112 acupuncture websites for claims made relating to fertility and IVF, and found all but one sadly lacking in accuracy and correct representation of research findings and appropriate clinical therapies. This website however, was found to be balanced and reasonable in its representation of Chinese medicine treatment of fertility and IVF patients based on research findings.
Chinese medicine compares very favourably with pharmaceutical treatment for infertility according to this meta-analysis, which summarises the findings of 40 trials involving more than 4000 patients. The author concludes that management of female infertility with Chinese herbal medicine can improve pregnancy rates 2-fold within a 3-6 month period compared with Western medical fertility drug therapy.
Women with raised FSH levels are generally not good candidates for IVF. This review analysed results from 17 trials that examined the effect of Chinese herbal medicine in reducing FSH levels and supporting subsequent IVF cycles. Chinese herbal medicine was found in this review to be superior to pharmaceutical treatment and the effect lasted longer.
Cochrane S et al, March 2014 Volume 2014: 6 Pages 313—325 International Journal of Women’s Health
In one of the most thorough and balanced reviews to date, a team of researchers from Australia analyse acupuncture and fertility trials from more than 100 reports from around the world. They note that while many trials have looked at acupuncture performed on the day of embryo transfer in IVF cycles, few have looked at how Chinese medicine is usually practiced, and has been practiced for many hundreds of years, in the treatment of infertility in general. They point out that the majority of trials on IVF patients using acupuncture (that did not use sham needling as a control) report increased pregnancy and/or live birth rates. There is also good evidence of the effect of acupuncture on menstrual health in general, but more needs to be done examining the treatment of infertility with individualised chinese medicine protocols.
Manheimer E et al, Hum. Reprod. Update (2013) online doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmt026
Human Reproduction Update
The latest metaanalsyis confirms the suspicion emerging from the last few years of research into the effect of acupuncture applied on the day of embryo transfer, that it confers an advantage particluarly for those patients who's chance of success with IVF is not high.
Sui Y et al, 2012, Obesity Rev, Vol 3, p 409–430 Obesity Reviews
PCOS patients are not always overweight but for those with insulin resistance getting on top of weight gain can be difficult. This review (which is not specific to obesity only in PCOS patients) reports that in terms of weight loss, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are better than placebo and lifestyle interventions and have similar efficacy to anti-obesity drugs (including Metformin), but with fewer side effects. This review also noted that those who used acupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine to lose weight had a lower risk of relapse.
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