Evaluating research information on practitioner websites describing the use of acupuncture as an adjunct to IVF


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. The website you are reading now however, was found to be balanced and reasonable in its representation of Chinese medicine treatment of fertility and IVF patients based on research findings.



Introduction: Despite the advances in assisted reproductive technologies the live birth rate remains low. In response to the high rates of unsuccessful treatment, and stress arising from repeated IVF cycles, women seek out other forms of treatment, such as acupuncture, to optimise their chance of achieving a successful pregnancy, live birth and to manage their infertility related stress.

Method: An Internet search for Acupuncture and IVF websites from Sydney, New South Wales was undertaken and websites meeting the inclusioncriteria were appraised using a modified assessment tool. The website was then evaluated.Results: 137 sites were identified with forty-seven websites eligible for appraisal. The majority of acupuncture websites did not present accurateand quality information. Some acupuncture websites made unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of acupuncture resulting in the potential to mislead consumers about the benefits of acupuncture. This occurred in a number of ways such as not reporting full research findings or providing details on the clinical population, presenting incomplete data, omitting important data and claims of benefit with little research evidence or low levels of research evidence.

Conclusion: Our analysis of websites promoting acupuncture use for IVF showed that the information used on websites contains many inaccuracies.Improving the quality of IVF acupuncture websites to protect the consumer is needed, and this study highlights a continuing need to improve research literacy among acupuncturists.

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