Randomized Controlled Trial: Effects of Acupuncture on Pregnancy Rates in Women Undergoing In Vitro Fertilization

Moy I et al Fertil Steril 2011 Vol 95 pg 583-587
Fertility and Sterility


This trial randomised 160 IVF patients who were younger than 38 years to have acupuncture on acupuncture points or on sham points before and after embryo transfer. No significant difference in pregnancy rate was found between the groups. The authors say “The findings are not the final word on acupuncture and IVF. One possibility, they note, is that acupuncture needling, even performed at non-acupuncture sites, has some sort of effect on IVF pregnancy rates. If that’s the case, effects of the sham acupuncture used in this study might have masked any benefit of the traditional version.

The researchers say that future studies could compare true acupuncture with “placebo” needles that do not penetrate the skin.



Objective: To evaluate the influence of “true” versus “sham” acupuncture on pregnancy rates (PRs) in women undergoing IVF.

Design: Randomized controlled trial, double-blinded with independent observer.

Setting: Academic infertility clinic.

Patients: One hundred sixty patients <38 years old undergoing IVF with or without intracytoplasmic sperm injection.

Interventions: Subjects were randomly allocated to the true or sham group and underwent acupuncture 25 minutes before and after ET. Subjects completed a McGill Pain Questionnaire regarding their clinical symptoms during ET.

Main Outcome Measures: Clinical PR and clinical symptoms during ET.

Results: While the overall clinical PR was 51.25%, there was no significant difference between the arms of the study (true = 45.3% vs. sham = 52.7%); 33.1% of the patients had ultrasound-documented singleton pregnancy, and 15% of patients had twin gestations, while one patient in the true arm had a triplet gestation. There were significant differences in the subjective, affective, and total pain experience between both arms. The subjects in the true arm described their acupuncture session as being more “tiring” and “fearful” and experienced more “achiness” compared with their sham counterparts.

Conclusions: There was no statistically significant difference in the clinical or chemical PRs between both groups. Patients undergoing true acupuncture had differing sensory experiences compared with patients in the sham arm. There were no significant adverse effects observed during the study, suggesting that acupuncture is safe for women undergoing ET.