Research and reviews
These pages were designed to provide for interested doctors a library of publications relating to Chinese medicine and reproductive health that have appeared in peer reviewed academic journals and listed in PubMed.
They do not purport to provide claims made for effectiveness or efficacy of treatments with acupuncture or Chinese medicine in clinic.
To comply with AHPRA advertising guidelines we have removed all Plain English summaries, abstracts and PDFs of these trials and meta-analyses. Please feel free to contact us if you would like any information about any of the published research papers listed here.
Some are systematic reviews or meta-analyses, some are randomised controlled trials, and some are pilot studies. Some of these studies point the direction to future research rather than providing a basis for therapeutic recommendations. Some of the findings show a benefit of using Traditional Chinese medicine techniques and some show no benefit.
Clinical trials examining the effect of Chinese medicine on female fertility are not so common, for several reasons mostly relating to logistics of recruitment of participants and funding. However IVF clinics provide a platform for easy recruitment of patients, and evaluation of outcomes, hence much of the research published in this area examines the effect of acupuncture (and sometimes herbs) on IVF patients. There is now such a plethora of published acupuncture and IVF trials that reviewers have been inspired to perform 20 meta-analyses (that include many thousands of pooled patients) over the last 12 years.
Research on the effect of acupuncture on male factor fertility, endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome and other gynecological conditions is being carried out in various parts of the world. While the numbers of published papers examining patients with these conditions is considerably less than for IVF patients, we have listed 16 meta-analyses covering these areas of interest.
Our clinic since 2008 has focused on women and men trying or preparing to conceive either with IVF or naturally. While we have all had extensive training in traditional Chinese medicine and particularly in the area of reproductive health, we are also very interested to follow, and incorporate where relevant, any robust findings from research trials. Additionally we are actively involved in clinical trials examining the effect of acupuncture and herbs in various conditions that can impact reproductive health.
Not withstanding the difficulties in funding trials in acupuncture (which is not patentable) the number of trials examining the effect of acupuncture has grown exponentially – over 14,000 and counting (Cochrane Database June 2020)
Fertility and Sterility, (journal of the prestigious American Society for Reproductive Medicine) was the first journal to publish studies on the effect of acupuncture at the time of embryo transfer. In 2002 a group in Germany reported on the effect of acupuncture on women having IVF. Their encouraging positive results have inspired ongoing research in this area for nearly 2 decades now, and inform some of what we offer in our clinics.
Many other medical journals have reported trials on acupuncture performed at the time of embryo transfer but also at other times during the IVF cycle or in the cycles leading up to an IVF cycle. Where relevant we have incorporated some of these findings in our clinic protocols.
Trials conducted in China and Japan have examined the effect of taking Chinese herbs before and during an IVF cycle.
A number of groups in different countries are actively researching the effect of acupuncture on sperm count, morphology and motility. It is too early to draw definitive conclusions that can be applied to clinical protocols but we are watching, and learning from this ongoing research.
Studies have shown that stress can negatively affect fertility and in some cases IVF outcomes. One of the suggested mechanisms for the positive impact that acupuncture may have on IVF outcomes, is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety.
Herbal medicine is commonly used in clinics in China to treat the symptoms of endometriosis. And recently clinical research in Australia has indicated that acupuncture may have a role in reducing associated pain. Studies have also been carried out on IVF patients with endometriosis.
Trials examining the effect of acupuncture on ovary function of women with PCOS are being carried out in many research centres around the world. The effect of Chinese herbs has also been studied with relation to hormonal imbalance and obesity in PCOS patients.
A number of groups in different countries have carried out meta analyses on the embryo transfer and acupuncture trials, and others have reviewed the effect of Chinese medicine and acupuncture on broader aspects of IVF treatment and fertility and gynecology in general.Encouraging emerging trends ensure that research will continue in these areas.