Some of the Research into Acupuncture for Fertility:
Acupuncture for IVF:
There are numerous clinical trials and research studies that support the role of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine in improving the outcomes of In Vitro Fertilization. In an attempt to provide a generalised and accurate conclusion, this article will summarise the findings of two meta-analyses that collectively include 41 randomised trials and thousands of patients.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis by Shen C et al. (2015) the authors evaluated 21 randomized studies that included 5,500 patients with the aim of determining the impact of acupuncture treatment during IVF. They concluded that acupuncture significantly improved the outcome of IVF when performed before and after the procedure. Another meta-analysis by Huijuan Cao et al. (2013) sought to investigate the effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine in improving IVF. The systematic review included 20 randomised trials of a large number of couples in the UK and China. The results of the study showed that a combination of traditional Chinese medicine and IVF improved the success of IVF.
Bloodflow to the Uterus:
In a study by Stener-Victorin (1996), the findings showed that women who received acupuncture treatment experienced a reduced blood flow impedance and improved pregnancy rates. This was complemented by another study published in the Taiwanese Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology by Ming H et al. (2009), in which the researchers concluded that acupuncture increased blood flow in the uterine artery. The reason behind these findings is related to the sympatho-inhibitory effect of acupuncture on the uterine artery.
Acupuncture needling on specific body meridians (energy channels) reduces factors behind blood flow blockage, stimulates appropriate body mechanisms to improve blood flow, and consequently increases the quality and thickness of the uterine lining (due to higher blood flow). Endometrial thickness (a thick uterine lining) increases the success rate of implantation and pregnancy. Additionally, experts from the Peking University Third Hospital in Beijing recommend the inclusion of prescribed Chinese herbs in a fertility improvement program (Guo, Wang & Li, 2011).
A randomised controlled trial published in the Acupuncture in Medicine journal sought to determine the effect of acupuncture in women undergoing FET. Specifically, they studied the impact of transcutaneous electrical acupuncture point stimulation (TEAS) on ultrasound markers of endometrial receptivity – using 3D power Doppler parameters and endometrial HOXA10 protein expression. This was achieved by stimulating acupuncture points on the legs and abdomen (Zigong, SP6, CV4, and CV3) of 68 women during three menstrual cycles leading to the FET.
The researchers from Shandong and Shanghai Jiaotong University compared the findings from a TEAS group and a mock TEAS group to determine the rate of live births, clinical pregnancy, embryo implantation, endometrial protein expression, and endometrial receptivity. They concluded that the acupuncture treatment increased the success of FET by improving the quality and structure of the uterine lining, rate of implantation, clinical pregnancies, and consequently the number of live births. Although the study only focused on the period prior to the frozen embryo transfer, it is important to continue acupuncture treatment post transfer.
The scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture in improving sperm quality is quite convincing as shown below.
- According to a peer-reviewed article published in the widely acclaimed Fertility and Sterility Journal by Pei et al. (2005), acupuncture treatments administered regularly over 5 weeks led to a significant increase in sperms structural integrity and motility among infertile men.
- A study by Zhang M et al. (2002) from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology recorded a 22% increase in fertilisation rates among men who underwent acupuncture treatment during IVF treatment.
- Another study in the Fertility and Sterility Journal proved that stimulation of acupuncture points on the lower abdomen increased testicular blood flow (Cakmak et al., 2008).
- In a pilot study by Siterman S et al. (2000), the authors attempted to identify the impact of acupuncture on sperm density by administering 10 treatments. The findings showed that the previously infertile men were able to produce sufficient sperm due to a significant increase in sperm density.