IVF Treatment -sham verses traditional Acupuncture

IVF Acupuncture Treatment

Acupuncture continues may be an effective alternative fertility treatment for women. It can also be helpful in preparing for IVF treatment. Practitioners at Centre of Balance Hamilton treat fertility patients on a regular basis, either as an alternative to western treatments like IVF, or in conjunction with them. There have been various studies regarding the effectiveness and the role of acupuncture in fertility treatment. In one such study, a group of researchers from Australia and New Zealand led by Caroline A. Smith PhD, conducted a randomised clinical trial involving 848 women from 16 fertility centres. This study was an attempt to determine the effects of traditional Chinese acupuncture and sham acupuncture on In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).  

Navel Acupuncture

First Things First 

So, what exactly are sham acupuncture (placebo) and traditional Chinese acupuncture (verum)? Traditional Chinese acupuncture, which has been practised for centuries, involves carefully inserting thin needles into specific body points at a certain depth to stimulate qi. Sham acupuncture is a technique that employs blunt-tipped needles placed at non-acupuncture points (i.e. not along true meridians). 

Quick Tip: Acupuncture treatment for IVF is not just about increasing the effectiveness of the medical procedure, it also aims to help women feel better about themselves, reduce stress, and help them feel relaxed. It is a holistic treatment with numerous physical, emotional, and psychological benefits that are described in Centre of Balance’s blog. If you’d like to know more, a Fertility Guide (Ebook) is also available for free! 

Now to the Study 

Low Ovarian Reserve

The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), sought to determine the Efficacy of acupuncture during IVF in terms of live births. Between 29th June 2011 and 23rd October 2015, 848 women received acupuncture treatment during different phases of the IVF cycle, including before and after embryo transfer. In addition to traditional acupuncture, sham acupuncture was also administered as a control experiment. The results of the study showed that live births occurred in 17.8% of women who underwent the sham acupuncture vs 18.3% in the traditional acupuncture treatment. 

The credibility of the findings was supported by the large sample size of 848 patients, 16 IVF centres, and 80 acupuncturists who participated in the clinical trial. Although the results show that sham and traditional acupuncture do not have a significant difference regarding live births following IVF, women who underwent traditional Chinese acupuncture treatment reported a psycho-social benefit.  


Whether it’s sham or traditional Chinese acupuncture, one thing is certain, the treatment is receiving increased recognition for its role in boosting reproduction. Although the study by Smith et al. (2018) showed that there was no significant difference between sham and traditional Chinese acupuncture, it is important to consider a few factors such as the simplicity of use, personal preference, and applicability of the treatments. For further information regarding traditional Chinese and sham acupuncture, please contact Centre of Balance in  Hamilton. A team of experienced practitioners is available to answer any questions you may have.


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Smith, C. A., de Lacey, S., Chapman, M., Ratcliffe, J., Norman, R. J., Johnson, N. P., & Fahey, P. (2018). Effect of Acupuncture vs Sham Acupuncture on Live Births among Women Undergoing in Vitro Fertilization: A Randomised Clinical Trial. JAMA, 319(19), 1990-1998.