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The Science

‘The good news of the acupuncture use in fertility therapy is the benefit is not affected by age, meaning all age groups showed an increase in IVF success rates from the acupuncture therapy’- Dr. Caroline Smith


Studies on Acupuncture for FEMALE FERTILITY

Studies on Acupuncture for MALE FERTILITY


Increase of Success rate for women undergoing embryo transfer by transcutaneous electrical acupoint stimulation: a prospective placebo randomized study.

Fertility and Sterility, Vol 96, No. 4, October 2011

This study looked at 309 women, less than 45 years old, undergoing a frozen embryo transfer of fresh cycle IVF with or without ICSI. Treatments were administered 30 minutes before and after the transfers. The results showed that the rates of clinical pregnancy, embryo implantation and live births were all significantly higher in the acupuncture group (clinical pregnancy: 42% vs. 29.3%; embryo implantation: 25.7% vs. 15%; live birth: 37.3% vs. 21.2%). Additional treatment at 24 hours before the treatment further increased the rates of clinical pregnancy to 50% and live birth to 42%.

Influence of Acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproductive therapy.

Fertility & Sterility, Vol.77, No.4, April 2002.

This study found looked at a group of 160 women. Half of the women (80) were treated with acupuncture before and after the embryo transfer phase of IVF, and half (80) who were not. Those who received acupuncture had a 15.8% increase in success rate with implantation of the embryo. This is based on the theory that acupuncture relaxes the Central Nervous System and keeps the uterus from contracting during and after the procedure. This significant effect of acupuncture was re-confirmed in 2006 as Fertility & Sterility published two similar studies that showed a 13% and 18% implantation success rate in the acupuncture groups over the control.

Reduction of blood flow impedance in the uterine arteries of infertility women with electro-acupuncture.

** Also known as the “Swedish protocol” **

Human Reproduction, Vol.11, No.6, 1996.

This study established that local acupuncture with electro-stimulation could normalize the blood flow to the reproductive organs, particularly useful in older women, ‘poor responders’ and women with thin endometrial lining. Treatments were given twice a week for 4 weeks leading up to an IVF cycle and tests revealed that the uterine artery blood flow increased dramatically within this time and led to a thicker endometrial lining in the women. A similar study showed this treatment increased the number of follicles significantly in women who had been labeled ‘poor responders.’ Acupuncture treatment for infertile women undergoing intracytoplasmic sperm injection. Dr. Sandra L. Emmons, Dr. Phillip Patton, Medical Acupuncture, A Journal for Physicians by Physicians Spring/Summer 2000 Vol.12,No.3

Poor Prognosis: A Cure?

Fertility & Sterility, Vol. 81, Supplement 3, April 2004.

This study combined the first two protocols mentioned here and administered acupuncture to women who were considered “poor prognosis” - high FSH, low uterine blood flow, etc. The women who received acupuncture were found to then have pregnancy rates equal to that of the good prognosis patients and then they went on to show that the acupuncture group had a higher live birth rate than the good prognosis patients.

Quantitative evaluation of spermatozoa ultrastructure after acupuncture treatment for idiopathic male infertility.

Pei J, Strehler E, Noss U, Abt M, Piomboni P, Baccetti B, Sterzik K.

Fertil Steril. 2005 Jul;84(1):141-7.

A group of infertile men who had pathological semen analyses according to WHO criteria, were treated with acupuncture twice a week for 5 weeks. A statistically significant increase after acupuncture in the percentage and number of sperm with no structural defects was demonstrated compared to the control group of patients who received no treatment.  They concluded that male infertility patients could benefit from having acupuncture. A general improvement of sperm quality, specifically in the ultrastructural integrity of spermatozoa, was seen after acupuncture.

Does acupuncture treatment affect sperm density in males with very low sperm count? A pilot study.

Siterman S, Eltes F, Wolfson V, Lederman H, Bartoov B.

Andrologia. 2000 Jan;32(1):31-9.

This pilot study once again showed a positive effect of acupuncture on sperm count- but this time on men with such low sperm counts (or no sperm) that they would usually require a testicular biopsy to extract sperm for use in an IVF cycle.  Seven of the 15 men with no sperm at all produced sperm detectable by the light microscope after a course of 10 acupuncture treatments (p<0.01).  This was enough sperm that could be produced for ICSI to be performed without recourse to testicular biopsy.  The control group with similar semen analysis had no treatment and showed no change after 3 months.

Effects of acupuncture and moxa treatments in patients with semen abnormalities.

Gurfinkel E, Cedenho AP, Yamamura Y, Srougi M.

Asian J Androl. 2003 Dec;5(4):345-8.

In a prospective, controlled blind study, a group of infertile men (married for 3-11 years without children) were randomized into two groups, the treatment group receiving 10 acupuncture treatments and the control group receiving sham acupuncture treatments.  The patients in the acupuncture group demonstrated a significant increase in the percentage of normal forms compared to the control group.

Influence of acupuncture on idiopathic male infertility in assisted reproductive technology
Zhang M, Huang G, Lu F, Paulus WE, Sterzik K.
J Huazhong Univ Sci Technolog Med Sci. 2002;22(3):228-30.

This trial looks at sperm behavior in an IVF settings.  It was a “before and after” study involving 82 infertile men with pathological abnormalities and whose sperm achieved a poor fertilization rate in at least 2 IVF/ICSI cycles.  They were given acupuncture twice a week over 8 weeks and the IVF/ICSI cycles were repeated.  The fertilization rates after acupuncture (66.2%) were significantly higher than that before the treatment (40.2%) (P<0.01)