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Does Acupuncture Help With IVF?

Posted 02-08-2008 at 01:41 PM by IVF Doctor
On February 8, 2008, a scientific article in the British Medical Journal suggested that acupuncture significantly increases pregnancy rates with IVF. This paper, a so-called meta-analysis of a number of previously published articles, reminds me of the old, I believe IBM-resourced saying, "garbage in, garbage out."
Approximately a dozen studies have previously addressed this question. The authors of this recent meta-analysis chose seven amongst them, and in combining outcomes from these seven studies, concluded that IVF pregnancies improve by approximately 65% if acupuncture is used.
I am quite familiar with most of, if not all, these original studies. They are uniformly poor in study design and the results of these studies are, therefore, simply not interpretable at the current time. My read of the published literature, therefore, is that the effects of acupuncture on pregnancy outcome are unknown. Since it, however, with considerable certainty doesn't hurt, I let my patients use it, as long as they understand that they may be wasting their money.
In an unusually insightful review (for a newspaper) of this paper in the Chicago Tribune (February 8, 2008), Judith Graham writes that the academic infertility group at Northwestern is in the midst of a prospective study of acupuncture in which half of all patients receive sham acupuncture. This is, of course, the only way to determine the real effects of acupuncture on IVF outcomes. Their study should provide a final answer. In the meantime, I recommend caution.
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