Acupuncture has long been used to help women enhance their fertility and reproductive health. It will come as no surprise to acupuncturists who have seen the positive results, nor to the couples who have been able to conceive, helped by their acupuncture treatments. However, conventional and allopathic medical communities have sometimes been skeptical. A recent study in the UK has validated the positive benefits, as was published recently in The Times newspaper, making converts out of some of the biggest skeptics! It showed that indeed, acupuncture boosts success rates of IVF.
One of the arguments against acupuncture’s benefit in fertility is the proposed placebo effect. One critic of alternative medicine in the United Kingdom said the main problem with the trial was that “simply being fussed over by the acupuncturist could have boosted the couples’ hopes of having a baby.” (Fussed over? Really? That sounds pretty patronizing to me.)
But the fact remains, early results from a British trial indicate that acupuncture more than doubles a woman’s chances of having a baby through IVF. Karin Gillerman, the acupuncturist who led the trial, said that the theory was that stimulating the nerves at particular points around the ovaries increased the blood flowing to them and helped the development of their follicles, where the eggs mature.
The trial at Homerton University Hospital in Hackney, east London, involved 140 women aged 23 to 43, with half given four 25-minute sessions of acupuncture. The first results will be presented today at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Finland. Of the 71 women who had acupuncture, 21 became pregnant, compared with six of the 69 who did not have the treatment.
Those results seem pretty encouraging to me, especially given that acupuncture is relatively low cost – especially compared to the IVF itself, has a great safety profile, and frankly, can help provide emotional support in what is otherwise a pretty stressful process (which I would argue is not the same thing as a placebo effect).
I hope the study and the publicity it is getting (The Times is probably England’s primary newspaper) encourages people undergoing IVF to choose acupuncture as a great adjunct therapy. I’m a huge fan of it, for fertility and preconception as well as many other health issues. Time will tell if studies such as this encourage more government funding (in the case of medical systems such as the UK, Australia and Canada), and/ or insurance companies in countries where health care if more privatized such as the US. But the more research that is done, the more likely this is to happen, and the more people can access this wonderful therapy.