Acupuncture is an alternative medical treatment which has been used to reduce chronic pain and induce anesthesia. Acupuncture for IVF is a relatively new treatment for infertility that, in clinical studies, has been shown to increase conception rates by as much as 65 percent in women undergoing IVF treatment. Evaluations of the effectiveness of acupuncture for IVF included treatment success measurements at various stages of pregnancy, including the development of a gestational sac, the presence of a heartbeat, pregnancy to 12 weeks and live birth.
By inserting needles in specific anatomical locations on the body, acupuncture can provide viable treatment for individuals suffering from chronic ailments such as arthritis, neuropathy or fibromyalgia. Study results also have shown that acupuncture for IVF can be effective for increasing conception rates, even when compared to the control group that was given a fake form of acupuncture therapy. Some researchers have questions regarding how this approach works, however.
In an effort to better understand how acupuncture for IVF may increase conception rates, researchers have made several hypotheses about the process and what effects it may have on a woman's body. First, experts have argued that acupuncture may influence pituitary and ovarian hormones that are involved in pregnancy. Stimulation of these hormones in women with fertility problems may increase the chance of conception. Second, experts have proposed that acupuncture for IVF may increase blood flow to the uterus. Increased blood flow may further help stimulate implantation of the fertilized egg, resulting in conception.
Scholars attempting to understand how acupuncture works to improve conception have noted that the procedure also may help to relax the uterus during the embryo transfer. Women undergoing IVF may experience uterine contractions following the procedure that can result of expulsion of the embryo. Relaxing the uterus following IVF can increase the chance for embryo implantation and successful conception.
Despite the fact that clinical research has demonstrated success in the use of acupuncture for IVF, there are clinical studies which demonstrate that this type of acupuncture does not improve conception rates. Further, studies which have shown positive results often used small population samples as well, limiting the generalizability of the findings. What this suggests is that debate over the practice and its effectiveness remains. Until researchers uncover a mechanism of action for using acupuncture to increase conception, speculation over the use of this treatment for increasing conception following IVF will remain.