What is IVF acupuncture and does it actually work?

When you’re struggling with fertility issues, it’s easy to consider doing anything to increase your chances of being able to conceive.

This can make alternative medicine seem like an attractive option and one treatment you hear a lot about is doing acupuncture alongside IVF. But what exactly does it involve and does it really help?

While acupuncture and IVF are two very different medical approaches, more and more studies are confirming the benefits of combining them.

Image: iStock

Now, according to Monash IVF, the use of acupuncture alongside IVF is well researched and has now been largely accepted as a viable option to increase success rates with IVF treatment.


"Ideally patients will have a weekly visit with the acupuncturist on a weekly basis for a month prior to the embryo transfer taking place," they advise.

This assists with stress levels, allows you to become familiarised with the acupuncture treatment and allows the practitioner to correct any imbalances.

Listen: Deb Knight did 14 rounds of IVF and then had a baby naturally. (Post continues after audio...)

As well as having acupuncture in the lead up to treatment, it's also recommended to have two treatments on the day of the embryo transfer - one immediately before and one immediately after.

"In cases where there is a history of miscarriage, one or two treatments in the weeks following may also be recommended," their website states.

"If you are about to begin your IVF cycle and haven’t left time for the lead-up treatment, using acupuncture on the day of transfer only will still improve your chances of a positive pregnancy outcome."

(Source: iStock.)

A 2016 study by Homerton University Hospital in London found that rates of IVF treatment success were twice as high among those having the alternative therapy, a finding that experts considered "statistically significant".

"There is a patient demand and a patient interest in the field of acupuncture and probably in the area of traditional Chinese medicine overall, but the area is sadly lacking in rigorous prospective randomised assessment,”  Stuart Lavery, a consultant gynaecologist at Hammersmith Hospital told The Telegraph.

However, he also warned that it was still unclear whether the benefit came from the acupuncture or from a placebo effect the treatment offers some patients.

Image: iStock

“The weakness of this study is that you can’t control for the placebo effect. Patients are often looking for someone who can give them time and listen to what’s going on in their lives and that may have some therapeutic benefit."

"We need more research to understand how it works," Jane Lyttleton, a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner who works in partnership with IVF clinics previously agreed in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.

"It may be that acupuncture increases blood flow to the lining of the uterus, creating a better environment for the embryo to grow. It may lower levels of stress hormones or, by having a calming effect on a woman's immune system, it may reduce the chances of her body rejecting the pregnancy."

With studies and reviews reporting an increase in success rate after acupuncture, for those struggling it may be a viable option. However as with all medical decisions, always consult a doctor or healthcare professional to work out what's best for you.

Do you think acupuncture could help with infertility?