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Acupuncture and in vitro fertilisation research: current and future directions

Abstract

Background Acupuncture is a common adjuvant treatment to support patients undergoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF). However, the impact of acupuncture and the different roles it can play in IVF remain unclear.

Objective In this paper, we present an overview and critique of the current evidence on acupuncture’s impact on IVF-related stress, describe harms, and propose future directions for investigation.

Conclusion Two to three acupuncture sessions performed on or around the day of embryo transfer are insufficient interventions to improve IVF birth outcomes but provide significant IVF-related stress reduction. Research investigating acupuncture to support IVF is heterogeneous and confounded by the lack of an appropriate comparator. However, evidence suggests several acupuncture sessions improve endometrial thickness, reduce stress, and improve patient satisfaction. Observational studies suggest more sessions are associated with increases in clinical pregnancy and live birth rates. An optimised acupuncture intervention with a reasonable comparator is necessary for future studies, with evidence-based guidance on technique and number of sessions. Acupuncture should not be rejected as an adjuvant therapy for IVF, but more studies are needed to clarify acupuncture’s role in supporting IVF cycles.

  • acupuncture
  • complementary medicine
  • reproductive medicine

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