Current study: Can acupuncture support IVF treatment?
Written by Dr Gavin Sacks, fertility specialist at IVFAustralia
Many people use complementary or alternative therapies to improve their overall physical and emotional health. Some women also consider using these therapies to prepare their body for pregnancy or support them through fertility treatment.
Why are women turning to Acupuncture while undergoing IVF?
Acupuncture has grown in popularity in Australia as an adjunct to IVF treatment and is claimed to reduce stress, improve the quality of life while you’re undertaking treatment, and stimulate blood flow to the uterus influencing menstrual cycle and ovulation.
Some limited studies have shown that acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer, within an IVF cycle, may improve implantation rates although it should also be borne in mind that some recent studies have not found acupuncture to be effective.
Background on the current study into IVF and Acupuncture
The clinics within the Virtus Health group, including IVFAustralia, Melbourne IVF and Queensland Fertility Group, are continually investing in research projects that seek to improve health and reproductive outcomes for patients. In some cases this involves working together with complementary therapists to maximise patient fertility. An example of this is the relationships that have been setup between acupuncture clinics in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs and the Bondi Junction IVFAustralia clinic.
A current research project that IVFAustralia and Melbourne IVF are involved in is a national multi-centre randomised controlled acupuncture trial in conjunction with The University of Western Sydney. The purpose is to formally investigate the effectiveness, or not, of acupuncture in improving the proportion of live birth rates for women undergoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
What are the expected outcomes of this trial?
This study will determine the cost effectiveness of IVF with acupuncture, assess the personal and social context of acupuncture on IVF patients and identify other effects of acupuncture.
It will add significant knowledge to defining the exact role of acupuncture in the management of IVF from a clinical and cost effectiveness perspective. Any way that we can reduce the number of cycles it takes for our patients to achieve a healthy pregnancy, is likely to have a positive emotional and financial impact on that family.
However, regardless of the outcome of this trial, while improving your general health and wellbeing is clearly beneficial, acupuncture is not for everyone and varied opinions reflect the limited evidence on its effectiveness.
Who is eligible to take part?
We are currently recruiting IVF Australia and Melbourne IVF patients interested in taking part in the trial.
To participate you must: be less than 43 years of age, be undergoing a fresh IVF or Intracystoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) cycle; and not be undergoing a pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) cycle.
Participants in the trial will receive their treatments on the day of embryo transfer – administered by experienced acupuncturists – at research partnered IVF units in clinics across Australia.