November 17, 2008

IVF and Acupuncture

Reducing the stress and anxiety women feel when undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) is considered important in improving the pregnancy rate in these women.

Acupuncture has shown promise in easing these symptoms, but a new investigation out of Hong Kong suggests a sham version of the treatment may actually be better than the real thing.

In a study involving 370 women who were given either real acupuncture or sham acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer, the pregnancy rate was higher in the sham group -- about 55 percent versus about 44 percent.

How can you fake a treatment like acupuncture, which involves sticking needles into specific points in the body? The researchers used a blunted needle that retracted into the needle handle when it was pressed. But pressure was still applied to the skin, giving women the impression they were receiving real acupuncture.

The investigators explain their rather surprising findings in either one of two ways -- it could be that the acupressure delivered by the sham system had a positive effect, or it might be that acupuncture is really associated with worsening pregnancy rates rather than improving them.

The authors believe more study is needed to clarify the role of acupuncture in IFV.

SOURCE: Human Reproduction, published online November 12, 2008

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