The Fertile Soul CEFP

Clinical Excellence in Fertility Professionals

Professional Membership and Educational Events



Acupuncture is an ancient therapeutic art, which has been given renewed attention in light of recent scientific research and current integration with modern medical practice in the treatment of a wide range of diseases, including infertility.

The mechanisms through which acupuncture influence female fertility are believed to involve [1] central stimulation of ß-endorphin secretion (1), which in turn impacts on the GnRH pulse generator and thereby on gonadotrophin and steroid secretion (2, 3), and [2] a general sympathoinhibitory effect through increased blood flow to the uterus and ovaries (4), resulting in uterine conditions favoring implantation (for a recent review, see Chang et al. [5]).

Many reports in the literature claim positive effects of acupuncture in the treatment of female infertility, but only a few of them satisfy the requirements of rigorously conducted prospective, randomized trials (6). In a prospective, randomized study comparing electro-acupuncture and alfentanil as anesthesia during oocyte aspiration in IVF, Stener-Victorin et al. (7) found, unexpectedly, a significantly higher implantation rate and “take-home baby” rate per ET in the electro-acupuncture group. Later and larger studies using electro-acupuncture on the day of oocyte retrieval, however, did not confirm these positive effects on reproductive outcome (8, 9). Using conventional manual acupuncture on the day of ET, Paulus et al. (10) demonstrated a significantly increased clinical pregnancy rate in a group receiving acupuncture (n = 80) as compared with a control group (n = 80) not receiving acupuncture.

Accepting the above notion that the positive effects of acupuncture on the day of oocyte retrieval and on the day of ET might be mediated through effects on local ovarian and uterine blood flow, enhancing the quality of the endometrium, we hypothesized that applying acupuncture 5 days after oocyte retrieval (i.e. closer to the day of implantation, 6–12 days after oocyte retrieval) might further optimize endometrial conditions for the embryo to implant.

In the present prospective study, women undergoing IVF/intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) treatment were randomly allocated to one of three groups: [1] no acupuncture (control group), [2] acupuncture on the day of ET (i.e., 3 days after oocyte retrieval) (ACU 1 group), and [3] acupuncture on the ET day as above and again 2 days later (i.e., 5 days after oocyte retrieval) (ACU 2 group).

The aims of the study were to evaluate the effects of acupuncture on the reproductive outcome of IVF/ICSI treatment by comparing the rates of positive pregnancy tests, clinical pregnancy, and ongoing pregnancy/delivery in these three groups.