Women undergoing in vitro fertilization can increase their chances of becoming pregnant by up to 65% if they also have acupuncture, a preliminary study suggests.

About 10% to 15% of couples have difficulty conceiving, and many opt for in vitro fertilization (IVF), in which a woman's egg is fertilized in a laboratory and then transferred into her womb. There had been some evidence that acupuncture can increase the success rate of this procedure.

"Complementing the embryo transfer process with acupuncture seems to increase the odds of pregnancy by 65%, compared to sham acupuncture or no adjuvant treatment," said lead researcher Eric Manheimer, a research associate at the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Center for Integrative Medicine.

The Study

Manheimer's team analyzed seven trials that included 1,366 women undergoing IVF. Each trial compared acupuncture given within one day of the embryo transfer, to sham acupuncture or no acupuncture.

The researchers found that women who had acupuncture increased their chances of becoming pregnant by 65% compared with women who had no acupuncture or sham acupuncture.

"This means that 10 women would need to be treated with acupuncture to result in one additional pregnancy," Manheimer said.

However, in studies where pregnancy rates were high, the benefit of acupuncture was small and non-significant, the researchers noted.


"Acupuncture may be useful adjuvant treatment in the IVF process," Manheimer said. "However, I think more studies are needed to confirm these findings, because they are still preliminary.

Expert Reaction

One reproduction expert cautioned that it's not clear if acupuncture improves the success of IVF. Studies show both that it does and doesn't work.

Owen K. Davis, MD, co-director and associate professor at the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City is hopeful that future studies will support acupuncture's role in boosting pregnancy rates. Dr. Davis thinks a large, randomized study is needed to really answer the question.

"I don't think we can say conclusively that acupuncture is effective or is anywhere near being a standard care, but it's not something I would discourage someone from trying if they wanted to," he said.

One acupuncturist said the study findings bear out his own experience in using acupuncture to increase the success of IVF.

"I'm not surprised by these findings," said Marshall H. Sager, MD, past president of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. "T've done acupuncture for infertility and been successful a number of times."

Dr. Sager thinks all women undergoing in vitro fertilization can benefit from acupuncture. "I think you are increasing the chances of success," he said.

The Healing Wisdom of Tai Chi

Tai chi may help prevent shingles and other illnesses related to immunity.

Tai chi, the centuries-old Chinese martial arts practice, incorporates aerobic activity, relaxation and meditation.

It is easy to learn and can be practiced by older adults with physical limitations.

Recent study: People who practiced tai chi showed increased immunity to the virus that causes shingles.

This may be because tai chi decreases levels of the stress hormones that negatively impact immunity.

Bonus: Participants also experienced improved vitality, mental health, muscle strength and balance.

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