Acupuncture improves IVF rates: 2020 Study

Acupuncture improves IVF rates: 2020 Study

Acupuncture improves IVF rates and reduces stress levels:
A 2020 Study

A 2020 study published in Taiwanese Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Volume 59, found that three sessions of acupuncture before and after embryo transfer(ET) significantly improves the pregnancy rates in women with unexplained infertility undergoing in-vitro fertilisation(IVF) by up to 30%. It was also found that acupuncture significantly reduced anxiety levels that occurred before ET.

Where was it conducted?

This trial was carried out between December-2017 and January-2018 at Ataturk University Research and Practice Center for Acupuncture and Complementary Therapy Modalities, Turkey. It was performed in adherence to Helsinki Declaration which is a guideline for clinical trials . The acupuncture treatment was documented in accordance with Standards for Reporting Interventions in Clinical Trials of Acupuncture (STRICTA).

Who was involved in the study?

A total of 95 unexplained infertile women who visited Ataturk University Obstetric and Gynecologic Outpatient Department seeking for IVF treatment were included They are all aged 23–45 years, diagnosed unexplained infertility, and undergoing a fresh IVF.

What treatment was given?

In the treatment group, three sessions of acupuncture were applied:

  1. The first session was one week before ET,
  2. Second session was 30 min before ET, 
  3. Third session was 30 min after ET.


There were statistically significant differences between the groups as regards to clinical pregnancy rate (63.9% versus 33.3%), ongoing pregnancy rate (55.6% versus 30.6%), and live birth rate (52.8% versus 40.3%) (p < 0.05).

STAI-1 state anxiety scale was used to measure anxiety and stress levels in patients. According to STAI-1, anxiety scores reduced in ratio 49.7% in treatment group, and 27.8% in control group after ET.

How did acupuncture improve IVF rates?

EMW Physiotherapy & TCM has been using acupuncture to improve fertility rates in patients either trying naturally or undergoing IVF. Success stories and reviews can be found here.

Clinical studies have shown that acupuncture is an effective therapy method for infertility. 

A recent meta-analyses indicate that acupuncture increased the odds of clinical pregnancy by 65% compared to no treatments [1].

Villahermosa et al. conducted a study and reported that acupuncture increased clinical pregnancy rates during IVF treatment [2]. 

This is due to the regulation effects of acupuncture on hypothalamic–pituitary–ovarian axis, which may influence the ovulation, ovarian blood flow, uterine blood flow and uterine contractions [3].

Acupuncture around the time of ET could improve pregnancy success rate through some of probable effect. Increasing uterine blood flow, improving endometrial receptivity, and reducing stress level are known as major mechanism [4].

EMW Approach to IVF

Ideally we hope to see patients at least three months before the actual IVF procedure to better assess and regulate your menstrual and reproductive health. Even as clinical evidence points towards acupuncture can help to improve IVF rates, it still takes time.

During egg retrieval phase, we recommend 5 sessions after day 3 of your menses till the actual egg retrieval day.

During frozen cycle phase, we recommend 5 sessions before embryo transfer, 1 session 1 day before and 1 session immediately after embryo transfer. And 3 sessions after embryo transfer to support implantation.

Points we choose in the week before ET helps to regulate mental status and generate homeostasis. It is known that mental status of women may lead to reduced fertility. In addition, balancing homeostasis is one of the required factors for fertilization [5].

Points used just before ET allows facilitation of embryo implementation as they have regulating effect on uterus [12,20,21]. It was shown that these acupuncture points also can facilitate ET stage by relaxing the uterus, dilating the cervical opening, and calming the patient [5].

After ET, treatment objective is to support blood circulation in the uterus, maintain implantation of the embryo, and to nourish growing of the embryo.

Anxiety & IVF

Anxiety is a physiological response of human body to traumatic and stressful events. Anxiety is also known as a complicating and reducing factor for fertility.

A study suggested that more than 80% of women had anxiety in duration of infertility [6]. Anxiety may also lead to a reduction in pregnancy success rates during IVF [7].

A few of trials have suggested that acupuncture can play an important role in managing anxiety in patients with infertility without causing any serious side effects [8].

In particular, the release of endorphins in the central nervous system affects the secretion of gonadotropins. This creates a positive effect on the emotional state, which is an effective factor in ovulation and menstrual cycle changes [8]. Our findings are in line with all these research. In our study, a decrease of close to 50% in mean anxiety scores was observed after sessions of acupuncture treatment. Furthermore, women with low anxiety scores had more pregnancy positivity. This suggests that acupuncture can help to improve IVF rates.

Our TCM Physicians

Principal Physician
Edmund Pang

Senior TCM Physician
Jasmine Xie

TCM Physician
Lau Ee Wen
[1] E. Manheimer, G. Zhang, L. Udoff, A. Haramati, P. Langenberg, B.M. Berman, et al.Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilisation: systematic review and meta-analysis

BMJ, 336 (2008), pp. 545-549, 10.1136/bmj.39471.430451.BE 2008/02/09

[2] D.I.Villahermosa,L.G.Santos,M.B.Nogueira,F.L.Vilarino,C.Barbosa

Influence of acupuncture on the outcomes of in vitro fertilisation when embryo implantation has failed: a prospective randomised controlled clinical trial

Acupunct Med, 31 (2013), pp. 157-161, 10.1136/acupmed-2012-010269

[3] B.Y. Chen, J. Yu. Relationship between blood radioimmunoreactive beta-endorphin and hand skin temperature during the electro-acupuncture induction of ovulation

Acupunct Electro-Ther Res, 16 (1991), pp. 1-5

[4]C.A. Smith, S. Grant, J. Lyttleton, et al.Using a Delphi consensus process to develop an acupuncture treatment protocol by consensus for women undergoing Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) treatment BMC Complement Altern Med, 12 (2012), p. 88, 10.1186/1472-6882-12-88
[5] L. Liang Acupuncture & infertility Blue Poppy Press, Boulder (2004)
[6] F. Ramezanzadeh, M.M. Aghssa, N. Abedinia, F. Zayeri, N. Khanafshar, M. Shariat, et al. A survey of relationship between anxiety, depression and duration of infertility BMC Women’s Health, 4 (2004), p. 9, 10.1186/1472-6874-4-9 2004/11/09

[7] P. Gdanska, E. Drozdowicz-Jastrzebska, B. Grzechocinska, M. Radziwon-Zaleska, P. Węgrzyn, Wielgoś Anxiety and depression in women undergoing infertility treatment Ginekol Pol, 88 (2017), pp. 109-112, 10.5603/GP.a2017.0019 2017/03/23


[8] C.A. Smith, J.M. Ussher, J. Perz, B. Carmady, S. de Lacey

The effect of acupuncture on psychosocial outcomes for women experiencing infertility: a pilot randomized controlled trial J Altern Complement Med, 17 (2011), pp. 923 930, 10.1089/acm.2010.0380


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