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Acupuncture with IVF does not increase women’s chance of a baby

Rate of live births similar among women undergoing IVF who received real or ‘sham’ acupuncture

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Women who are undergoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) were no more likely to have a live baby if they also had acupuncture than if they had a ‘sham’ procedure, a large randomised controlled trial* (RCT) has shown. The study authors said in JAMA that their findings do not support the use of acupuncture to improve the rate of live births among women undergoing IVF.

The researchers said that although acupuncture is widely used by women undergoing IVF, there is conflicting evidence about its effect, so they designed a study to assess this.

They recruited 824 women who were having IVF in 16 IVF centres in Australia and New Zealand, from June 2011 to October 2015. At around the time of ovarian stimulation and embryo transfer, they gave the women either acupuncture or a ‘sham’ acupuncture procedure in which a non-invasive needle was placed away from the true acupuncture points. They then followed the women until August 2016 and compared live birth rates (i.e. delivery of one or more living infants at greater than 20 weeks’ gestation or birth weight of at least 400g) between the groups.

They reported that the rate of live births was 18.3% among women in the acupuncture group, compared with 17.8% among women in the ‘sham’ procedure group – a nonsignificant difference.

They acknowledged that the planned study sample size could not be achieved; the stage of embryo transfer was not balanced between the study groups; and the length of the treatment intervention was short – all of which might affect their results. In addition, not all RCT results can be replicated in real-world settings because patient characteristics or other variables might differ from those that were studied in the RCT.

But they concluded: “Among women undergoing IVF, administration of acupuncture vs sham acupuncture at the time of ovarian stimulation and embryo transfer resulted in no significant difference in live birth rates. These findings do not support the use of acupuncture to improve the rate of live births among women undergoing IVF.”


*Smith CA, de Lacey S, Chapman M, et al. Effect of acupuncture vs sham acupuncture on live births among women undergoing in vitro fertilization: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA 2018; 319(19): 1990–1998. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.5336.

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