Acupuncture for Fertility, and Assisted Reproductive Technology

Diagnostic indications of subfertility

Subfertility is broadly defined as either an inability to conceive after one or one-two years of frequent unprotected sexual intercourse. Frequent unprotected sexual intercourse should occur at regular intervals at one to three days in the woman’s fertile window.

The more frequent unprotected sexual intercourse is (every one-two days), the more likely it is to result in a conception. There are other important considerations, for example aging fertility, and or stress may negatively influence time to conception.

Reasons for utilisation of assisted reproductive technology

In the UK male factor subfertility is the most prevalent condition leading to the use of assisted reproductive technology. The next reason is unexplained subfertility, i.e. non-medically identified. There are other less prevalent conditions where assisted reproductive technology is utilized, tubal factor disease, in some cases of endometriosis or hormonal disorders.

Acupuncture services

We provide a specialist and advanced acupuncture service to help couples trying to conceive naturally or for couples that are undergoing assisted reproductive technology including IVF/ICSI, Frozen Transfer (FT), third-party sperm donor or egg donor cycles.

We also work with women that are having ovulation induction usually over a 3-month period. However, intrauterine insemination (IUI) has become less utilized over the recent years. Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT) is rarely utilized as an assisted reproductive technology for couples (in our area) - so we do work less in comparison with patients undergoing these technologies.

Supportive management

Acupuncture helps women feel less anxious and stressed about their difficulty conceiving, medical fertility treatment processes or their experience of fertility treatment obstacles. Our fertility acupuncture specialist Lianne Aquilina has conducted work in the area of the psychological impact of subfertility and fertility treatment and uses acupuncture to help to reduce fertility related anxiety, stress and depression, especially for the women that request support.

Current research issues

With regards to the existing scientific evidence base of acupuncture alongside IVF, there is now a recognised need for good, preferably high quality randomized controlled trials. For example, a systematic review of twenty randomized controlled trials found that trials of acupuncture adjunct to assisted reproductive technology were all of low methodological quality.

For current information regarding IVF or ICSI and acupuncture in research click here. Scientific research on acupuncture for IVF is currently classified as inconclusive, in our view. This means that more research which can be classified as high-quality in design is required. Research indicates that acupuncture can help women to achieve a clinical pregnancy and live birth.

Professional acupuncture should also be provided to patients only after an acupuncture consultation and diagnosis that is monitored for treatment effects and reviewed.

Research recommendations acupuncture for IVF/ICSI

If you would like information on how to design an effective acupuncture intervention within a randomised controlled trial contact Lianne Aquilina. Lianne has a Master of Science in Applied Health Research and produced a research proposal for a randomised controlled trial of acupuncture for IVF. See Lianne's excerpt below: