Background: Acupuncture has recently been studied in assisted reproductive treatment (ART) although its role in reproductive medicine is still debated.
Objectives: To determine the effectiveness of acupuncture in the outcomes of ART.
Search strategy: All reports which describe randomised controlled trials of acupuncture in assisted conception were obtained through searches of the Menstrual Disorders and Subfertility Group Specialised Register, CENTRAL, Ovid MEDLINE (1996 to August 2007), EMBASE (1980 to August 2007), CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature) (1982 to August 2007), AMED, National Research Register, Clinical Trials register (www.clinicaltrials.gov), and the Chinese database of clinical trials.
Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials of acupuncture for couples who were undergoing ART comparing acupuncture treatment alone or acupuncture with concurrent ART versus no treatment, placebo or sham acupuncture plus ART for the treatment of primary and secondary infertility. Women with medical illness deemed contraindications for ART or acupuncture were excluded.
Data collection and analysis: Sixteen randomised controlled trials were identified that involved acupuncture and assisted conception. Thirteen trials were included in the review and three were excluded. Quality assessment and data extraction were performed independently by two review authors. Meta-analysis was performed using odds ratio (OR) for dichotomous outcomes. The outcome measures were live birth rate, clinical ongoing pregnancy rate, miscarriage rate, and any reported side effects of treatment.
Main results: There is evidence of benefit when acupuncture is performed on the day of embryo transfer (ET) on the live birth rate (OR 1.89, 95% CI 1.29 to 2.77) but not when it is performed two to three days after ET (OR 1.79, 95% CI 0.93 to 3.44). There is no evidence of benefit on pregnancy outcomes when acupuncture is performed around the time of oocyte retrieval.
Authors' conclusions: Acupuncture performed on the day of ET shows a beneficial effect on the live birth rate; however, with the present evidence this could be attributed to placebo effect and the small number of women included in the trials. Acupuncture should not be offered during the luteal phase in routine clinical practice until further evidence is available from sufficiently powered RCTs.