Background: Acupuncture has been used as treatment for infertility for hundreds of years, and recently it has been studied in male and female infertility and in assisted reproductive technologies, although its role in reproductive medicine is still debated.
Aim: To review studies on acupuncture in reproductive medicine, in experimental and clinical settings.
Methods: Papers were retrieved on PubMed and Google Scholar and were included in the review if at least the abstract was in English.
Results: There is evidence of benefit mainly when acupuncture is performed on the day of embryo transfer (ET) in the live birth rate. Benefit is also evident when acupuncture is performed for female infertility due to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). There is some evidence of sperm quality improvement when acupuncture is performed on males affected by idiopathic infertility. Experimental studies suggest that acupuncture effects are mediated by changes in activity of the autonomic nervous system and stimulation of neuropeptides/neurotransmitters which may be involved in the pathogenesis of infertility.
Conclusions: Acupuncture seems to have beneficial effects on live birth rate when performed on the day of ET, and to be useful also in PCOS as well as in male idiopathic infertility, with very low incidence of side effects. However, further studies are necessary to confirm the clinical results and to expand our knowledge of the mechanisms involved.