Background: Acupuncture is widely used for infertile women without undergoing assisted reproductive techniques (ART) in China but its effect is unclear. We aim to assess whether acupuncture and its combined therapy exert a positive influence on the outcome of female fertility.
Methods: We searched 6 databases, including Medline, EMBASE, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), the China Science and Technology Journal Database (VIP), and Wan-Fang Data, from inception to June 2018. Studies of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on women with infertility treated by acupuncture or its combined therapy were included. A meta-analysis was performed using Revman 5.3. The methodological quality of the studies was assessed through the risk of bias assessment tool by the Cochrane Collaboration.
Results: The pregnancy rate was significantly improved with treatment (RR = 1.84, 95% CI 1.62 to 2.10, P < .00001), compared to that in the control group. Subgroup analysis showed that comparing with pure western medicine intervention, no matter intervention with acupuncture alone, with acupuncture plus western medicine, with acupuncture plus Chinese medicine, or acupuncture plus Chinese medicine and western medicine, all of these subgroups exhibited significant improvement. The subgroup according to different types of infertility showed a significant improvement in infertility caused by polycystic ovary syndrome, tubal infertility, ovulatory disorder, and other factors. In addition, the ovulation rate and endometrial thickness were significantly increased. The level of LH was obviously decreased. Moreover, with acupuncture, less adverse effects occurred. The funnel plot revealed that publication bias might exist. All trials included had unclear risks in the aspects of allocation concealment, blinding of participants and personnel, blinding of outcome assessment, selective reporting, and other bias. Only 1 study was assessed as unclear risk in random sequence generation. In the incomplete outcome data, all studies were low risk, except 1.
Conclusions: Acupuncture and its combined therapy may be effective for treating female infertility. However, the included studies are not robust enough to draw a firm conclusion due to the not robustly sampled quality of the included studies. Future high-quality RCTs are needed to confirm our findings.