Systematic review and meta-analysis of the efficacy of acupuncture as an adjunct to IVF cycles in China and the world

Turk J Obstet Gynecol. 2022 Dec 13;19(4):315-326. doi: 10.4274/tjod.galenos.2022.04752.


Acupuncture has been introduced as an adjuvant therapy to in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles in many randomized controlled trials (RCTs). However, there has been a debate among trials regarding the effectiveness and safety of the procedure. To determine how effective and safe acupuncture is as an adjunct to IVF cycles for primary and secondary female infertility. We conducted a literature search for relevant RCTs and ultimately included nine studies. The main selected outcomes included the rates of clinical pregnancy, ongoing pregnancy, miscarriage, live birth, and side effects. Patients receiving acupuncture were grouped together regardless of the acupuncture points used or the protocol for the insertion of needles. We performed a subgroup analysis according to whether studies originated inside and outside China to investigate the results of the different RCTs. We pooled outcomes as a risk ratio (RR) with 95% confidence interval (CI). The analysis revealed that in China, acupuncture led to lower clinical [RR=0.80, 95% CI (0.66, 0.97), p=0.02] and ongoing [RR=0.78, 95% CI (0.63, 0.97), p=0.03] pregnancy rates than placebo. Outside China, acupuncture increased clinical pregnancy rates [RR=1.38, 95% CI (1.11, 1.71), p=0.003] and ongoing [RR=1.73, 95% CI (1.29, 2.31), p<0.001] pregnancy rates. Rates of live birth and miscarriage did not significantly differ between the arms. Regarding side effects, acupuncture groups had a significantly higher rate of puncture site itching compared to control groups [RR=1.51, 95% CI (1.12, 2.04), p=0.007]. Overall analysis does not show a statistically significant increase in clinical pregnancy rates worldwide when using acupuncture as an adjunct therapy to IVF. There were no issues regarding patient safety from any included study. Subgroup results indicated that better rates for clinical pregnancy seem to be occurring more often in RCTs performed outside China than within.

Keywords: Acupuncture; Chinese medicine; alternative medicine; in vitro fertilization; integrative medicine; traditional Chinese medicine; traditional medicine.