OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to replicate previous research on the efficacy of acupuncture in increasing pregnancy rates in IVF and determine if the increase in conceptions was due to a placebo effect.
DESIGN: This was a randomized, controlled, prospective, single blind design.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: 83 women scheduled to undergo embryo transfer from a fresh cycle using their own eggs were recruited to participate in the study. Subjects completed a battery of demographic and psychological questionnaires prior to randomization and were then assigned to either the acupuncture or control condition. Acupuncture subjects received the protocol first described by Paulus et al, 2002, which included 22 needles, for 25 minutes prior to and again 25 minutes following embryo transfer. Control subjects lay quietly for the same amounts of time.
All subjects completed another battery of psychological questionnaires following their second acupuncture/control session which focused on their sense of optimism about the outcome of the cycle. All IVF staff remained blind to subject assignment.
RESULTS: The mean age of the acupuncture patients was 36.5 and for the control subjects was 35.3 (p0.05). The mean number of embryos transferred for the acupuncture patients was 2.58 and for the controls 2.56 (p0.05). The pregnancy rate (defined as a positive HCG level 11 days following ET) was 53.84% in the acupuncture group and 52.94% in the control group (p0.05). There were also no significant differences between the two groups in optimism level post-embryo transfer, although there was a trend for the acupuncture group to express more optimism.
CONCLUSION: The use of acupuncture with IVF patients was not associated with an increase in pregnancy rates or optimism. This study did not replicate previous research. Possible explanations include the fact that this study differed in three ways from the Paulus et al study:
- all ET patients were eligible, not just patients with good embryo quality,
- all staff were blind to subject assignment, not just the attending physician,
- patients completed several psychological quesitonnaires which might have impacted them in some way.
Since there were no differences in pregnancy rates, it was not possible to determine if acupuncture is associated with a placebo effect.