Assisted conception (IVF and ICSI)**

The multiplicity of trials of adjunctive acupuncture with IVF treatment has delivered conflicting and confusing results. A recent meta-analysis showed clearly that different subgroups in the analysis give different results; in particular, acupuncture delivered during the ovarian hyper-stimulation phase is associated with markedly superior IVF results for pregnancy and live birth rates, whereas this is not the case when given during embryo transfer (1);  Other recent systematic reviews have reached similar conclusions (2, 3).

Acupuncture just at embryo transfer could provide significant IVF-related stress reduction even if it is insufficient to improve birth outcomes but more sessions, over an extended time period, may be required for optimal effect, and this has not yet been explored adequately in research trials(4). 

Acupuncture improves clinical pregnancy rates in women undergoing IVF. Optimal positive effects were seen when acupuncture was used during controlled ovarian hyper-stimulation. (Qian 2016 – SR of 30 RCTs & MA)(5)

Acupuncture may increase the clinical pregnancy rate and ongoing pregnancy rate and decrease the risk of ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome in women with PCOS undergoing IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (Jo 2017 – SR of 4 RCTs & MA)(6)


  1. Qian Y, Xia XR, Ochin H, et al. Therapeutic effect of acupuncture on the outcomes of in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2017;295(3):543-558. doi:10.1007/s00404-016-4255-y
  2. Shen C, Wu M, Shu D, Zhao X, Gao Y. The role of acupuncture in in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Gynecol Obstet Invest. 2015;79(1):1-12. doi:10.1159/000362231
  3. Schwarze JE, Ceroni JP, Ortega-Hrepich C, Villa S, Crosby J, Pommer R. Does acupuncture the day of embryo transfer affect the clinical pregnancy rate? Systematic review and meta-analysis. JBRA Assist Reprod. 2018;22(4):363-368. Published 2018 Nov 1. doi:10.5935/1518-0557.20180057
  4. Hullender Rubin LE, Anderson BJ, Craig LB. Acupuncture and in vitro fertilisation research: current and future directions. Acupunct Med. 2018;36(2):117-122. doi:10.1136/acupmed-2016-011352
  5. Qian Y, Xia XR, Ochin H, Huang C, Gao C, Gao L, et al. Therapeutic effect of acupuncture on the outcomes of in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2016 Dec 19.
  6. Jo J, Lee YJ. Effectiveness of acupuncture in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome undergoing in vitro fertilisation or intracytoplasmic sperm injection: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acupunct Med. 2017 Jan 11.