Research into the treatment of infertility using acupuncture

In the scientific literature there is a growing body of research which tests the efficacy of using acupuncture in the treatment of infertility. The vast majority of this research focuses more specifically on acupuncture being used as an adjunct treatment to IVF therapy. Unfortunately, very few studies have been conducted in which acupuncture and/ or Chinese herbal medicine have been used as a stand alone infertility treatment.

Summary of results

Across the literature there is a wide range of outcomes. Though, a general consensus is getting closer to being found. This consensus suggests that if ten IVF patients received acupuncture in addition to their IVF therapy, that an extra one would fall pregnant compared to ten other fertility patients who received the IVF therapy alone. This means if you receive acupuncture in addition to IVF therapy, your chances of conception will increase by one in ten greater than the success rate of the IVF clinic from which you are receiving your treatment.

Problems with the research

There are known difficulties in designing randomised clinical trials for acupuncture. The scientific method demands standardisation of experimental variables. On the other hand, acupuncture treatments require flexibility and are often based on idiosyncratic prescriptions and individualised Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnostic patterns. Acupuncture and the scientific method are far from compatible. This causes randomised clinical trials for acupuncture to have a number of problems. These include difficulty with standardisation of diagnostic criteria, treatment intervention/programming, determining suitable controls and the implementation of appropriate measures.

To date, researchers using acupuncture for infertility have not adequately addressed these issues and a suitable balance between the two paradigms is yet to be achieved. As a consequence, the clinical applicability/relevance of the acupuncture within these clinical trails has been compromised. It stands to reason that in clinical practice acupuncture would have a greater efficacy since it will be able to maintain its integrity and not have to conform to the scientific method.

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