Can acupuncture improve chance of IVF success?

IVF treatment is a last resort for people who struggle to have children. The treatment is physically, emotionally and financially demanding and only about a quarter of couples have a baby after one treatment cycle.

In an attempt to increase IVF success among patients, researchers from Western Sydney University ran a study using acupuncture around the time of hormone stimulation and again at the time of embryo transfer.

Around 800 women from IVF clinics around Australia took part in the study. Of these, half had the ‘real’ thing and the other half had ‘sham’ acupuncture (where a needle is placed away from the true acupuncture points). The number of women in the two groups who had a baby after the treatment was then compared. The research found that acupuncture did not make a difference to their chance of having a baby. In both groups about 18 per cent of women had a baby after one cycle.

The initiative was conducted as a randomised controlled trial (RCT) which is considered the best type of method to work out if an intervention makes a difference. There have been a number of smaller studies in the past which have shown that acupuncture might improve a woman’s chance of pregnancy with IVF treatment, leading to more women trying the procedure. However, this new research shows that there is no link between acupuncture and IVF success.



Smith CA, de Lacey S, Chapman M and et al. Effect of acupuncture vs sham acupuncture on live births among women undergoing in vitro fertilization: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA 2018; 319:1990-1998.