Study Suggests Acupuncture Is Not Effective For Female Infertility


An international team of researchers recently cast doubt on earlier small trials indicating acupuncture helps alleviate female infertility.

The researchers hypothesized that women receiving acupuncture with clomiphene would have better outcomes than those receiving only acupuncture, or only clomiphene. However, they found that acupuncture added “very little.”

“We thought we would see the two interventions interacting for the benefit of the patient, but we didn't see that, which was surprising,” said Richard S. Legro, a Penn State College of Medicine professor.

About five to ten percent of women at reproductive age have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), the most common cause of female infertility. The standard treatment is clomiphene, used to induce ovulation, but for many women this drug is ineffective. When clomiphene does prompt ovulation, it often leads to pregnancies with multiples, and greater risk for negative outcomes. Because of the drug’s downsides, a growing number of women are considering acupuncture to induce ovulation.

The ten-month long study involved 1,000 Chinese women with PCOS. The women were randomly divided into four intervention groups: clomiphene plus acupuncture, clomiphene plus mock (fake) acupuncture, placebo medication and acupuncture, or placebo medication with mock acupuncture. The participants and their doctors were unaware which group they were assigned.

By following the 926 women who completed the study, investigators found that acupuncture, with or without clomiphene, compared to mock acupuncture and placebo medication, did not increase live births.

“There is an impression out there that acupuncture, in addition to conventional treatment, improves success rates. But, this study showed that acupuncture added nothing beyond medication,” said Legro. While the study participants were Chinese, Legro also notes the results are relevant for women everywhere.

Though this large trial kept strict quality protocols, the researchers acknowledge the acupuncture used did not completely copy traditional Chinese methods that often include the use of patient-specific herbal formulas.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Source: Penn State News
Photo credit: Garry Knight


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