Acupuncture may not be effective in treating infertility

June 27, 2017, Pennsylvania State University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Acupuncture, alone or with the medication clomiphene, does not appear to be effective in treating infertility in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), according to an international team of researchers. The finding casts doubts on previous smaller trials that have suggested that acupuncture may improve reproductive function in women affected by infertility.

"Our hypothesis was that who received with would do much better than women who received only active acupuncture or only clomiphene, but we found that acupuncture added very little," said Richard S. Legro, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Penn State College of Medicine. "We thought we would see the two interventions interacting for the benefit of the patient, but we didn't see that, which was surprising."

PCOS, which affects an estimated 5 to 10 percent of women of reproductive age, is the most common cause of female infertility. While clomiphene is a first-line treatment used to induce ovulation in women with PCOS, it has downsides—namely that in a significant number of women it does not lead to improved ovulation or live births, and if it does induce ovulation, it frequently results in pregnancies with multiples who face much higher negative outcomes including death. Because women are increasingly seeking out acupuncture in order to induce ovulation, researchers decided to study whether or not the traditional Chinese medicine therapy could serve as a supplemental treatment along with clomiphene to improve .

The researchers conducted a randomized, multicenter, clinical trial that included 1,000 Chinese women with PCOS at 21 sites in China. The women were divided into four groups in which they received one of four interventions: clomiphene plus active acupuncture; clomiphene plus control acupuncture (also called placebo acupuncture or mock acupuncture); placebo medication plus active acupuncture; or placebo medication plus control acupuncture. The women were given active or control acupuncture twice a week in addition to clomiphene or placebo medication for five days per ovulation cycle for up to six months. Neither the patient nor their physician knew the type of medication and acupuncture received.

After following all of the 926 women who completed the trial for 10 months beyond the trial period for pregnancy outcomes, the researchers found that active acupuncture, with or without clomiphene, compared to control acupuncture and placebo medication, did not increase .

"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 ," said Legro, who noted that this large trial is one of the highest quality acupuncture to address fertility outcomes.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is not only applicable to Chinese women with PCOS; the results are also relevant to women around the world, Legro explained.

"The take-home message is that when acupuncture is used to treat infertility, it does not improve the chances of having a baby," he said.

A limitation of this study is that the method of acupuncture did not fully mimic traditional Chinese medicine which could include herbal mixtures, so that additional factors beyond acupuncture weren't added to the study data.

Explore further: Acupuncture can improve outcomes in dermatological conditions

Related Stories

Acupuncture can improve outcomes in dermatological conditions

July 14, 2015
Medical evidence supports the potential for acupuncture to be significantly more effective in the treatment of dermatologic conditions such as dermatitis, pruritus, and urticaria than alternative treatment options, "placebo ...

Large trial of acupuncture for allergic asthma finds benefits in quality of life

May 3, 2017
A large randomized controlled, pragmatic trial involving 1445 patients with allergic asthma found that an integrative medicine approach in which acupuncture is added to routine care demonstrated improvements in both quality ...

Acupuncture reduces hot flashes for half of women

September 28, 2016
Hot flashes – the bane of existence for many women during menopause – can be reduced in frequency by almost half for about 50 percent of women over eight weeks of acupuncture treatment, according to scientists at Wake ...

Acupuncture improves gait function in Parkinson's disease

October 30, 2015
(HealthDay)—For patients with Parkinson's disease (PD), acupuncture is associated with improvement in gait function, according to a study published in the October issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Two papers challenge exclusion of acupuncture in government guidelines

April 28, 2017
Even as news in the United States recently highlighted the growing inclusion of acupuncture and other complementary and integrative medicine therapies in guidelines for multiple pain conditions, the exclusion of acupuncture ...

Various dermatoses may occur after acupuncture

September 10, 2015
(HealthDay)—Various dermatological adverse events may occur after acupuncture, with the most common adverse event being infectious skin disease, according to a study published online Sept. 4 in the International Journal ...

Recommended for you

Eating iron-fortified grain improves students' attention, memory

July 18, 2018
Adolescent students in a rural school in India who consumed an iron-biofortified version of the grain pearl millet exhibited improved attention and memory compared to those who consumed conventional pearl millet, according ...

Lowering hospitals' Medicare costs proves difficult

July 18, 2018
A payment system that provides financial incentives for hospitals that reduce health-care costs for Medicare patients did not lower costs as intended, according to a new study led by Washington University School of Medicine ...

Vaping tied to blood clots—in mice

July 18, 2018
A new study involving mice raises another concern about the danger of e-cigarettes in humans after experiments showed that short-term exposure to the device's vapors appeared to increase the risk of clot formation.

People who tan in gyms tan more often, and more addictively, than others, new research shows

July 18, 2018
Gyms are places people go to get healthier. But nearly half the gyms in the U.S. contain a potentially addictive carcinogen—tanning beds, report UConn researchers in the July 18 issue of JAMA Dermatology.

Omega 3 supplements have little or no heart or vascular health benefit: review

July 17, 2018
New evidence published today shows there is little or no effect of omega 3 supplements on our risk of experiencing heart disease, stroke or death.

Study shows that people most affected by alcohol also most impacted by sleep deprivation

July 17, 2018
A team of researchers from the German Aerospace Center and Forschungszentrum Jülich has found that people who are most susceptible to alcohol intoxication are also most susceptible to cognitive problems due to sleep deprivation. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.