The research found that women with fertility problems who underwent the ancient Chinese treatment increased their chance of having a baby one in five to one in three.
Acupuncture involves inserting very fine needles into specific points on the body, qi along energy channels, to stimulate the body own healing system.
The finding offers hope to the 33,000 women a year who undertake IVF treatment, many are willing to make any changes to their lifestyle or health routine that might increase their chances of becoming a mother.
Researchers led by Ying Cheong, unity of reproductive medicine at the University of Southampton and the city, the Princess Anne hospital, concluded that "acupuncture at the time of embryo transfer to a higher rate of live births to 35 per cent to 22 per cent without active acupuncture '. When the embryo transfer is an embryo that was fertilized in the laboratory is implanted into the uterus of a woman. The research revealed that the chances of successful implantation of the embryo, resulting in pregnancy, increased significantly if a woman underwent acupuncture at the same time as the transfer.
"Our research is good news because it shows that acupuncture can help with fertility in patients undergoing IVF. The question of whether acupuncture helps women achieve a live birth is a controversial issue, and opinion is divided on this issue, "said Cheong. "We show that acupuncture, performed at the right time, can have benefits. A woman who has done much more likely to have a live birth of a woman who had no acupuncture.
However, there is no benefit if the treatment takes place in the days following embryo transfer, according to Cheong and his colleagues, including Professor Bill Ledger, a leading fertility expert and a member the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority. They looked at 13 studies carried out in the world, comprising more than 2000 patients who underwent acupuncture during a course of IVF.
Their study should be published on the Cochrane Library online database of systematic reviews. The library is part of the Cochrane Collaboration, an independent, international organization whose experts to monitor the effectiveness of medical procedures is respected by doctors worldwide.
Patient representatives welcomed the research. Susan Seenan, of Infertility Network UK, a charity that campaigns for people with fertility problems, said: "These results suggest that acupuncture given with embryo transfers can help improve the rate of success and we look forward to continuing research in this area to confirm this. Anything that helps improve the success rate for people going through infertility treatment is good news.
"Many of our members report that alternative therapies such as acupuncture, may help them cope with treatment and stress.
Some fertility clinics, including the private Lister Hospital in London, have already responded to a keen interest in complementary therapies, recommending that patients visit alternative practitioners.
Marie Wren, deputy medical director of the Lister IVF unit, said many patients have already decided to acupuncture when they arrive. "They find the whole process of complementary therapy alleviates their stress."
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