Research

Research articles on the use of acupuncture for male and female fertility can be found here.

BREECH PRESENTATION

A two year study carried out between February 2004 – January 2006.

PARTICIPANTS: 76 pregnant women from various acupuncture practices in the UK, with a third trimester breech presentation.

INTERVENTIONS: the acupuncturist taught the women how to apply moxibustion (sticks of compressed dried herbs called Artemisia Vulgaris) treatment at home by stimulating the acupressure point on the outer edge at the base of the little toe nail for seven days twice a day (morning and afternoon). If the breech presentation persisted after treatment, ECV -external cephalic version- where an obstetrician tries to manually turn the baby, was carried out towards the end of the pregnancy. The obstetricians offered this during the routine antenatal hospital visits.

FINDINGS: the results show that following treatment with moxibustion, 31 (40.8%) of the breech presentations spontaneously turned to cephalic presentations, and a further 33 (43.4%) breech presentations were turned by ECV. Women who involved other people in the administration of moxibustion were twice as likely to be successful.

KEY CONCLUSIONS: moxibustion creates a better chance of vaginal birth for expectant mothers. Of the women who were successful in turning their babies using moxibustion, 88% went on to have a normal birth and 12% had a caesarean section. Moxibustion treatment also significantly increases version from a breech presentation to a cephalic presentation where there are fewer side effects reported.

IVF
A randomised study conducted in Germany took 160 patients undergoing ART (assisted reproductive therapy) with good quality embryos and divided them into two groups: embryo transfer with acupuncture, (80 women) and embryo transfer without acupuncture, (80 women). Clinical pregnancies were documented in 34 out of 80 patients (42.5%) in the acupuncture group, whereas the pregnancy rate was only 26.3% (21 of 80 patients) in the control group.

See “Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy” by Wolfgang E. Paulus MD, Christian-Lauritzen- Institut, Ulm, Germany 2001. (PDF) 

Researchers at the University of Southampton and Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton, UK, have found that women undergoing acupuncture at the same time as IVF increased their chances of having a baby from one in five to one in three.
The research, published on the Cochrane Library’s online database, involved looking at 13 studies comprising 2,000 women worldwide, who underwent acupuncture at the same time as a course of IVF.
Every year 33,000 women undergo IVF, when an embryo that has been fertilised in a laboratory is transferred into the womb. Acupuncture, the practice of inserting fine needles into specific points on the body corresponding to Qi energy channels, was found to significantly increase a woman’s chance of successful embryo implantation (www.bionews.org.uk)

MALE FERTILITY

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jul/25/sperm-counts-among-western-men-have-halved-in-last-40-years-study

“Sperm counts among men have more than halved in the last 40 years, research suggests, although the drivers behind the decline remain unclear.
The latest findings reveal that between 1973 and 2011, the concentration of sperm in the ejaculate of men in western countries has fallen by an average of 1.4% a year, leading to an overall drop of just over 52%.
“The results are quite shocking,” said Hagai Levine, an epidemiologist and lead author of the study from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.Men don’t worry about their sperm count – but they should

While infertility treatments such as IVF can offer solutions to potential ramifications of the decline on one level, little has been done to address the root of the issue, said Levine, pointing out low sperm counts might also be an indicator of poorer health among men more generally.
“This is a classic under the radar huge public health problem that is really neglected,” he said.”

In a study involving 40 men with sperm problems of unknown origin, (oligospermia, asthenospermia, or teratozoospermia) acupuncture was used on 28 of the men twice a week for 5 weeks and compared to the 12 men who received no treatment.
FINDINGS: Following acupuncture, a statistically significant increase in the percentage and number of sperm in the total ejaculate was observed (in comparison with controls), with improvements in the shape of the acrosome and nucleus. The median percentage of progressive motility in ejaculate increased from 44.5% to 55% following acupuncture treatment. No change in specific pathologies, such as apoptosis (cell death), necrosis (dead or motionless spermatozoa) or sperm immaturity, however, was apparent.
The authors concluded that “In conjunction with ART or even for reaching natural fertility potential, acupuncture treatment is a simple, non-invasive method that can improve sperm quality. (Fertility and Sterility. 2005;84:141-147)

Sperm motility
The first prospective, randomised, single-blind, placebo-controlled study of the effectiveness of acupuncture in infertile men with severe oligoasthenozoospermia has shown that acupuncture can improve sperm motility. The German study, involving 29 men compared Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncture with placebo acupuncture. A significantly higher percentage of motile sperm was found after real acupuncture. (Fertility and Sterility. 2009, April 24)

PRE BIRTH TREATMENTS
In 2004 a study in New Zealand was carried out looking a 169 women who received pre-birth acupuncture (from week 37) given by midwives who were then compared to local population rates for gestation at onset of labour, incidence of medical induction, length of labour, use of analgesia and type of labour.
FINDINGS: there was an overall 35% reduction in the number of medical inductions (for women having their first baby, there was a 43% reduction) and a 31% reduction in the epidural rate. The midwives involved in the study also noted a trend in the women who received pre-birth treatment to respond particularly well to acupuncture induction, further reducing the need for medical induction. (acupuncture.rhizome.net.nz/Handouts-Research.aspx)

ACUPRESSURE FOR PAIN RELIEF IN CHILDBIRTH

A well conducted randomised controlled trial at a hospital in Sweden. The research found that women who received acupuncture during labour, instead of or in addition to conventional pain relief, were less likely to request epidural pain relief and were more relaxed than women who did not receive acupuncture. Pain intensity was similar in the two groups.
Women were randomised to receive acupuncture treatment during labour or not to receive it. Randomisation was carried out separately for women having their first labour and those who had given birth before. All women in both groups received care by midwives (who were trained in acupuncture for labour pain) and all had access to conventional analgesia methods. The type of conventional analgesia was chosen by the women in the study, assisted by the midwives. The acupuncture treatment was individualised, whereby each midwife chose points suitable for the pain localisation as labour progressed. As a rule, relaxing points were combined with local and distant analgesic points. The acupuncture needles were mostly inserted bilaterally at 45 or 90 degrees, stimulated manually until ‘de qi’ was achieved. The needles were left in situ and removed after one to three hours. It was possible for the women to be mobile.

FINDINGS: The need for epidural analgesia was significantly reduced in the acupuncture group. Regarding other analgesic methods, no differences were seen besides the use of some of the non-pharmacological methods, which were significantly reduced in the acupuncture group.

The acupuncture group had a significantly better degree of relaxation on self-assessment but self-assessments of pain intensity were equal between the two groups.

The authors suggest that acupuncture is a good alternative or complement to those women seeking an alternative to pharmacological analgesia in childbirth. Further trials with larger numbers of patients are required to establish the main effects of acupuncture during labour i.e. analgesic or relaxing.
(Daily Mail, 26 July 2002)