No Evidence Acupuncture Helps With Infertility

L writes: It was suggested to us that we try acupuncture to get pregnant.  The theory is that it relieves stress.  What are your thoughts on this and is it okay to do? Also, is a chiro okay to use for adjustments?”

To answer your second question first, there is no problem with seeing a chiropractor, provided it is a practitioner who espouses the complimentary form of chiropractics known in the field as a “mixer.” This means the chiropractor is concerned mainly with adjustments and works in tandem with conventional medicine and physical therapy techniques.

The alternative is known as the “straight” chiropractor who espouses the belief of the founder of chiropractics, Daniel Palmer, that some kind of Innate Intelligence or life force energy that used the spine as its main pathway into the body. Besides being a bunch of hooey (there’s no such thing as this life force energy), belief in a universal life force is part of a pantheistic world view that is not compatible with Christianity. This blog will give you a more detailed account of the above.

Now for your first question, there was a time about a decade ago when researchers believed women undergoing IVF treatments had a better chance of conceiving if they underwent acupuncture treatments at the same time.

According to WebMd, a German study of 160 women, published April 2002 in the reproductive journal Fertility and Sterility, found that adding acupuncture to the traditional IVF treatment protocols substantially increased pregnancy success. In that study, 80 patients received two 25-minute acupuncture treatments – one just before and one directly after fertilized embryos were transferred to their uterus. The second group of 80 patients received no acupuncture during their IVF treatments. The result was that while women in both groups got pregnant, the rate was significantly higher in the acupuncture group — 34 pregnancies, compared with 21 in the women who received IVF alone.

However, this was just one of many trials involving more than 2,670 people that were reviewed in 2010 by the British Fertility Society (BFS). When studying all of the trial results, it was determined that acupuncture had no effect on the pregnancy rates of the women involved. According to Professor Adam Balen, head of the BFS policy and practice committee, there was a “a great deal of discrepancy” in the way in which the trials were designed and the type of acupuncture used.

“Any future randomized controlled trials in this area need to ensure that they use a standardized acupuncture method, have a large sample size and include adequate controls to account for any placebo effects,” Professor Balen said.

He went on to recommend that couples should be made aware of a serious lack of evidence of the effect of acupuncture on women’s fertility before putting out their hard earned dollars for these treatments.

One of the world’s leading experts on the efficacy of complementary medicine, Professor Edzard Ernst of Pensinsula Medical School, agreed. 

“Infertile women have been misled for some time now to think that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can help them getting pregnant. This analysis shows two things very clearly: the totality of the acupuncture trials does not support this notion, and for Chinese herbs, we have no evidence at all.

“This will help infertile women not to waste their money or get disappointed by TCM practitioners who behave less than responsibly when recommending these treatments.”

An article appearing on the ScienceBased Medicine website goes into detail about acupuncture and infertility and the studies that have been done in this area. As you’ll read, there were caveats with every study that purported to show a positive effect in women who used acupuncture for infertility problems.

For example, a Cochrane review of multiple studies that looked into the use of acupuncture during embryo transfer (IVF) and found a “beneficial effect on the live birth rate; however, with the present evidence this could be attributed to placebo effect and the small number of women included in the trials.”

As for acupuncture’s effect on stress, this too is a dubious claim that has no scientific support. It might be a better idea to go on a nice relaxing vacation to relieve stress.

Even though every time I say this I am baraged by practitioners who insist on loading up my e-mail box with a slew of biased studies they believe prove otherwise, there is simply no unbiased, evidence-based scientific proof that acupuncture does anything but make people “think” they feel better.

3 Response to “No Evidence Acupuncture Helps With Infertility

  1. I am a Registered Nurse and I was prescribed acupuncture for a bulging disc in my neck several years ago by an orthopedic surgeon. I wasn’t sure about how it would work at first, but was willing to give it a try. When you’ve been in pain off and on for several years, you’ll be open to most anything especially if you have to keep working. I always pray to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to protect me from any untoward effects spiritually and physically when encountering anything that is “different”. One day after experiencing a new onset of “the pain” that had started the night before during work, I had an appointment and had them work on that area. Usually when I had pain starting there in that area, it would last from several weeks to several months. After the treatment that morning, about 2 hours later the pain was gone. I have not had any significant pain in that area since and that was in 1998. Whether it was relaxation / stress relief / or some kind of mind thing, all I can say is it worked for me and made me a believer that there are alternative methods of medicine that are non-invasive – in that there are no toxic substances being introduced into your body.

    I work in Home Health and have to review medications that clients are prescribed and it is mind boggling to say the least that someone taking as many as 21 different medications (not vitamins or minerals) isn’t being “poisoned”, and I find it amazing that they can still function even a little bit. I think that one should educate oneself and fully prepare oneself spiritually before embarking on any form of alternative medicine. But, just because something comes from the “East” doesn’t automatically disqualify it from being a true form of healing!

    Thank you for this opportunity to share some thoughts and an experience.

    Toni Hicks

  2. To answer the question concerning chiropractic, the writer is dead wrong and knows very little about how the body works and is designed. Let me ask you a question, If there were two bodies lying next to each other, one is alive and the other is dead. I ask, what is the difference between the two? They both weight the same, have eyes,ears, and all their organs present but what is missing? Life!! Or spirit you can say..The life force that controls the body! The innate intelligence that god put in your body to give it life! The life force that controls your heart without you thinking about it or allows you to breath without you thinking about it. The innate life force that chiropractors talk about are to help people respect the intelligence within you which god gave us at conception. It’s not a bunch of hooy! It’s an absolute law. Just like gravity exist regardless if you believe it or not and the life force their talking about flows through the nervous system. Cut the spinal cord and what happens? Your Dead! No life force! This is basic science being confused and misleading your readers. Just because someone says “life force” does not mean Its non christian.

    • Unfortunately, there is not a shred of scientific support for the existence of a life force energy or “innate intelligence.” Scientists have been searching for this since the time of Sir Isaac Newton to no avail. And whenever confronted with this fact, many believers in a life force energy try to change the rules mid-game and say they’re talking about a veritable energy force such as electromagnetic or monochromatic or some other form of measurable energy that is well-substantiated by science. However, they are, in fact talking about a putative form of energy that human beings are supposedly infused with – what practitioners of Reiki and dozens of others are purporting to be able to manipulate.
      According to the National Institutes of Health: “These approaches are among the most controversial of complementary and alternative medical practices,” the NIH reports, “because neither the external energy fields nor their therapeutic effects have been demonstrated convincingly by any biophysical means.” If the founder of chiropractics, Daniel Palmer, was truly talking about a veritable form of energy, as Dr. Bryan implies, then why would the entire field of chiropractics have split so definitively over this issue? The problem I have found is that even the practitioners don’t know what they mean by a “life force” and some honestly think it’s a scientific form of energy. Sorry, but it’s not. And unless you can prove otherwise, any further discussion of this is pretty much a mute point.