Fertility Research

A note on Chinese Medicine research -

Chinese Medicine (usually Acupuncture and herbs) has been used for thousands of years to assist women with their health, from puberty to pregnancy to menopause and beyond. It is an amazing system of medicine that has spread across the globe and helped millions of people. While Chinese Medicine isn't the answer for all people for all conditions, a growing body of research is confirming the efficacy of Chinese Medicine! It isn't always smooth sailing though.

Obtaining large volumes of Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine high-quality data can be tricky for three reasons:

  • Chinese Medicine individualises its treatments according to the patients presenting symptoms. The beauty of it is that you’re receiving personalised care. This doesnt fit very well into a scientific trial where everything needs to be standardised in order to ‘prove’ that something works.
  • Its hard to rule out the placebo effect. Excellent studies have a group comparing the treatment to a ‘fake treatment’ to see which is better. Its hard to do ‘fake Acupuncture’. Given theres more than 300 Acupuncture points on the body, even when researchers choose an Acupuncture point away from the other Acupuncture points, it may be very close to another point thats having a positive effect on the body, which confuses results.
    While its very important to prove that Acupuncture works better than doing nothing, better than the standard of care treatments AND better than placebo, its important to know that placebo effects play a role in any kind of medicine/trial and is often hard to rule out. Eg feeling better after seeing a doctor or taking a tablet.
  • While there is some excellent research coming out across the globe from universities and other institutions, big research projects cost lots of money and that kind of funding isnt always easily accessible for Chinese Medicine research.

Some useful jargon to know: 

The most conclusive form of research available is a Systematic Review. This reviews many Randomized Control Trials (RCT’s – subjects don't know which treatment they are getting) and takes into consideration how good the methodology of the studies are. A systematic review may say there isn't much proof if some studies aren't well conducted, don't contain a big enough sample size or if some study results contradict other study results - so finding systematic reviews 'proving' a finding can be challenging in all fields of science and there may well be positive evidence but just not enough. 

Acupuncture & IVF - 

For the latest research from 2018, you can read my fully referenced blog on Acupuncture & IVF

In a Systematic Review of high quality RCT’s, Jo et al 2017 found “Acupuncture may increase the clinical pregnancy rate and ongoing pregnancy rate and decrease the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome in women with PCOS undergoing IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection”

A 2015 Systematic Review by K. Ried of 40 RCT's studying 4000+ women  found "Chinese Herbal Medicine can improve pregnancy rates 2-fold within a 3-6 month period compared with Western medical fertility drug therapy" "Mean pregnancy rates in the CHM group were 60% compared with 33% in the WM group" In addition to the pregnancy outcomes, "fertility indicators such as ovulation rates, cervical mucus score, biphasic basal body temperature, and appropriate thickness of the endometrial lining were positively influenced by Chinese Herbal Medicine"

Although not a Systematic Review of RCT's, this 2015 study of 1069 women in California, found that Whole System Chinese Medicine (individualised treatments) with weekly treatments resulted in "more live births compared to IVF alone and compared to day of transfer only Acupuncture" 

Although earlier Systematic Reviews found that evidence for the effectiveness of Acupuncture used to support IVF or other assisted reproductive technology was “unclear”, a more recent systematic review by Qian et al 2016 found that
“Based on an analysis of the studies, Acupuncture improves the CPR [clinical pregnancy rate] among women undergoing IVF.”

Shen et al 2015 found that “Acupuncture is ineffective when used only on the day of oocyte retrieval but effective when used on the day of embryo transfer ”

Though a singular Randomised Control Trial isnt as strong a piece of evidence as a Systematic Review, this RCT from Westergaard et al 2006 found “Acupuncture on the day of ET significantly improves the reproductive outcome of IVF/ICSI, compared with no acupuncture.”

Every woman is different, if you would like to find out how we would address your unique situation, please contact us directly.