medicine

Acupuncture and Infertility

Acupuncture and IVF pregnancy rates: Princeton IVF blog
New study sheds doubt on whether acupuncture really helps IVF pregnancy rates

Lots of women seek out acupuncture to help them get pregnant, but does it really help?

Complementary and alternative medical treatments have become very popular for treating and preventing diseases, including the treatment of infertility. This may including vitamins and herbs and treatments such as acupuncture.

A number of researchers have found that acupuncture does improve fertility, at least in women who are undergoing IVF treatment, but some have not.

In order to figure out what it really going on, a group of doctors in Australia studies 824 women undergoing in vitro fertilization at their clinic. Half got real acupuncture (meaning the needles were placed in the right place according to acupuncture practice guidelines) and in the other half of patients, the needles were placed in locations that were not expected to have any effect. We call this last treatment "sham" acupuncture. They compared outcomes between the two groups.

They found out that women who had sham acupuncture were no more likely to get pregnant than those who had acupuncture done correctly. The pregnancy rates in these two groups were almost identical.

So what does this mean?

It is likely that acupuncture does not improve the chances for success with IVF, and if it does, the benefit is likely very small.

Were there any benefits to acupuncture in these women?

Yes. Women who received acupuncture were more relaxed and had a better sense of well being that those who had only sham acupuncture. This is not a small issue since IVF treatment is very stressful to the couples who are going through it.

Knowing this, should I still get acupuncture done?

Acupuncture is safe and comforting even if it may not be effective in IVF treatment. Other than the cost if it is not covered, there is really no risk to trying it.

IVF no longer covered where it all started

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The first IVF baby Louise Brown was conceived near Cambridge, England over 3 decades ago...

Now it turns out that National Health Service in Cambridgeshire will no longer cover IVF treatment in the place where it all began.

It is sad but true according the BBC...

The UK with its single payer government health system, like all other health systems, has limited funds and been forced to make a decision on where to cut. In Cambridgeshire, coverage for IVF was one of those cuts even though ivf treatment is recommended by the nhs' own guidelines.

In the United States, where we have a more fragmented system, some states such as New Jersey where we are located, mandate coverage. While the law remains intact and recently was amended to expand the definition of infertility, health care reform laws such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare) has actually reduced the number of women in our state who are covered for fertility treatment. When faced with multiple mandates, employers and insurers are forced to make decisions where to cut to control their premiums.

While there is plenty of talk these days about advocating a single payer government controlled system, it is not clear that such a change will benefit couples with infertility. While some countries with national health care systems do cover IVF and other treatments, it is often the first item on the chopping block when costs are getting out of control. It is certainly the case in Britain.

For those who advocate for the availability of treatment of infertile couples, be careful what you wish for. Increased access to medical care does not necessarily mean increaseD access to fertility care.