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Keywords:

  • Acupuncture;
  • IVF;
  • oocyte retrieval;
  • embryo transfer;
  • clinical pregnancy;
  • randomised trials

Background  Numerous randomised studies have reported pregnancy outcome in women who received acupuncture during their in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment cycle.

Objective  The objective of this study was to conduct a systematic review with meta-analysis of the trials of acupuncture during IVF treatment on the outcomes of clinical pregnancy and live birth rates.

Search strategy  Searches were conducted in MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, ISI Proceedings and SCISEARCH.

Selection criteria  All randomised controlled trials that evaluated the effects of acupuncture compared with no treatment or sham acupuncture in women undergoing IVF–intracytoplasmic sperm injection treatment were included.

Data collection and analysis  Study selection, quality appraisal and data extraction were performed independently and in duplicate. A sensitivity analysis was conducted where the meta-analysis was restricted to trials in which sham acupuncture was used in the control group. Meta-regression analysis was used to explore the association between study characteristics and pregnancy rates.

Main results  Thirteen relevant trials, including a total of 2500 women randomised to either acupuncture or control group, were identified. No evidence of publication bias was found (Begg’s test, P = 0.50). Five trials (n = 877) evaluated IVF outcome when acupuncture was performed around the time of transvaginal oocyte retrieval, while eight trials (n = 1623) reported IVF outcome when acupuncture was performed around the time of embryo transfer (ET). Meta-analysis of the five studies of acupuncture around the time of egg collection did not show a significant difference in clinical pregnancy (relative risks [RR] = 1.06, 95% CI 0.82–1.37, P = 0.65). Meta-analysis of the eight studies of acupuncture around the time of ET showed no difference in the clinical pregnancy rate (RR = 1.23, 95% CI 0.96–1.58, P = 0.1). Live birth data were available from five of the eight studies of acupuncture around the time of ET. Meta-analysis of these studies did not show a significant increase in live birth rate with acupuncture (RR = 1.34, 95% CI 0.85–2.11). Using meta-regression, no significant association between any of the studied covariates and clinical pregnancy rate was found (P > 0.05 for all covariates).

Conclusion  Currently available literature does not provide sufficient evidence that adjuvant acupuncture improves IVF clinical pregnancy rate.