Wednesday, March 10

New Study 'Acupuncture Fails to Improve IVF Outcomes'

Acupuncture has been used to treat infertility for three thousand years usually in conjunction with herbal medicine.

The current study done in the U.K. which states that the studies found no efficacy in helping couples conceive with the addition of acupuncture contradicts a previous study reported by The British Medical Journal. The synopsis of the study follows.

"February 8, 2008

Vittorio Hernandez - AHN News Writer

London, England (AHN) - Seven scientific trials among 1,366 women of different ages who found it difficult to conceive showed that having acupuncture at the same time the embryo was placed inside the womb during an in vitro fertilization procedure more than doubles the chance of the woman becoming pregnant.

The study was made by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the VU University Amsterdam. It compared results of women who underwent acupuncture, those who were given fake needle treatments and those who had no extra therapy.

Those who received acupuncture increased their chances of conceiving by 65 percent, the study said. The British Medical Journal published the result of the medical breakthrough Friday.

While the study did not clearly explain how acupuncture aids fertility, experts theorized it could possibly be the relaxing effect of acupuncture on the IVF procedure, considered extremely stressful.

Compared with repeated fertility treatment cycles which costs $7,785 (4,000 pound) per cycle in Britain, the acupuncture therapy is easier on the pocket.

One percent of births in the U.K. or 11,000 babies out of 32,000 IVF procedures are born every year in the U.K. The findings will be particularly significant for many western nations grappling with dwindling populations."

I have questions as to the new and negative study:
1. Was the acupuncture performed by experts in the field of acupuncture and infertility? This is as important as being treated by a physician who is an expert in the treatment of infertility, i.e., a reproductive endocrinologist, not a generalist.
2. How long was the acupuncture performed pre embryo transfer and at what frequency? Through treating thousands of patients over a span of thirteen years I have found that treating twice weekly for three months prior to IVF ET and twice weekly for 13 weeks post IVF ET is the efficacious protocol.

From my own experience I can share that I have treated thousands of infertile couples, hundreds of whom conceived while under my care but were unsuccessful without it. I have also had many failed cases. This type of outcome is not dissimilar to that of the typical reproductive endocrinologist.

IVF Et fails 65% to 70% of the time. Many of the ‘failed cases’ go on to conceive on their own without assisted reproductive medicine proving that there is more to a successful conception than that which is solely provided by A.R.T. alone.

I urge the readers not to have a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to this recent bad press and think logically about the points that I have elucidated in this article.

The other thing that I’d like to state is that herbal medicine is the medicine which most reproductive endocrinologists tell their patients not to use. Most of my patients use a combination of acupuncture and herbs while under my care and they have successful outcomes frequently. This is not an indication that acupuncture alone won’t help; it obviously does. Want proof? Simply ask the thousands of patients who have conceived with the implementation of acupuncture who did not conceive prior to its use.

My point about the herbs is that without them it is similar to having a reproductive endocrinologist do an IVF ET with a patient using clomid only. Yes; there would be positive outcomes but not nearly as many as would have occurred had the reproductive endocrinologist been allowed to utilize all the tools at her or his disposal.

The use of acupuncture and herbal medicine for fertility treatment has been extant for thousands of years; the first in vitro fertilization techniques occurred in the U.K. in the 1970’s.

There are many Chinese medical books written on the subject. In China today many infertile patients use both Western and Chinese medicine together when treating for infertility and most other disorders. This is typically recommended by the Chinese medical doctor handling the case.

Here is another question which I frequently ponder: the doctor states that the patient has beautiful blastocysts and a perfect lining. The patient does not conceive and the doctor then states “I just don’t understand it.” This speaks to the fact that much of infertility is a mystery and many interventions which are successful are also quite mysterious. For example, there are probably ultra- structural defects in sperm and/or egg which are currently beyond the scope of available diagnostic tools. These defects render the “beautiful blastocyst” not, in fact, not so beautiful.

Perhaps when acupuncture or acupuncture and herbs are included in the protocol, and success manifests it is because the Chinese medicine is addressing these ultra structural defects which Western medicine cannot.

Contrary to this single study, there are many studies all over the internet which attest to the efficacy of acupuncture in the arena of increasing take home babies.

I would also like to say that ALL IVF business is down through the United States because of changing demographics and due to a poor economy. I am wondering if the individuals who were involved in putting this study together might have some financial motives in mind by ‘steering’ more money to their practices. I say this with caution as the reproductive endocrinologists whom I know are all men and women of the highest integrity. But, at the end of the day, IVF is a business.

I always tell my patients to use all legitimate materials they have at their disposal to increase the odds of a successful outcome. These tools include dietary changes, exercise, meditation, acupuncture, herbs, and IUI or IVF when appropriate. I caution those who are willing to give up tools with a history of success in creating families.

Mike Berkley, L.Ac., FABORM
Founder and Director, The Berkley Center for Reproductive Wellness

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