(NauralNews) The use of acupuncture raises the odds of a successful in vitro fertilization by 65 percent, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Maryland Medical School and published in the British Medical Journal.
In vitro fertilization involves inserting a needle into a woman's ovaries to retrieve her eggs, fertilizing them in a laboratory and then reimplanting them into her uterus. It is an intensive and costly process that does not always result in successful pregnancy.
Researchers conducted an analysis of seven prior studies on the effectiveness of acupuncture in increasing the success of in vitro fertilization, involving a total of 1,366 women. For every 10 women undergoing in vitro fertilization and acupuncture together, the researchers found, one extra pregnancy would result compared with women who used in vitro fertilization alone.
"We offer acupuncture to all our in vitro fertilization patients" said Brian Kaplan, a fertility specialist at Fertility Centers of Illinois.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice of inserting needles into the body at specific points ("meridians"). The researchers were unable to determine why acupuncture improved the success of the in vitro fertilization process, but they noted that one of acupuncture's traditional uses has long been to regulate female reproduction.
Researchers speculate that acupuncture might improve the flow of blood to the uterus, thus increasing the chance that a fertilized embryo will implant successfully. In addition, acupuncture might help the body produce more of the hormones that regulate ovulation and fertility, as well as hormones that reduce stress.
Stress has long been known to have a negative effect on fertility.
A long-term study by different researchers is currently underway to determine if acupuncture is as effective at improving fertility when needles are inserted at sham meridians, or if the proper placement of needles actually makes a difference.
Approximately 10 to 15 percent of couples in the United States seek specialized fertility treatments to overcome a difficulty in becoming pregnant.