Effects of Acupuncture in IVF

  • Research type

    Research Study

  • Full title

    Randomised controlled trial to investigate the mechanistic effect of acupuncture at the time of IVF embryo transfer on modulators of human implantation and fertility-related stress.



  • Contact name

    Nitish N Narvekar

  • Contact email


  • Sponsor organisation

    Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

  • Duration of Study in the UK

    0 years, 11 months, 14 days

  • Research summary

    In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is the mainstay of infertility treatment and world-wide demand is increasing by 5-10% per annum. Despite technological advances, we appear to have reached a threshold for success and the current live birth rate in the UK is approximately 25%. Successful IVF outcome is limited by a lack of understanding in the key areas of embryo selection and implantation.

    The complimentary therapy, acupuncture, is rapidly gaining popularity as an adjunctive therapy to IVF. It is very benign, minimally invasive and has virtually no adverse side-effects. However, the results of clinical research investigating the effect of acupuncture on IVF success are inconclusive due to the way the studies have been designed, and the differences between the patients selected to participate. Overall however, research shows that the provision of acupuncture treatments immediately before and after embryo transfer has either no effect, or significantly increases embryo implantation rates.

    Other research has shown that acupuncture reduces mental stress and also changes the way stress hormones affect the neurological / hormonal (neuro-endocrine) and immune systems underlying sub-fertility. The physical effect of acupuncture on human implantation and fertility stress is poorly understood.

    We propose an exploratory mechanistic study to evaluate the effect of acupuncture treatment immediately before and after embryo transfer on physiological and psychological stress, and on neuro and immune modulators of human implantation. Eighty patients attending the Assisted Conception Unit at Kings College Hospital, London, for their IVF treatment will be recruited to the study. The study will last a year.

    Improving IVF outcomes has major benefits for both patients and NHS. Although the long-term benefit of reducing chronic stress and depression related to repeated IVF failure is difficult to quantify, the immediate benefits are: Commissioners would get more live births per unit population and patients would benefit both emotionally and financially.

  • REC name

    West of Scotland REC 5

  • REC reference


  • Date of REC Opinion

    3 Dec 2014

  • REC opinion

    Favourable Opinion