Acupuncture may help some women conceive through in-vitro fertilization (IVF), a new analysis of past research concludes. But the true benefit in the real world, if any, remains unclear.
The technique has been used for millennia in traditional Chinese medicine, for a whole range of ills.
Ten years ago, a study in Germany was the first clinical trial to report that acupuncture seemed to improve pregnancy rates in women undergoing IVF. But since then research has turned up mixed results.
"I counsel women that the literature is not convincing yet that (acupuncture) helps you get pregnant," said Dr. Frederick Licciardi, who heads the New York University Fertility Center's mind/body program.
At the center, women can opt for acupuncture sessions, yoga and other "mind/body" services, but that's aimed at easing stress and promoting general "wellness" -- not at boosting IVF success, said Licciardi.
Clinical trials on the issue so far have been small, and often of questionable quality.
So for the new study, reported in the journal Fertility and Sterility, Chinese researchers conducted what's called a meta-analysis -- where researchers combine the results of past studies to try to get an idea of the overall picture.
Dr. Cui Hong Zheng and colleagues at Tongji Medical College pooled the results of 24 small clinical trials testing the effects of acupuncture in women undergoing IVF.