Pacific Wellness Institute Clinic: Bloor-Yorkville Toronto

Treatment of infertility by acupuncture and breathing exercise: Part 8 Discussion


Treatment of Infertility by Acupuncture According to Circalunar and Cardiac Variability Rhythms

Tim H. Tanaka, Ph.D. Director, The Pacific Wellness Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada Visiting Research Fellow, School of Health Sciences, Tsukuba University of Technology, Japan

A part of this paper was presented at WFAS International Acupuncture Congress, cosponsored by World Health Organization, in Beijing, China, Oct. 2007.

Page updated on January 31, 2008


A growing number of patients visited our clinic seeking acupuncture for their fertility difficulties.  Patients who visited our clinic during the two year period between Jan. 1 2004 and Dec. 31 2005 for their ongoing fertility concerns were examined.

It should be noted that while the majority of IVF patients reported pregnancy after ultrasound showing fetal heart beat (57%) or post delivery (25%), some others reported positive beta HCG test(s) results only (18%).  This is one of the limitations of this study. It is also important to note that IVF outcomes vary greatly depending on factors such as patient’s age, medical background, partner’s sperm quality, types of IVF (fresh, frozen, use of donor eggs, etc.) and IVF program attended.  In order to draw any conclusion about the extent, if any, that acupuncture impacted the outcome, it is necessary to design a prospective randomized study with a control group containing comparative patients’ backgrounds and IVF procedures.  Pregnancy rates across the different age groups are not provided in this paper due to small sample sizes.  Pregnancy rate data for natural and IUI cases is not included in this paper due to methodological difficulties (small sample size, missing data, drop out cases, transferred to IVF, etc.).

Although it is well known that advancement of age is negatively associated with conception rate, in this study there was relatively no difference between pregnancy (35.9 years ±4.1) and non-pregnancy group (35.6 years ±3.7).   Subcategorized comparison among natural, IUI, and IVF patients also did not show any average age differences between pregnant and non-pregnant group. There were 34 natural pregnancy cases without use of ART. Mean number of acupuncture treatments received prior to first pregnancy was lower (9.7±5.7 visits) for natural compared to IUI (15.3±7.4 visits) and IVF (15.8±8.4 visits) groups.  It should be stated that a substantial number of patients who had initially intended to conceive naturally moved on to IUI or IVF after a few natural cycles with acupuncture.  This is likely one of the main reasons why the average number of treatments prior to pregnancy is lower among natural pregnancy cases. Many other patients, however, elected not to proceed to IVF or other ART interventions due to various reasons (medical, financial, religious, etc.) and chose to attempt to conceive naturally with acupuncture sessions over a number of cycles. Some of those patients eventually conceived naturally following a number of acupuncture sessions (over 25 sessions).

There were 3 patients who were receiving acupuncture for their upcoming IVF cycle when they conceived naturally. These were considered extremely difficult cases without assistance of IVF: Two cases had been recommended donor egg IVF due to previous IUI and IVF failures which were possibly related to their advanced age. Bilateral fallopian tube blockage had been indicated in one case. Those pregnancy cases are certainly intriguing and similar remarkable successes have been continuously observed from time to time in our facility. However the mechanisms of how acupuncture worked are unknown and these cases should be considered exceptional until more solid, non-anecdotal data becomes available.

In conclusion, although the overall clinical result at The Pacific Wellness Institute seem favorable and quite promising, the previous randomized clinical trials, conducted at different facilities, have yielded conflicting outcomes.  Difference in sample populations, trial protocol, various confounding factors, and type of acupuncture used (points, stimulation methods, frequency, duration, training/experience of acupuncturists, etc.) could be attributed to the ambiguous results. The results described in this paper are based on retrospective clinical observation study.  Carefully designed prospective RCTs and consequent systematic review are required in order to clarify the efficacy of acupuncture for female infertility.

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