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Claims that acupuncture does not boost IVF success are ‘misleading’, says British Acupuncture Council.

Claims that acupuncture does not boost IVF success are ‘misleading’, says British Acupuncture Council.

The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) has issued an official response to a series of recent media articles [1] which have suggested acupuncture is not effective in improving women’s chances of conceiving during IVF.

The articles relate to a study by Smith et al. 2018: Effect of Acupuncture vs Sham Acupuncture on Live Births Among Women Undergoing In Vitro Fertilization, which was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in May. [2].

A spokesperson for the BAcC said: “Due to design limitations of the study and the under-treatment of IVF patients with acupuncture it is misleading to conclude that the use of acupuncture does not improve the rate of live births among women undergoing IVF and that acupuncture has no bearing on the outcome of IVF.

“The acupuncture treatment protocol in this study was based on some earlier research [3] conducted by Professor Smith, during which a number of expert reproductive acupuncturists were consulted on what they believe to be the optimal acupuncture treatment for IVF patients. The consensus was that patients should receive acupuncture during the ovarian stimulation phase at a frequency of “… a minimum of twice weekly treatments to every other day up until the time of the trigger injection.

“However, in the latest study, due to a lack of resources, Professor Smith and her colleagues were only able to offer a single treatment session to patients undergoing ovarian stimulation. She and her co-authors acknowledge that more treatments should have been administered: “In clinical practice acupuncture treatment is individualized with variation in the dosing characteristics of acupuncture, including more frequent treatment prior to and during IVF.

“The acupuncture approach adopted in the research therefore does not reflect the recommendations of the experts who were consulted in the earlier study on the frequency of acupuncture treatment, nor does it reflect how IVF patients are treated in professional acupuncture practice.

“There is research [4] to suggest that traditional acupuncture combined with other Chinese medicine treatment modalities and lifestyle advice (Whole Systems TCM) does have an impact on pregnancy and live birth rates in IVF patients.

“The British Acupuncture Council advocates that IVF patients who wish to have acupuncture should receive an appropriate number of treatments based on their consultation and review.”

Notes to Editors

For further information, case studies or interviews please contact: Katie Osborne at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 07990 922615

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jun/18/how-ivf-became-a-licence-to-print-money#comments
  2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevensalzberg/2018/06/04/and-what-else-is-acupuncture-good-for/#3ff0733bab85
  3. https://blogs.babycenter.com/pregnancy/study-acupuncture-doesnt-boost-fertility/
  4. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/acupuncture-ivf-placebo-sham-treatment-birth-rate-clinical-trial-a8352711.html
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/may/16/acupuncture-doesnt-improve-likelihood-of-ivf-success-study-finds
  1. Smith CA, de Lacey S, Chapman M et al. Effect of acupuncture vs sham acupuncture on live births among women undergoing in vitro fertilization: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2018; 319:1990–1998.
  2. Smith CA, Grant S, Lyttleton J et al. Using a Delphi consensus process to develop an acupuncture treatment protocol by consensus for women undergoing Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) treatment. BMC Complement Altern Med 2012;12:88.
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4458185/

Why use a BAcC practitioner?

It is very important to check your acupuncturist is safe and competent. Acupuncture in the UK is not currently regulated by government, although this is expected to change in the near future.

All members of the BAcC can offer the following assurances:

  • BSc or BA degree level training or its equivalent in traditional acupuncture, Chinese medicine and western biomedical sciences including anatomy, physiology and pathology (3,600 hours of study)
  • Compliance with current UK health and safety legislation
  • Full medical malpractice and public/products liability insurance cover
  • Expert practice skills maintained by following a mandatory individual programme of continuing professional development (CPD)
  • Regular updates from the BAcC regarding practitioners’ professional obligations to the public
  • Compliance with BAcC Code of Safe Practice and Code of Professional Conduct
  • Patient access to BAcC complaints and disciplinary procedures
  • English language skills at least equivalent to those required of doctors and nurses working in the UK
  • Acupuncturists registered with the BAcC carry the letters MBAcC after their name.

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Katie Osborne

Tel: 07990 922615