Acupuncture, herbs may lower IVF success, say Israeli researchers

Newborn baby (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Newborn baby
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Complementary medicine techniques have been found to lower the success rates of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) used to achieve a pregnancy, according to a new Israeli study.
In the last decade, there has been a significant increase in the percentage of patients who choose complementary or alternative therapy, but few studies have examined its effectiveness.
Researchers at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center and the Hebrew University-Hadassah Brain School of Public Health and Community Medicine, along with others at Assuta Medical Center in Tel Aviv studied the results of IVF procedures on 400 women aged 44 to 48 who had fertility problems.
The research, published recently in the journal International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, was conducted by Anat Porat-Katz, under the supervision of Prof. Ora Paltiel of the public health school and Prof. Talia Eldar-Geva, head of SZMC’s endocrinology and fertility genetics unit. Dr. Arik Kahana of Assuta also participated in the research.
A total of 400 women aged 18 to 44 undergoing IVF in their first, second or third cycle were asked whether they had undergone complementary medicine treatment – acupuncture or herbs – during the process. One hundred and thirty- four of the women reported that they had indeed undergone complementary medicine techniques, in the hope they would increase their chance of success in getting pregnant.
Eldar-Geva, chairman of the Israel Society for Fertility Research, explained that due to its concern about uncontrolled use of medicinal herbs and acupuncture, the medical team began collecting data about the use of complementary medicine among patients.
The team found that many of those who underwent complementary medicine treatments did not inform any of their doctors about it.
“Among the measures we examined were the quality of the embryos before their insertion into the womb, success rate of treatments and other measures of women from both groups [those that used complementary medicine and those that didn’t]. We found that patients who reported using complementary medicine during the treatments showed a decrease in the quality of the embryos and uterine lining, which were liable to impair the success rate of IVF treatments,” Eldar-Geva said.
The researchers recommended that patients be made aware of the importance of providing their physicians with complete information about “unconventional” treatments and inform them that, contrary to expectations, such treatments may have a negative effect on fertility outcomes.