Acupuncture to ease IVF anxiety

12 March 2019

Anxiety and low quality of life are experienced by women during and following an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle. Australian researchers have reported results from an Australian and New Zealand clinical trial involving over 800 women that showed undertaking acupuncture during an IVF cycle may reduce anxiety. Their findings are published in the April obstetrics and Gynaecology journal, Acta obstetricia et gynecologica Scandinavica.(opens in a new window)

The medical researchers from NICM Health Research Institute (NICM), Western Sydney University, Flinders University, UNSW Sydney, University of South Australia, University of Adelaide say a psycho-social benefit from acupuncture was reported by women undergoing IVF.

Findings of the study which focused on women across 16 IVF clinics, aged 18-42 and undergoing a fresh IVF cycle during June 2011 and October 2015, revealed that acupuncture treatment significantly reduced the feeling of anxiety compared to sham acupuncture (non-insertive acupuncture placed at locations away from known acupuncture points) on the day of embryo transfer. This effect was however not sustained at the 14-week follow-up.

Quality of life was not improved for those using acupuncture versus sham acupuncture, something the researchers suggested may be due to women often feeling discomfort, tiredness and mood changes from the IVF treatment regime and injections.

In addition, the study reported that women experienced a high level of anxiety before treatmentand thisremained high three months after an IVF cycle. Previous studies have reported up to 25 per cent of women are at risk of clinical distress following IVF treatment. While many IVF clinics offer support services, these are not necessarily widely used.

Chief Investigator of the trial, Professor Smith at NICM Health Research Institute says acupuncture can play a role in helping to manage the anxiety experienced during IVF.

“Undertaking IVF is an emotional rollercoaster and we have a growing body of evidence that acupuncture can provide an important source of support to women at this time.”

“Our findings form part of the secondary outcomes of our NHMRC funded clinical trial – and while the primary outcomes we reported on earlier (opens in a new window) showed a short course of acupuncture may statistically be no better than sham at improving live birth and pregnancy outcomes, a psycho-social benefit from acupuncture was reported by women undergoing IVF.

“Acupuncture reduced anxiety on the day of embryo transfer, although the effects were not sustained. Further research is needed, and there is a need for ongoing psycho‐social support post‐treatment when completing an IVF treatment cycle,” says Professor Smith.

The trial was funded by an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (project grant APP 1003661). The paper, The effects of acupuncture on the secondary outcomes of anxiety and quality of life for women undergoing IVF: A randomized controlled trial, can be accessed at (opens in a new window)