The latest evidence for acupuncture during IVF and ICSI

Figures from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (2018) indicate that the birth rate following assisted reproduction is only 21% to 22% (fresh and frozen transfer).  In 2018 a comprehensive review and analysis was conducted to investigate the effects of acupuncture during IVF and ICSI. Twelve randomised controlled trials which included 3,188 women were included in the review.

Key points from the review are:

  • Acupuncture significantly improved the live birth rate of women undergoing IVF or ICSI.

  • Acupuncture may be a suitable treatment option to help reduce stress and anxiety levels for women undergoing assisted reproduction techniques.

  • The effectiveness of acupuncture may be dependent on a sufficient number of treatments over an adequate time period.

There is a need for further research on the effect of number and frequency of acupuncture sessions. Nevertheless, current research suggests that acupuncture during different stages of the IVF and ICSI cycle, with an increase in frequency during ovarian stimulation and around the time of transfer, can have a positive effect on clinical pregnancy and live birth rate.

Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (2018). Fertility treatment 2014–2016: trends and figures. Available at: media/2563/hfea-fertility-trends-and-figures-2017-v2.pdf.

Zhang X, Lee MS, Smith CA, Robinson N, Zhou Y, Wu Y, Mao Y-Y, Qu F (2018). Effects of acupuncture during in vitro fertilization or intracytoplasmic sperm injection: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Integrative Medicine 23:14–25. 2 ​


Helen Stafford BA, LicAc, MBAcC

Exeter Acupuncture Clinic @

Cathedral Chiropractic and Acupuncture Clinic

6 Southernhay West,

​Exeter, EX1 1JG

Bookings: 01392 221122

Enquiries: 07814 304424

To find out more about how acupuncture can help with fertility problems view this excellent short film by Irina Szmelskyj from the Fertility Foundation. 

​​Helen Stafford Acupuncture

     01392 221122

Helen is registered with SImplyhealth

 B.A. LicAc. MBAcC

Exeter Acupuncture Clinic - Helen Stafford Acupuncturist



I am a member of the Acupuncture Fertility Network (AFN). The AFN is a professional special interest group and forum for acupuncturists who are dedicated in the use of traditional acupuncture in the treatment of fertility. AFN practitioners have done a minimum of 14 hours integrated training in gynaecology, with a specific emphasis on training to support assisted protocols.  I have received training from practitioners renowned in the field, such as Jani White and Debra Betts.  I am committed to ongoing post graduate study in gynaecology and fertility and am  keen to keep up to date with current treatment practices.

According to the Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority, an estimated 1 in 7 couples have difficulty conceiving. For those couples who have been told that they have 'unexplained infertility' and who go on to try assisted conception, acupuncture can offer a great support. It is also helpful for couples who feel they wish to try enhancing their own fertility in hope of a natural conception. Someresearch studies show that acupuncture alongside IVF treatment can increase conception rates.  The British Medical Journal published a study in 2008 - Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilisation: systematic review and meta-analysis, which concluded that 'Current preliminary evidence suggests that acupuncture given with embryo transfer improves rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilisation.'


Acupuncture treatment can help with fertility in several ways: addressing imbalances, reducing stress, reviewing diet and supporting the body through assisted conception programmes. Treatment is tailored for the individual. A thorough case history will help to identify constitutional weaknesses, as well as problems caused by external factors, which may have an impact on fertility.


Modern life is hectic and can be stressful, which is not very conducive to fertility. Trying for a baby naturally or embarking upon assisted conception can add to the stress. In Chinese medicine it is recognised that stress has a negative effect on the flow of energy and functioning of our bodies, which is undesirable for a couple trying to conceive. Acupuncture can help to move this energy; reduces stress and anxiety; and is very relaxing.


Chinese dietary theory is designed to address individual needs. We all differ in constitution and respond differently to specific foods. People are often unwittingly choosing foods which do not suit their constitution, which in turn undermines their health. Simple changes can make a huge difference. Clients will be given advice regarding their diet, to help to create better health and therefore improve chances of conception.


Acupuncture for female fertility helps by regulating the menstrual cycle and addressing specific problems such as PMT, scanty or excessive bleeds, irregular cycles, mid cycle bleeds, headaches, menstrual pain, etc. Acupuncture can also help with conditions such as endometriosis and PCOS, which can both affect fertility.



For women undergoing IVF treatment, the medication programme can have unpleasant side effects. Acupuncture can help the body to cope better with the drugs and can help with the associated stress and anxiety that many women experience.

There are some studies which suggest that acupuncture can reduce stress, regulate fertility hormones, increase blood flow to the reproductive organs, increase egg production and egg quality and promote embryo implantation. To read more about these studies visit the British Acupuncture Council website. 



Fertility difficulties in a third of all cases,  are related to male problems, such as a low sperm count. It takes 3 months for sperm to be produced within the body. It is therefore advisable that acupuncture treatment begins 3 months before embarking upon assisted fertility treatment. 

Some clinical trials have produced promising results, suggesting that acupuncture helps male fertility by improving: sperm motility (Dieterle 2009), sperm count (Siterman 2009, Siterman 2001) and sperm quality (Pei 2005; Gurfinkel 2003). Another study indicated that acupuncture has a beneficial effect on erectile dysfunction with a pyschological basis (Engelhardt 2003). Although acupuncture research in this area is in its early stages and is limited, results are positive.

Book an appointment or contact Helen Stafford in the Exeter Acupuncture Clinic if you would like more information about treatment. 







                      EXETER ACUPUNCTURE CLINIC ​  

Bookings: 01392 221122      Enquiries: 07814 304424

​​Acupuncture doubles the success of IVF

A study carried out at Homerton University Hospital in London, indicated that acupuncture alongside IVF doubled the conception rate of the participants. The study involved 127 women on their first or second cycle of IVF. The women were split into 2 groups. The first had 4 sessions of acupuncture during the IVF process, whereas the second group did not receive acupuncture. In the acupuncture group, 46.2% conceived, compared with the non acupuncture group where just 21.7% became pregnant. The positive effect of the acupuncture may be due to changes in biomedical factors, including hormones, endorphins and serotonin. Such positive results indicate that acupuncture may be offered as a possible method of improving IVF outcomes.

​Article link: The Telegraph


'I started going to Helen for acupuncture when I commenced IVF treatment. I have recently given birth totwins following the first cycle!

Helen has been wonderful- gentle, caring and knowledgeable. I always found the sessions relaxing (I often fell asleep) and Helen helped keep my IVF journey as stress free as possible. I truly believe that it is at least in part thanks to Helen that I was able to conceive twins on the first try. I highly recommend.'


I highly recommend Helen! I have seen her for acupuncture treatments both prior to and during my pregnancy. Helen is very kind, professional, knowledgable and puts you immediately at ease. The treatments have been effective and I always feel so calm and relaxed after the sessions. Would not hesitate to recommend Helen to anyone!