Most women undergoing infertility treatment experience increased anxiety.  In a randomized clinical trial, researchers explored the effectiveness of acupuncture in diminishing anxiety in a group of women undergoing IVF.  43 patients undergoing IVF received either active acupuncture (n=22) or sham treatment (n=21).  Women with a history of psychiatric illness and those using antidepressants and/or anxiolytic drugs were excluded from the study.  Anxiety levels were assessed before and after treatment using the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAS).

Each patient was given a total of four sessions of acupuncture. In the active treatment group, needles were inserted at points HT7, PC6, CV17, GV20 and Yintang.  In the control group, needles were inserted in areas near but not corresponding to these acupuncture points.

Mean anxiety scores after 4 weeks were significantly lower in the active treatment group than in the control group (19.4±3.2 vs. 24.4±4.2; p=0.008).  The number of patients experiencing a reduction of > 30% (considered a response for treatment) was significantly higher in the treatment group than in the control group (68.2% vs. 14.3%).

Given that acupuncture resulted in a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms, the authors suggest further studies to determine whether acupuncture might be a complementary option for patients undergoing IVF.  Because women with histories of psychiatric illness were excluded from this study, however, we do not know whether this intervention will be as successful in this population.

One of the other big questions is whether reducing anxiety levels (using acupuncture or other interventions) may increase the likelihood of IVF success.

Ruta Nonacs, MD PhD

Isoyama D, et al.  Effect of acupuncture on symptoms of anxiety in women undergoing in vitro fertilisation: a prospective randomised controlled study.

Reviewed in Medscape (free with registration)