Background: Assisted reproductive technologies (ART), including intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilisation and embryo transfer (IVF-ET), have been widely applied in the treatment of infertility; however, the general success rate is hovering around 30% even for IVF-ET due to various situations, such as poor ovarian response, recurrent implantation failure, etc. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture may play an active role as supplementary medicine in these difficult situations and improving the success rate of ART.
Objectives: We aim to investigate and evaluate current evidence of applying TCM and acupuncture in the area of ART.
Methods: We searched the Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) with the following keywords: traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, reproductive medicine, assisted reproductive technology, intrauterine insemination, IVF-ET, and tubal baby.
Results: Our literature search yielded 104 results, among which, 60 were included in the full-text screening stage. Those excluded were generally literature discussing the application of TCM/acupuncture in the primary treatment of infertility, e.g. ovulation dysfunction, tubal occlusion. Of the 60 full-text articles (ranging from 2002 to 2016), 47 were journal articles and the other 13 were master's or doctoral dissertations. No systematic review and meta-analysis is available. Most of the journal articles were reviews and case reports. 24 were original clinical researches, while only 8 and 6 were prospective, randomised clinical trials (RCT) investigating the effectiveness and safety of TCM and acupuncture, respectively. In terms of the quality of the RCTs, randomisation was performed with a variety of quality, most of the studies not able to undertake the masking/blinding, and the sample size was generally limited.
Conclusions: TCM and acupuncture have been widely applied in ART, particularly for difficult cases with failed ART experience. We will further investigate their effectiveness and safety in ART, evaluate the quality of the evidence and report the results in the near future, in order to guide the clinical application of such treatment.