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Herbal aid to fertility 'just waste of money'

Couples who turn to acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to boost their chances of having a baby are wasting their time, experts said today.

New guidelines from the British Fertility Society (BFS), which represents fertility clinics, said there was "currently no evidence" that the complementary treatments can improve the success of assisted conception.

They also found nothing to support the use of Chinese herbal remedies to help women get pregnant.

A leading expert on complementary treatments commenting on the findings said women with fertility problems had been "misled".

The BFS advice followed a systematic review of all reliable published trials looking at acupuncture administered at the same time as fertility treatment.

Information was gathered from a total of 14 studies involving 2,670 patients.

All were published randomised controlled trials which compared patients randomly assigned to receive "real" or "fake" treatments.

Acupuncture is an ancient form of Chinese medicine in which fine needles are inserted into the skin to alter the flow of energy through the body. In a typical treatment, between four and 10 needles are placed along energy channels called "meridians" for 10 to 30 minutes.

The BFS experts examined the effect of acupuncture on live births, pregnancies and miscarriages.

They found it did not matter at what stage of In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatment it was carried out, acupuncture made no significant difference to any outcomes.

The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) said it was "somewhat surprised" by the findings, which contradicted previous research.

It insisted there had been "significant research" showing that the treatment could help couples trying for a baby and "aid the conception process".