Acupuncture is thought to stimulate blood flow to the uterus and boost the production of endogenous opioids, inducing the body to relax / Getty Images

Acupuncture may offer a cheap, safe and efficient way of boosting success rates in fertility treatment, researchers have found.

Women undergoing IVF were 65 per cent more likely to become pregnant when they combined the procedure with the ancient complementary technique using needles, a study has shown.

The remarkable success rate occurred across seven acupuncture trials involving 1,366 women.

Acupuncture was delivered either just before or just after embryo transfer – the moment when the embryo fertilised in the laboratory must attach itself to the wall of the womb to establish a pregnancy.

The research was carried out by scientists from the University of Maryland in America and the VU University Amsterdam in Holland. They claim that because acupuncture costs only about £50 per session compared to £4,000 to £6,000 per cycle for IVF it would be cost effective to introduce it alongside IVF.

It is thought that acupuncture stimulates the neurotransmitters that trigger the production of gonadotrophin-releasing hormone, which controls the menstrual cycle and a woman's ovulation.

Acupuncture is also thought to stimulate blood flow to the uterus and boost the production of endogenous opioids, inducing the body to relax.

Acupuncture has been used in China for centuries to regulate fertility. It has also been shown to be an effective treatment for chronic pain.

The new study is published on the British Medical Journal's website.

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