Study: Acupuncture Doesn't Impact Ovulation (AAEP 2012)

Often mares have minds of their own, and their ovaries can be just as headstrong. Canadian researchers demonstrated this in a recent study when they showed that you can lead a mare to a stallion, but you can’t necessarily make her ovulate … even with the use of acupuncture.

Acupuncture is a popular traditional therapy in China for a spectrum of conditions in human medicine, but physicians and veterinarians in Western countries have not yet fully adopted this “adjunct” medical technique. This is partly due to lack of scientific evidence supporting its efficacy, noted Nora Huaman Chavarria, DVM, MVetSc, of the University of Saskatoon’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine, during her presentation at the 2012 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Convention, held Dec. 1-5 in Anaheim, Calif. A handful of studies suggests acupuncture for conditions such as roaring is warranted, but despite the fact that acupuncture is already used by equine practitioners for a wide variety of mare reproductive conditions, such as sub- or infertility, scientific studies supporting its usefulness are lacking.

“We hypothesized that acupuncture might help induce ovulation in mares based on some convincing evidence in human studies that found acupuncture treatments have a positive effect on irregular cyclicity and, therefore, infertility in women” said Chavarria.

The research team randomly split 30 healthy, cycling mares into three groups. They treated the first group with the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is known to induce ovulation. They administered saline and acupuncture in the second and third groups, respectively.

“Despite the fact that previous studies have reported beneficial effects of acupuncture for a variety of reproductive disorders, this study did not find any impact of acupuncture on ovulation,” noted Chavarria. “Further, no changes in hormone profiles were noted between any of the three treatment groups.”

Acupuncture has been embraced by some equine reproductive specialists, and anecdotal reports of success abound. As such, the research group believes that further research into equine acupuncture is warranted.

“Well-designed clinical trials will help clinicians and mare owners make the right decision in the choice of treatment for a specific condition,” concluded Chavarria.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.