ESHRE: Alternative Therapy No Boon for Infertile Women

July 5, 2007

LYONS, France -- Infertile women who use complementary or alternative therapies are about 20% more likely to have persistent reproductive problems than non-users, investigators reported here.

LYONS, France, July 5 -- Infertile women who use complementary or alternative therapies are about 20% more likely to have persistent reproductive problems than non-users, investigators reported here.

This could be because women with more intractable fertility problems seek therapies such as nutritional supplements or reflexology to relieve stress, but it's also possible that some remedies could interfere with fertility treatments, suggested Jacky Boivin, Ph.D., of Cardiff University in Wales.

Women who reported using complementary or alternative therapies had a 20% lower successful conception rate than women who didn't turn to such solutions, Dr. Bolvin reported at the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology meeting.

"We found that women who went on to use complementary therapies -- for example reflexology and nutritional supplements -- during their treatments were more distressed and emotionally affected by their fertility problems than non-users," Dr. Boivin said.

"This difference in stress may mean that women used complementary or alternative therapies for stress reduction, and if this were the case it would be important for future research to establish whether complementary or alternative therapies achieve this goal more effectively than conventional psychological therapies," she continued.

She and co-author Lone Schmidt, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Copenhagen, conducted a study of 818 women who filled out a questionnaire focusing or stress and coping strategies before starting on treatment for infertility.

On average, the women were in their mid-30s, had been married for 7 + 3.6 years and had been infertile for 4 + 2.1 years.

The questionnaire included items from the Fertility Problem Stress, general mental health subscale of the Short-Form-36, physical stress reactions subscale of the Stress Profile, the Ways of Coping checklist, and Danish social relations scale.

At one year, the women were asked to report the number and types of infertility treatments they had received, whether they were successful, and whether complementary or alternative therapies were used.

The authors found that 261 of the women (31.9%) had used complementary or alternative therapies during the previous 12 months. Of this group 43.5% reported using reflexology, and 39.2% said they took nutritional supplements.

Women who used complementary or alternative therapies had reported at baseline having significantly more previous treatment experience than non users (correlation of coefficient [t]=3.86, P

"It is important to do this because we are concerned that, with persistent treatment failure, women might become more and more susceptible to deceptive advertising about ineffective complementary or alternative therapies or other unproven treatments," she said.