Undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) or other medical fertility treatments, but thinking about adding a visit to the acupuncturist to further enhance your chances of becoming pregnant? You are not alone. More than a quarter of infertile couples seek help from acupuncture, herbal therapy, or massage as a way to boost fertility—even when they are already receiving treatment from a conventional fertility clinic, according a first-of-its kind study from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. Published online March 24, 2010, in the journal Fertility and Sterility, the study followed 428 couples recruited from eight reproductive clinics in Northern California. Over the course of 18 months, 29 percent of couples reported using some form of complementary and alternative medicine. As outlined in the report:
- 22 percent underwent acupuncture
- 17 percent took herbal remedies thought to beneficial for fertility
- 5 percent had body work such as chiropractic or massage
- 1 percent tried meditation
Researchers noted that with every five-year increase in the woman's age, the chances of her and her partner pursuing at least one of these strategies rose by almost a third. Couples earning more than $200,000 were nearly three times more likely to seek alternative remedies than were those with a combined income of less than $100,000.
The most likely to try alternative treatments were couples who struggled the most to become pregnant—at rates nearly two and a half-fold higher than those who successfully conceived early on in the study. "We suggest that couples struggling to achieve pregnancy are more likely to seek out any treatment that offers hope," says lead researcher Dr. James Smith of the University of California, San Francisco, in an interview with Reuters Health.
Personal beliefs in alternative medicine also mattered. When partners had a positive attitude about the effectiveness of alternative treatments, researchers noted that couples were 85 percent more likely to try it.