Wednesday, 4 July 2007

IVF and complementary therapies

Infertility affects many people, as many as one in seven couples in the UK. It can be very stressful experience - I know this from personal experience.

New research carried out by a Cardiff University team found that women using complementary and alternative therapies (CAM) alongside conventional IVF treatment were 30 percent less likely to get pregnant than those who used IVF alone. Some herbs, such as St John's Wort, may interact with IVF drug treatments.

Lead researcher Dr Jackie Boivin is quoted here as saying "it could be that there are interactions between herbal medicines and fertility medicines." She also suggested that women hold off until they have tried conventional fertility treatments. Frankly, I'm surprised at her suggestion as the research found that women who used CAMs had been trying IVF for longer. And Dr Boivin concedes that repeated failure with IVF may prompt women to use CAMs.

Some fertility experts believe that stress is a key factor. True. And many CAM therapies help to reduce stress, which is a good thing, as anyone who has undergone IVF knows. It's an experience I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy (if I had one).

And so while I agree that some complementary therapies may interact with fertility drugs and reduce the effectiveness of the latter, I can understand why many women would still want to use them. The first reason may be to "cover all bases" and increase their chances of getting pregnant. And secondly, to reduce their stress levels because IVF is challenging on many levels - physical, emotional and financial.

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