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Does complimentary medicine hamper IVF?

Resent research findings suggest that using complimentary therapies while undergoing IVF treatment may affect your chance of conceiving.
A study carried out by Cardiff University has found that women who combine complementary therapy with IVF treatment are 30% less likely to fall pregnant than those who undergo IVF alone. While this headline-making statement implies that complimentary therapy somehow interferes with the IVF process, there could be alternate explanations for these findings.

Of the 818 Danish women who took part in the study almost 1/3 undertook some form of complimentary therapy along with their IVF treatment; with reflexology and nutritional supplements being the most popular. It was found that these women had more fertility treatment and a lower rate of pregnancy than those who used no form of complimentary medicine at all. However, the research also found that those who complimented IVF with alternative therapies had experienced more fertility intervention prior to the start of the study and were also significantly more stressed about the IVF process and its possible outcomes.

It is indeed possible that the findings of the study simply show that the women who were having more trouble conceiving prior to the monitored cycles of IVF started to become more stressed about their fertility and looked to complementary therapies as traditional methods alone did not seem to be working.

It is also possible that the elevated levels of stress reported by those who chose to use a form of complimentary medicine are responsible for their inability to conceive successfully and as a consequence drove them to use alternative treatments in an attempt to relax and facilitate the process.

While it is unlikely that physical therapies such as reflexology interfere with IVF, previous research has found that high dose of herbal supplements such as st john's wort, echinacea and ginkgo bilboa may have an adverse effect on fertility so this could help to explain the findings.

While the true mechanism for this is of yet unknown, Dr Boivin and her team at Cardiff University are planning to follow this group over a 5 year period to monitor how many women fall pregnant during this time and to try and establish whether complimentary medicine does in fact hinder IVF.

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