Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New findings on alternative therapies and IVF

Being a scientist has some advantages when you deal with IF. First of all I can access most scientific journals with the latest reports, stats and outcomes of new protocols. Then of course the is the "need to know" everything in details. I don't know if I had mentioned in the past that I met another IFer attending my same clinic when I was doing my intralipid and we got talking about our protocols. Well, she new nothing about hers, didn't know what type of protocol she was doing either (mind you she had a failed cycle on her cv, so you'd think she'll be motivated enough to understand WTF happened and could she do anything different) and she was describing to me her meds by the colour of the packaging so tat I could guess...ah well...I'm sure it's not just me that NEEDS to know as much as possible about this journey, but I know that my background gives me some sort of compulsion to learn the scientific inside outs of the process. At our last ET we even had a session with our embryologist!

So, I get by emails regular updates on newly published articles which can be related or not to what I'm actually researching to earn my salary, and mostly they are not. Last friday I got one of those updates and I quickly scan through the headlines and one definitely caught my attention. It titled "In Vitro Fertilization Less Successful With Alternative Fertility Treatments". Now, you can check the link, this is just a "lay" summary of what the real article talks about. So I went to the source and got the origianal paper to get the full picture with my own eyes. This is a 2009 paper, so it's quite fresh on the shelf. I don't think you'd have access to it so if you are interested in the full paper email me and I'll send it to you as pdf. So it seems true, 30% LOWER ongoing pregnancy/live birth rate for people that use alternative therapies (specifically the top three are reflexology, herbal supplements and acupuncture). I actually was shocked. I have gone to acupuncture myself spending a good few bobs on it for the past year and I may actually have lowered my chances?? Alright, I'm a special case, two fresh cycles ended up in a pregnancy which was just in the wrong place. Two FET cycles didn't really work (ok, I had a chemical pregnancy the second time) but I believe the reason is that my body didn't respond well to the medication. So overall I got SOMEWHAT pregnant evey fresh cycle, and overall 75% of the time I had a transfer. I did acupuncture for my first 3 attempts and switched to a milder reiki/acu this last time. Also the number of sessions I had in the first 3 attempts was much higher as I went also during the 2ww. What will I do at my next cycle? Mmh probably not much! A part from the onoing pregnancy rate the paper reports several other data from the two groups of women such as the number of eggs retrieved embryos produced and embryos transferred (correlated to the amount ofdrugs taken); they are statistically the same. There doesn't appear to be a single area where alternative therapies helped. The number of IVF/ICSI cycles is even higher in the group that went for alternative therapies!
I know we are doing everything we can to get a cycle to work, but what if we are doing the wrong thing? The scientist in me, alhough always very open to alternative therapies, may be reverting to pure science...


  1. Yeah, I came across that article too (probably not the original authentic one you mentioned - can you please email me that?) and I wondered if the accupuncture I have been going through for the last whole year is really worth it. Being the scientist that I am, I am well aware that there are tons of parameters that need to be "right" for something to work (or not work). There have been several studies in the past which have strongly claimed that the alternate therapies work... there will always be contradicting reports/studies which are right in their own perspective (based on the criterias used). As much as I beleive in science (otherwise I wouldn't be a scientist (not related to biology) and also doing an IVF), I still do strongly beleive that you can not mess with nature, it finally knows how to do things its way and stabilize itself in the larger picture. We can only use our educated opinion and experience, have faith in our action and try our best!

  2. We are constantly researching our IF and losses and pregnancy info, too. In some ways, I'm sure it drives our OB nuts but in other ways, I think he likes the "grown up" conversation.

    I never would have thought that alternative therapies would have lowered success rates. I'll have to have my hubs pull that article.

  3. Interesting stuff. Has been making me a wonder a bit, too.

  4. That's so strange. Personally, I loved acupuncture and while I didn't know if it 'helped' I was sure it wouldn't hurt. Maybe I was wrong?

  5. WTF! Well that's disheartening. Sigh. I have no idea if I'll do acupuncture next time.... I was hoping for some great change this time. Apparently not. :/

  6. I wonder if it was confounded by the couples doing alternative therapies having done more IVF/ICSI cycles? (Ie maybe their infertility is somehow more complicated?)
    Sounds interesting - I'd love to check out the article too.

  7. wow Fran... that was illuminating. ;)
    I did acupuncture and herbs for almost the entire 2008, only to get a high FSH, topped with crappy eggs and embryos.
    I do believe in alternative therapies, but my therapist was suggesting that when we choose that route, it's almost as if you have to convert to a different religion, because the principles are all so different from the western world in which we were born to. So, I wonder if our minds and bodies perhaps create some sort of conflict between doing two treatments who are so opposite in technique and approach at once.
    this time, I didn't do any of that. Just surrendered to western medicine (except for the use of some flower essences I picked myself) and the results have been very promising so far.
    I haven't posted anything yet, but I did poas this morning. There was a very faint line there. I'm excited, but cautious. I'll keep testing to see what happens on the coming days. crossing fingers...

  8. Wow...I thought there were studies showing that acupuncture in particular increased successful implantation. Hm. I never did any sort of alternative therapy, and I would have to think, scientifically and biologically, that if the body processes are not working, no amount of alternative therapy will change that. You need to do something to physically alter the processes. It's really interesting and I'm sure more studies ought to be under way.

  9. Interesting - and very thought provoking.

    Thanks for this.


  10. I would love to see the study if possible. As we all know, there have been other studies to show the contrary as well, along with a lot of anecdotal evidence to support the benefits of what alternative therapies do, especially acupuncture(not just for IVF, but for conceiving naturally wihtout it). I think my acupuncturits may have been speaking about this study at our last session - she said there ws a study involving acupuncture recently and they used the same three or four acu points for each participant said it showed that acupuncture doesn't work for fertility. She said this was completely ridiculous because you would never expect those three points to work like that - that everyone has different challenges and imbalances and you need to treat them individually. I understand that an alternative approach is not for everyone, but I would be very cautious about saying that it doesn't work based on this one study alone. I know the jury is still out on my little journey, but i noticed big physical differences in just one month of alternative therapies (acu, TCM diet) before starting my DHEA. A bright red, clot-free period and an increase in CM, as well as an increase in energy. That was enough to show me that this is what my body needs and motivate me to continue. Again, I'd really like to see the studym Thank you, Fran, for sharing this new study with us so we can discuss it and apply our critical thinking skills to what it's saying. Love, Maddy

  11. P.S. Sorry for the typos - on my blackberry!

  12. Fran - Please email me the article. I have been doing acupuncture for over a year and love it. I am always cautious about research papers like this - what were the parameters? how large was the test group? was there a control group? Did everyone have the same fertility issues?

    My instinct after reading your post was to immediately stop acupuncture. Then, I thought "but I love it" - can something that makes me feel so good, really be bad for me?

    Can't wait to read the study. Thanks for posting this!

  13. Wow...look at my girl Fran doing all this research. Thanks for posting about the article.

  14. Hmm. That's contradictory to what I've been reading.

    Can you post a link to the study?


  15. Having a scientific background, I completely understand and relate to your need to know everything.


  16. First of all...the girl at your clinic that didn't know protocol OR meds? I'm shocked. Really. I'm in research as well...and unforutnately that carries over to my non work life as well. I cannot IMAGINE not knowing (or not caring to understand) what the docs were doing with my case. That's crazy. Re: the article, that is really interesting. I did acu with IVF #1 (started a fewm onths prior to starting meds) and that ended in a BFN. With IVF #2 I didn't do acu (just couldn't afford it) and it worked. And I was never one to want to take supplements/herbs combined with meds--I didn't want to risk any interactions.

  17. Very thoughtfull post on alternative therapy. It should be very much helpfull

    Karim - Creating Power


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