Child development

September 2011

Clinical

Traditional Chinese medicine

Women’s experiences in the treatment of infertility

Volume 40, No.9, September 2011 Pages 718-722

Ann Alfred

Karin Ried

Background

Infertility affects about 15% of couples. Many women proceed to reproductive clinics for in vitro fertilisation, with some exploring a range of alternative or complementary options. We explored women’s experiences with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for the treatment of infertility.

Methods

We interviewed 25 women with primary or secondary infertility, recurrent miscarriage or stillbirth who had consulted TCM practitioners. We explored women’s experience of TCM and fertility clinics and analysed interviews thematically.

Results

Women appreciated the noninvasive diagnostic techniques TCM practitioners used to identify ‘imbalances’ causing infertility, learnt how to assess fertility indicators, and valued the focused personal care provided. All noticed improved menstrual cycles. Women wished for integration of holistic therapies in infertility management.

Discussion

Our study highlights the need for patient centred care and fertility education, and suggests that some women see a possible role for TCM as part of infertility management.

Having a child is not always easy, with about one in 6 Australian couples currently struggling with impaired fertility.1 Infertility, usually defined as the failure to conceive after 1 year of unprotected intercourse or the inability to achieve a live birth, can be caused by male or female factors, and about 22% of cases are unexplained.1 Couples seeking help are usually referred to assisted reproductive technology (ART), and ART use is growing, with 62 000 in vitro fertilisation (IVF) cycles undertaken in Australia in 2008, an increase of 50% since 2004.1

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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