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IVF pregnancy rates down with alternative medicine use

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on August 19, 2009

A Danish study has been reported in both the Times of India and in Private Healthcare UK which allegedly shows that women underoing in vitro fertilization had a lower rate of pregnancies when using alternative fertility treatments than women who followed conventional treatments, by about 30%. That is obviously not surprising to this blogger or the usual readers, as we know that there has never been any evidence to suggest otherwise.

Nevertheless, I must be cautious here as the articles do not link to the study or an abstract, so it is impossible for me to verify how well the authors designed the study and if their conclusions are warranted. They do seem to be very careful though when the following disclaimer is made:

In the study, it could not be determined whether the effect on IVF success is a direct result of the use of complementary medicine, or whether women who were already having more trouble conceiving were more likely to revert to alternative fertility treatments.

A very important point indeed! If someone has a link to the study or an abstract please do leave it in the comments.

UPDATE 08/21/09

Commenter RPG points me to the PubMed abstract of the above study. Reading the abstract it seems that this was a survey based study which compared “spontaneous users and non-users of CAM” and found a decrease of 31.3% in the pregnancy and live birth rate for CAM users.

Now it is important to keep in mind that the subjets appear not to have been randomly assigned, thus there is no way to exclude the possibility that the women that had the most difficulties could be more inclined to go after CAM “treatments”. That could be one way of  explaining the negative result.

So we should be very careful how we interpret these results. I do not think this study warrants us concluding that CAM therapies lower a woman’s pregnancy and live birth rates. The result is quite suspicious in my eyes.  I would have expected the CAM group not to do any better but 31% worse? I don’t know that I buy that!

8 Responses

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  1. Stella said, on August 20, 2009 at 1:33 AM

    I think the fertility industry are saying this because it’s worth a whopping 4 billion dolllars, please see the link >

  2. […] See more here:  IVF pregnancy rates down with alternative medicine use « Skepfeeds … […]

  3. IVF + success said, on August 21, 2009 at 2:05 AM

    I have had two IVF pregnancies, (1 baby and 1 ongoing) from two individual embryo transfers – therefore 100% success rate. I add that I used IVF in conjunction with some complementary therapies (acupuncture – which has been shown in a number of studies to improve pregnancy rates with IVF) and some herbs this last time around to assist in regulating my cycles before the frozen embryo transfer (which worked a treat). I would also like to add that I have a PhD in molecular biology and have been working in IVF for the last 7 years. What is your experience in IVF and what are you basing your assumptions that complementary medicines must be rubbish (apart from the report that you mentioned that you can’t verify)???

    • Skepdude said, on August 26, 2009 at 12:49 PM

      Two points: 1-If you really are a PhD you’d know that what you just gave me is a personal anectode that is NOT acceptable scientific evidence and 2) I challenge you to point me to one double blind, randomized, controlled study that shows that acupuncture improves pregnancy rates.

  4. rpg said, on August 21, 2009 at 5:37 AM

    The abstract on PubMed is here:,f1000m,isrctn

    (I know, I edited the release…)

    • Skepdude said, on August 21, 2009 at 9:18 AM

      Thank you. I have updated the entry to reflect the new info.

  5. […] decrease in pregnancy and live birth rates for women that use complementary fertility treatments. I have updated the original entry to incorporate this new info! My conclusion may surprise someone outside of the skeptical movement. […]

  6. Jack Ferrante said, on November 8, 2012 at 6:32 PM

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