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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!