Background: In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is now an accepted and effective treatment for infertility, however IVF is acknowledged as contributing to, rather than lessening, the overall psychosocial effects of infertility. Psychological and counselling interventions have previously been widely recommended in parallel with infertility treatments but whilst in many jurisdictions counselling is recommended or mandatory, it may not be widely used. Acupuncture is increasingly used as an adjunct to IVF, in this preliminary study we sought to investigate the experience of infertile women who had used acupuncture to improve their fertility.
Methods: A sample of 20 women was drawn from a cohort of women who had attended for a minimum of four acupuncture sessions in the practices of two acupuncturists in South Australia. Eight women were interviewed using a semi-structured questionnaire. Six had sought acupuncture during IVF treatment and two had begun acupuncture to enhance their fertility and had later progressed to IVF. Descriptive content analysis was employed to analyse the data.
Results: Four major categories of perceptions about acupuncture in relation to reproductive health were identified: (a) Awareness of, and perceived benefits of acupuncture; (b) perceptions of the body and the impact of acupuncture upon it; (c) perceptions of stress and the impact of acupuncture on resilience; and (d) perceptions of the intersection of medical treatment and acupuncture.
Conclusion: This preliminary exploration, whilst confined to a small sample of women, confirms that acupuncture is indeed perceived by infertile women to have an impact to their health. All findings outlined here are reported cautiously because they are limited by the size of the sample. They suggest that further studies of acupuncture as an adjunct to IVF should systematically explore the issues of wellbeing, anxiety, personal and social resilience and women’s identity in relation to sexuality and reproduction.