But Does it Work?

Time to Review

A recent study on long established medical practices for helping couples with infertility problems suggests that such interventions don't really aid fertility. This is according to the published results of the study on the British Medical Journal (BMJ) website. The study's authors believe that the results of their work are a challenge to current medical practice in the UK and hope that in light of this new data, national guidelines for infertility treatment will be reviewed.

One out of every seven UK couples experiences the heartbreak of infertility. A quarter of the cases are called unexplained infertility. These couples have long been treated in accordance with the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) fertility guidelines. A group of researchers led by the University of Aberdeen undertook to compare the efficacy of two types of infertility therapies against a no treatment course.

Unexplained Infertility

For this purpose, 580 women participants experiencing unexplained infertility for a period of two or more years were placed into one of three groups. These participants were culled from four different teaching hospitals and one district general hospital in Scotland. One group was given no treatment and was encouraged to let nature have its course. A second group was treated with clomiphene citrate (Clomid) which is used to help correct ovulatory dysfunction. A third group was treated with IUI or intra-uterine insemination.

Out of the 580 women, 101 became pregnant and birthed a live infant during the course of the study. The women in the first group had a live birth rate of 17%, the Clomid group had a birth rate of 14%, and the IUI group had a birth rate of 23%.

This means a gap of only 6% between the IUI group and the no treatment group, and this figure is not considered statistically significant.

The worst side effects were seen in the Clomid group, in which some 10-20% of the group experienced such symptoms as abdominal pain and bloating, hot flashes, nausea, and headaches. The women in the active treatment groups—Clomid or IUI—felt reassured in response to the process of the treatments, while the women in the no treatment group felt less satisfaction with their care and progress, even though the no treatment proved to be as effective as Clomid or IUI.

The study authors note, "These interventions, which have been in use for many years, are unlikely to be more effective than no treatment. These results challenge current practice, as endorsed by a national guideline in the UK."

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