Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Women's Health and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Quality of life, coping strategies and support needs of women seeking Traditional Chinese Medicine for infertility and viable pregnancy in Australia: a mixed methods approach

Karin Ried12* and Ann Alfred1

Author Affiliations

1 Discipline of General Practice, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, 5005,, Australia

2 National Institute of Integrative Medicine, Melbourne,, Victoria, 3123, Australia

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Women's Health 2013, 13:17  doi:10.1186/1472-6874-13-17

Published: 9 April 2013

Abstract

Background

Infertility affects about 15% of couples in Western-societies with most progressing to fertility clinics for treatment. Despite being common, infertility is often experienced as a lonely road for affected couples. In this paper we expand on our previously published findings of women’s experiences with infertility or difficulty of viable pregnancy who had sought Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) therapy in Australia, and focus on women’s quality of life, coping strategies, and support needs.

Methods

We applied mixed methods using the Tuebingen Quality of Life and the COPE questionnaires and in-depth interviews with 25 women with primary or secondary infertility, recurrent miscarriages or unexplained stillbirth, and who had consulted a TCM practitioner. We used a thematic approach to analyse the interviews, and descriptive statistics to evaluate questionnaire responses.

Results

Women reported through both questionnaires and interviews compromised quality of life due to the high level of distress, guilt, grief, and frustration caused by infertility. However, our women represented a highly motivated sample, actively seeking alternative support. While the TCM approach to infertility management increased women’s sense of personal agency and control through education and continuity of care, the need for greater understanding and support on a societal level remains.

Conclusions

In infertility, ongoing emotional and instrumental support is pivotal to the wellbeing and quality of life of the affected. Traditional Chinese Medicine addresses some support needs in infertility not routinely available in the Western model of care. More peer-led and professional-led support groups are greatly needed for women experiencing infertility to help break isolation and raise awareness of integrative approaches to fertility management.

Keywords:
Infertility; Quality of life; Coping; Social support; Fertility awareness; Traditional Chinese medicine