Aim: We aim to determine the safety and effectiveness of a standard therapeutic package of Korean medicine for the treatment of unexplained infertility in a cross-section of women who sought treatment at an integrative hospital in Seoul, Korea.
Background: Infertility affects more than 1.2 million women in the United States alone. Treatment options for infertility vary, yet the barriers of invasiveness, cost, and access inhibit treatment use for many women. Alternative medical approaches exist for this indication, and sustain certain popularity. Therefore, we systematically studied a standard therapeutic package of Korean medicine to treat unexplained infertility in women.
Methods: Female participants included in this observational study met inclusion criteria before receiving a set of treatments including herbal medicine, acupuncture, and moxibustion. A study physician screened each patient in accordance with inclusion criteria, provided study information, and after the patients consented, performed the baseline assessment. Assessments included age, the history of assisted reproductive technology, and duration of infertility. The key outcome measure included the number who achieved pregnancy and any neo-natal morbidity and mortality at follow-up stage for those who got pregnant. Any other adverse events including aggravation of existing symptoms, and the number of dropouts, were recorded. Treatments were supposed to be completed after 6 menstrual cycles between February 2005 and April 2006.
Results: One hundred and four (104) women with unexplained infertility were included in this observational study. Participant mean age was 32 years (SD: 2.7), with a range between 26 and 41 years. The median duration of infertility after diagnosis was 33.5 weeks (interquartile range: 20.8-50.3). In total, 41 participants (39.4%) had undergone a mean number of 1.4 (SD: 2.2) assisted reproductive technology treatments prior to joining the study. The number of patients remaining in or achieving pregnancy throughout the 6-month study period was 23 (14 pregnancies), 22.1%. Six (6) participants (4.8%) reported minor adverse events including rash in the face (n = 1), diarrhea (n = 2), dizziness (n = 1), and heartburn (n = 2). Of the 14 pregnancies, there were 10 normal births, and 4 miscarriages; otherwise, no neonatal morbidity/mortality occurred. According to per protocol analysis, 14 pregnancies out of 23 total were achieved by those who remained for the entire six menstruation cycle treatments, yielding a pregnancy rate of 60.9%.
Conclusions: The standard therapeutic package for unexplained infertility in women studied here is safe for infants and the treated women, when administered by licensed professionals. While it remains challenging to have the target population complete a 6-month treatment course, during which most patients have to pay out of pocket, the extent of successfully achieved pregnancy in those who received full treatment provides meaningful outcomes, warranting further attention. A future study that includes subsidized treatment costs, encouraging the appropriate compliance rate, is warranted. 194.