Complementary and alternative medicine use in infertility: cultural and religious influences in a multicultural Canadian setting

J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Sep;20(9):686-92. doi: 10.1089/acm.2013.0329. Epub 2014 Aug 15.


Objectives: To explore the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for infertility in a multicultural healthcare setting and to compare Western and non-Western infertility patients' reasons for using CAM and the meanings they attribute to CAM use.

Design: Qualitative semi-structured interviews using thematic analysis.

Settings/location: Two infertility clinics in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Participants: An ethnoculturally varied sample of 32 heterosexual infertile couples.

Results: CAM used included lifestyle changes (e.g., changing diet, exercise), alternative medicine (e.g., acupuncture, herbal medicines), and religious methods (e.g., prayers, religious talismans). Patients expressed three attitudes toward CAM: desperate hope, casual optimism, and amused skepticism. PARTICIPANTS' CAM use was consistent with cultural traditions of health and fertility: Westerners relied primarily on biomedicine and used CAM mainly for relaxation, whereas non-Westerners' CAM use was often influenced by culture-specific knowledge of health, illness and fertility.

Conclusions: Understanding patients' CAM use may help clinicians provide culturally sensitive, patient-centered care.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Culture*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Infertility / ethnology
  • Infertility / therapy*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Life Style
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quebec
  • Relaxation
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires