What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and how can it help patients during treatment?

Last week, I had the privilege of presenting about this very topic as part of the post graduate program faculty for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine Conference (ASRM) in San Diego, CA. The participants included physicians and practice administrators from all over the U.S. and abroad. I have to tell you, before I began my research to prepare for the talk, I was as unsure as you probably are about the benefits of complementary or alternative medicine, and maybe even a little skeptical. After extensive research my perspective has changed and I am now a firm believer in the potential value holistic services can provide to patients undergoing fertility treatment.

Top 4 Lessons Learned

  1. 40% of americans use alternative medicineThe National Institutes of Health created the Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine to establish scientific rigor around studies of effectiveness. The most recent research is astonishing – 40% of Americans use complementary or alternative medicine care. http://nccam.nih.gov/
    Take Away: More Americans are using Alternative Medicine for wellness AND treatment.
  2. In 2007, nine leading U.S. Hospitals, including Duke and University of Maryland, embarked on a new venture to change the way the medical community thinks about health and healing. They established the nation’s first practice-based research network in integrative medicine. http://www.bravewell.org/
    Take away: Alternative medicine is being fully integrated into the traditional healthcare models of respected institutions.
  3. A review of the scientific literature shows mixed results when it comes to definitively proving Alternative Medicine techniques improves pregnancy outcomes. However, there is very good evidence demonstrating a reduction of stress levels can positively impact outcomes.
    Take Away: There are many ways patients can reduce stress with complementary services such as yoga and acupuncture, just a couple of examples. Exercise, meditation, prayer, support groups, and even laughter can work as well. It is a matter of personal preference.
  4. Shady Grove Fertility, Pulling Down the Moon, RESOLVE, Attain Fertility and the Domar Center conducted a Fertility Patient Usage and Attitudes survey about Complementary Medicine. 800 patients responded and the results were eye-opening. We learned that many of our patients are already using alternative medicine and that 90% believed it had a positive impact on their stress level, ability to stay in treatment longer and/or pregnancy outcomes. Below are a few of the key points from the survey.
    Take Away: By offering these services through approved providers, Shady Grove Fertility can help patients navigate their fertility journey with more balance.


    1. 2 out of 3 have used alternative medicine to improve fertility2 out of 3 survey respondents have used complementary or alternative medicine specifically to improve fertility
    2. 33% believe alternative medicine helped them conceive
    3. 69% thought alternative medicine helped them reduce stress & relax
    4. 49% say alternative medicine gave them a sense of control
    5. Just 10% didn’t think alternative medicine provided any benefits
    6. 64% of patients self-referred to a alternative medicine provider (21% from friend, 15% from a physician or nurse)
    7. More benefits for treatment:
SGF Nurse

One of the questions I asked of the post graduate participants was “How many of you are offering Complementary of Alternative care through your fertility center?” Most of the audience raised their hands. The ensuing discussion focused on the best way to integrate these services and how to make them affordable for more patients. The West is opening to the East and as a result more patients will benefit.

Review all the survey results and presentation at ASRM on slideshare.

Complementary Care Services at Shady Grove Fertility Center

SGF Nurse
Complementary and Alternative Medicine at Pulling Down the Moon

Our complementary care partner, Pulling Down the Moon, provides services in our Rockville office and will soon be expanding to Washington, DC. If you would like to see services expand to your local office, please email me at [email protected].

SGF Nurse

Contributed by
Patty Stull
Shady Grove Fertility
Vice President of Strategic Development
[email protected]