Australia’s first national analysis of complementary medicine usage amongst women trying to conceive has shown women attempting to fall pregnant are 1.5 times more likely to seek support from an acupuncturist and 1.3 times more likely to consult with a naturopath than women not attempting to conceive.

  • 4 minutes
  • 26 June 2017

The analysis also found women from this group seeking support from an acupuncturist were 2.3 times more likely to have experienced fertility issues and 3.7 times more likely to have been treated by a specialist doctor.

The longitudinal analysis of the prevalence of CM use and characteristics of CM users amongst women during the preconception period using a nationally representative sample of women from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health was led by Endeavour College of Natural Health’s Office of Research and was recently published by the peer reviewed journal Women’s Health Issues.

“We know through research a portion of women looking to fall pregnant are not being adequately supported by the health system as it currently stands, with many conventional health professionals reporting they are too busy or lacking the training in preconception care to provide adequate counseling in this area. Our research suggests acupuncturists and naturopaths may be playing a greater role in providing preconception care than previously credited for in a system where services are lacking at best,” said lead researcher, Associate Director Research for Endeavour College of Natural Health and postdoctoral research fellow with ARCCIM at the University of Technology Sydney Dr Amie Steel.

“With this in mind, it is important both sides of medicine collaborate more effectively to ensure women are receiving safe, appropriate and supportive care during this integral period of their lives.”

Dr Steel said the simple fact was Australia needed more health professionals empowering women through the preconception care process to reduce the risk of adverse health effects for the mother and child by improving their health and knowledge before falling pregnant.

“Something has to change. With the average age of women giving birth in Australia rising and the associated health risks that go along with that, Australian women need these services more than ever.”

“With women reporting a preference for a holistic approach to preconception care, I believe these two forms of complementary medicine are ideally suited to filling the gap. Accredited naturopaths and acupuncturists bring so much to the table – long consultation times, training in motivational counseling, patient-centered care, preventative healthcare remedies and preconception care. It’s a largely untapped field of medicine worthy of consideration.”

“It’s also worth noting the potential role of naturopathy in providing this care in Australia hinges on the consistency of high quality education and regulation,” said Dr Steel.

Dr Steel said there was a well known trend supported by research that showed more fertility specialist doctors were referring their clients to acupuncturists to support the effectiveness of their treatment and to manage associated stress. Australian data suggests 12.5% of women accessing fertility treatments were also consulting with an acupuncturist.

“If we are able to show combining the two therapies creates better outcomes and lessens the cost of having to pursue additional rounds of IVF, then I’d suggest this is a model the public system should also consider,” said Dr Steel.

Dr Steel said the use of complementary medicine practitioners by women attempting to conceive was an area that urgently required further research and attention from primary care practitioners and policy makers.

National Convenor of the Special Interest Group in Complementary Medicine at the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) and Professor of Public Health at UTS Professor Jon Adams said the research findings were significant.

“Preconception care is an acknowledged public health issue of real importance to the community and the results shed new light on the area in a way we’ve never really considered before,” Professor Adams said.

Download the journal article

The Characteristics of Women Who Use Complementary Medicine While Attempting to Conceive: Results from a Nationally Representative Sample of 13,224 Australian Women

About Endeavour’s Office of Research

Endeavour College of Natural Health’s Office of Research is dedicated to strengthening professional practice for complementary medicine professionals through an expanded body of evidence-based research for complementary medicine in Australia. It works to disseminate and critically examine all aspects of contemporary complementary medicine practice through the application of non-partisan, rigorous, and robust empirical research.

The Office of Research is an arm of Endeavour College of Natural Health, Australia’s largest degree conferring tertiary institution offering qualifications in complementary medicine and natural health. It has six campuses in Australia, five Bachelor degrees, four Honours degrees, 5,000 students, 350 staff and leading academics in the field.

For further information or to set up an interview with Dr Amie Steel please contact: Nina Tovey: 0410 849 818 or