Feasibility and acceptability of a proposed trial of acupuncture as an adjunct to lifestyle interventions for weight loss in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A qualitative study

Carolyn Ee, Caroline Smith, Michael Costello, Freya MacMillan, Lisa Moran, Brandi Baylock, Helena Teede

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common female reproductive disorder with multiple manifestations. Weight management is a key therapeutic goal. Acupuncture is a potential adjunctive weight loss treatment in non-PCOS populations. We aimed to engage patients in co-design and assess the feasibility and acceptability of methods for a randomised controlled trial (RCT) on acupuncture and telephone-based health coaching for weight management in overweight or obese women with PCOS using qualitative methods. Methods: We recruited women who had PCOS and were aged 18-45 years and with a body mass index of 25 kg/m2 and over, using social media. Two face-to-face focus group meetings and three semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted (n = 10). We analysed data using thematic analysis and aimed to compare and contrast motivations for joining the trial between women who were actively trying to conceive (n = 7) and not trying to conceive (n = 3). Attitudes to, knowledge and experiences of acupuncture; perceptions and attitudes towards the interventions in the RCT (real acupuncture, sham acupuncture and telephone-based health coaching); the outcomes of importance; and barriers and facilitators to successful trial recruitment and retention were collected. Results: Women were both acupuncture-naive and acupuncture-experienced. Overall, attitudes towards acupuncture were positive, and the trial design was acceptable with appointment flexibility requested. Ideal enrolment time, if women were trying to conceive, was six months prior to conception. Women supported three-month intervention and the use of sham acupuncture as a control. Financial incentives were not believed to be necessary, and women spoke of altruistic intentions in enrolling for such a trial. Women who were trying to conceive voiced a need for support from their family, health coaches, and peers. The telephone-based health coaching offered welcome support and accountability, noted as possible facilitators of weight loss. Conclusions: Our findings show that acupuncture is a likely acceptable adjunct to lifestyle interventions for weight loss in PCOS, and that a sham-controlled trial is feasible and acceptable to PCOS women. Further research is required in order to evaluate the efficacy of acupuncture together with lifestyle for weight management in PCOS.

Original languageEnglish
Article number298
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2018


  • Acupuncture
  • Lifestyle interventions
  • Obesity
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Qualitative
  • Randomised controlled trials
  • Sham acupuncture
  • Telephone-based health coaching

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