When asked to relate their experiences of acupuncture with electrical and manual stimulation of the needles, informants spoke of them in relation to the diagnosis of PCOS. Their descriptions could be summarised in five categories; 1) the experience of hope, 2) acupuncture triggered things, 3) feelings of responsibility, 4) scepticism and proof of effect, and 5) feeling normal.
The experience of hope
The women were aware of their symptoms as a result of the PCOS diagnosis. They had lived with these problems in varying degrees, and when faced with a possible solution and treatment, developed a sense of hope toward a positive effect. Issues of concern were, for example, the fact that childbearing might never become a reality. One woman expressed this longing for children as:
"I have always loved children, but when I got this PCOS, I felt that I might never become a mother. This [the acupuncture] became some sort of rescue, maybe it will happen despite..." IP 7
This woman had chosen career before family, but the longing for children had always stayed with her. She was now excited about developing that side of herself as well. The acupuncture treatment gave participants a sense of hope not previously experienced. The general feeling among participants, before entering the study, was that PCOS was untreatable.
Acupuncture triggered things in my body
Even though not all participants in the study noticed great results, over half of the participants experienced a change in their health status relating to the symptoms caused by PCOS. They associated acupuncture treatment with improvements, for example, in more regular menstrual bleeding, decreased hair growth, improved mood and decreased acne. One woman even got pregnant due to what she believed might be the result of acupuncture treatment. Another woman experienced a decreased craving for sweets:
"I managed to not eat in the evenings during acupuncture treatment... It felt fantastic not having to provide my body with anything. I had no cravings at all... there was a major difference during the acupuncture treatment, there really was." IP 1
When beginning the acupuncture treatment, participants had various expectations. As some of them were hopeful for the treatment to have effect on some of their symptoms, hope in relation to decreased hair growth was not expressed. One of the participants who expected results from the treatment to affect, for example, her menstruation cycle expressed the following:
"My hair growth decreased, and that was... I had never hoped for that..." IP 4
Willing to be surprised by the effect of the treatment, some of the participants experienced relief in areas not expected.
A feeling of responsibility came over me as the acupuncture treatment gave me an insight into change
As participants felt that something happened to their bodies, they became inspired to change habits in their lives that could perhaps prolong the positive effects. Acupuncture treatment with manual and electrical stimulation of the needles started a process towards a change that became evident in the results they experienced. Feelings of responsibility to take charge and attempt to influence their condition started with the treatment. The small insight of change they received during treatment was enough to inspire and empower participants.
"Something happened in my head during treatment. I was afraid when treatment was over because I did not want it [the cravings] back; at the same time it was a great opportunity for me to get started" IP 1
The diagnosis of PCOS could at times even serve as an excuse for the patient's symptoms. To maintain old habits and blame it on PCOS, was common behavior for some until they discovered the powerful effect in the insight of change.
Skepticism and proof of effect
Some participants in the study had no expectations for the treatment at all. An open attitude was seen where if something changed it did, if not, it did not. Since the basic understanding was that PCOS was something untreatable, they did not expect acupuncture to have any effect. One patient expressed this in the following way:
"I had no expectations whatsoever. Whatever happened happened..." IP5
Scepticism to acupuncture also meant that participants were surprised when, as treatment continued, they experienced change and improvements in the symptoms. Discovering that the body responded convinced them of the possibilities of acupuncture treatment having an effect.
"I am surprised that the body responded to it [the acupuncture treatment]" IP 5
The proof of effect came as the participants felt a change in their bodies, even though they, in their state of disbelief, could not understand the powerful effect of the needles.
My body has the possibility of normal functions
An effect of acupuncture treatment such as regaining a regular menstrual period provided relief for the participants. Even though menstruation was experienced as bothersome, it felt good to know the body was working in that sense.
"It is just a relief to know that it [the menstruation] arrives every month. Even if that week is not a fun one...it is good to know that it will be there" IP2
As opposed to feeling tired, bloated and having a craving for sweets, several of the participants expressed a feeling of wellness strongly connected to bodily functions such as being able to get pregnant, decreased hair growth and smooth skin. Patient self-esteem was also influenced by their bodies being affected by PCOS, especially as visible symptoms, such as acne and excess hair growth, decreased.