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Traditional Chinese Medicine For Fertility and During Pregnancy

Katrina Wharton |28, November 2014


Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM has been around for over two thousand years and has found a receptive population in the West recently. But, is it safe, and is it effective, particularly for those issues such as fertility and pregnancy? That depends on who you ask.

Proponents cite the millennia of practice and positive results, while those who are critical cite lack of empirical research and the possible dangers of certain herbs or not seeking professional typical medical help for serious conditions such as cancer.

What TCM is About

Traditional Chinese Medicine revolves around the idea that each person contains a life force or the qi, which is pronounced "chee." You always have opposing energies at work, the yin and the yang. For those forces to be balanced, your qi must be balanced and flowing well.

If there is too much or too little qi in an energy pathway, or any pathways are blocked, health can be negatively affected. Things that throw things into imbalance include environmental factors, internal emotions and lifestyle factors especially diet.

To remedy these blockages or imbalances, CTM employs a number of practices such as nutrition, herbal medicine, acupuncture and acupressure, Chinese massage, Chinese exercise such as tai chi, and the practice of burning herbs near the skin.

How Does a Traditional Chinese Medicine Exam Work?

At a TCM visit, you can expect the practitioner to ask about your medical history and do a physical exam including looking at your skin, hair, and tongue, and checking your six pulses. The practitioner will also be listening for signs of health or disease in your voice.

A 2009 study on TCM published in the medical journal, International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, found that in pregnant patients, the treatment was herbs over 88 percent of the time.

The University of Maryland Medical Center cautions patients about the use of Chinese herbs while pregnant, and insists women should always consult their regular medical doctor before taking any herbs or supplements.

"Chinese herbal products are often poorly labeled, and important information may be missing. Some Chinese herbal products contain drugs not listed on their labels. For example, some Chinese herbal creams that are used to treat eczema contain steroid medications. Also, be on the alert for Chinese herbal medicines containing aristolochic acid. This acid, derived from an herb, has been linked to cases of kidney failure, and even cancer. Also, some Chinese herbs have been reported to contain heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium, and mercury," they state on their website.

Challenge to Chinese Medicine Issued

A top doc at Beijing Jishuitan Hospital, Dr. Ning Fanggang is offering the equivalent of over ,000 to any TCM practitioner who can accurately, as set by 80 percent correct, diagnose pregnancy by taking the pulse alone. This is a common claim of Chinese medicine.

So far, no one has completed the challenge and there is controversy over the whole challenge. Those practicing TCM feel such challenges are artificially set and go against the natural practices of their medicine, not allowing them to use their other senses for instance.

Besides being an ancient practice, Traditional Chinese Medicine is also a big business worth a purported 80 billion dollars a year.

There have been some high level exposures of fraud within the TCM community such as Zhang Wuben, who made a fortune touting mung beans as a cure all, affecting a sharp increase in bean prices. Later, his medical qualifications were exposed as fraudulent.

A Taoist master, Wang Lin, who became a celebrity because of his celebrity clients such as Jackie Chan and Jet Li, claimed to cure cancer among other things, had to flee China to Hong Kong due to allegations of fraud, tax evasion and consorting with gangsters.

However, there have been other claims that seem to bolster TCM credibility such as a 2011 study finding that women who used TCM for fertility issues versus those who used IVF got pregnant 50 percent of the time, whereas those using IVF only got pregnant 30 percent of the time. This study involved some 616 women.

If you are considering using alternative therapies or medicines to get pregnant, or during pregnancy, it's best to utilize a team approach and use conventional medicine as well, and keep all members of your team in good communication.

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