Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) acupuncture has been used to treat reproductive health for many centuries with a focus on menstrual and reproductive disorders in both men and women.
The scale of research in relation to acupuncture has seen significant increases over the last 20 years with many differing outcomes which can be confusing. But what this really mean to those who have limited understanding of the jargon used in research papers and methodologies applied to make a judgement on what treatment options are available to them?
Cochran 2014 research of TCM acupuncture and its effect on women’s health concluded that data shows improvements in menstrual health in women who had delays at getting pregnant, but difficulties in understanding when analysed against scientific criteria used.
Unfortunately due to the lack of understanding of TCM, it is not widely understood for its benefits on reproductive health.
TCM in Reproductive Health
Understanding TCM can prove difficult as the diagnostic methods understand the functions and overall state of the body using a holistic approach.
In clinics I use an integrative approach of understanding western medical concepts of disease as well as TCM theory which looks at digestion, metabolism, energy levels, general health and appearance of the body, skin and hair, whilst examining the tongue and pulse to help conclude the inner state of a person’s health.
The TCM approach to infertility treatment integrates the menstrual cycle as a simple, non-invasive, sensitive, motivational, diagnostic tool to understanding a woman’s fertility status. Unlike assisted reproductive technologies (ART), which seek to override menstrual cycle difficulties by artificially controlling a woman’s cycle through pharmaceutical and surgical interventions, TCM considers delayed ovulation, excessive or scanty menstrual flow, dysmenorrhea, premenstrual symptoms, and short or long menstrual cycles as diagnostic signs, and a means through which interventions and can enhance reproductive health.
It is through this understanding of the individuals’ health that the treatment can be applied. This is where it is difficult to understand how TCM works using evidence based research that uses a repetitive systematic 'Gold Standard approach.
In TCM a person’s full health case history along with observational diagnosis to identify and formulate a unique treatment for individual. This may mean that two patients could have a conventional medical diagnosis of poly cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), but are treated using a different approach and different acupuncture points to get the best outcome for the health of each patient. No wonder that it’s difficult to understand, and when I was studying TCM I too found it difficult to understand with a background in conventional medicine.
However, it is the skill of a TCM doctor to be able to understand the complexities of the many different influences and functions of the body that contribute to presenting health conditions and therefore the treatment principles with its successes and outcomes.
In clinic, it is through the use of an integrative approach of conventional medicine alongside the principles of TCM that many couples have already achieved pregnancy which is currently beyond research understanding, but it is with these outcomes that gives couples hope to try TCM as an alternative or adjunctive treatment.