Updated: Apr 16, 2018
Couples with fertility problems are twice as likely to get pregnant using traditional Chinese medicine as western drugs, say researchers.
They found a two-fold improvement in pregnancy rates over just four months of treatment from practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine.
At least six million Britons have consulted a Western or traditional Chinese herbal practitioner in the last two years, according to Ipsos Mori research.
Previous research suggests acupuncture may help some childless couples to conceive.
The latest study from researchers at Adelaide University, Australia, reviewed eight clinical trials, 13 other studies and case reports comparing the efficacy of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) with western drugs or IVF treatment.
The review funded by the Australian government included 1,851 women with infertility problems, says a report in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine.
Review of the clinical trials alone found a 3.5 rise in pregnancies over a four-month period among women using TCM compared with western medicine.
Other data covering 616 women within the review showed 50 per cent of women having TCM got pregnant compared with 30 per cent of those receiving IVF treatment.
TCM is far less expensive than IVF treatment and less stressful
The overall analysis concluded there was a two-fold increase in the likelihood of getting pregnant in a four-month period for women using TCM compared with orthodox approaches.
The study’s authors said ‘Our meta-analysis suggests traditional Chinese herbal medicine to be more effective in the treatment of female infertility - achieving on average a 60 per cent pregnancy rate over four months compared with 30 per cent achieved with standard western drug treatment.’
The study said the difference appeared to be due to the careful analysis of the menstrual cycle – the period when it is possible for a woman to conceive – by TCM practitioners.
It said ‘Assessment of the quality of the menstrual cycle integral to TCM diagnosis appears to be fundamental to the successful treatment of female infertility.’
Dr Karin Ried (correct) of the university’s school of population health and clinical practice, who led the study, said infertility affects one in six couples and even after investigations 20 per cent of infertility remains ‘unexplained’.
She said TCM recognises many more ‘menstrual disturbances’ than conventional medicine, is far less expensive than IVF treatment and less stressful.
She said ‘Infertility issues can be treated with the integration of TCM and contemporary medicine to minimise the financial and emotional strain on people.’
Geeta Nargund, medical director of Create fertility clinic in London’s Harley Street, who uses a kinder form of IVF called in-vitro maturation or IVM which spares the woman exposure to drug hormones, said the study findings should be treated with caution.
She said ‘We should be doing everything we can to use the least invasive methods to help patients get pregnant, if they don’t work then we can move on to drugs and more invasive approaches.
‘What we desperately need is detailed research into these alternative approaches that monitors what is happening to the body’s hormone systems and ovaries so we can see what difference they are making.
‘But we should not lose sight of the fact that Chinese herbs are potent medicines. They are regarded as natural but they have powerful effects on the body which can include a syndrome that mimics the over-stimulation we sometimes see from western IVF drugs.
These and other Traditional Chinese practices all form part of TCM, each adding a little to the history and methodology of Acupuncture and Herbs.
Eca Brady is a fully licensed physician of Chinese Medicine BSc(Ac) MBAcC PGDip(CHM), practicing from Harley Street, London. Make an appointment for an acupuncture treatment and we can discuss how we can help you, to read more about Eca click here