HEALTH
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Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)

More childless Westerners are turning to Chinese medicine, say doctors

Western women are increasingly turning to traditional herbs and acupuncture to improve their chances of conception, doctors say

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 November, 2013, 6:14am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 October, 2017, 2:59pm

Childless Westerners in Hong Kong are increasingly turning to traditional Chinese medicine to improve their chances of having a baby, according to two practitioners.

The patients - mostly French and British women - are using Chinese herbs and acupuncture to achieve optimal health and stimulate their hormones after the use of Western procedures alone failed them. This despite a lack of research proving the efficacy of traditional Chinese medicine in fertility.

One fertility specialist, who believes women can boost their rate of conception by combining Chinese and Western therapies, said she was seeing a dozen new cases every week - both Chinese and non-Chinese.

"There is an increasing trend in foreign patients seeking treatment from us, many of them referred by Western doctors to supplement their fertility treatment," said Dr Michelle Law Pui-man, a registered Chinese medicine practitioner who also holds a PhD in public health.

"I believe it is a result of an increasing recognition of traditional Chinese medicine in the West."

Law pointed to one benefit: "The health of the uterus is essential for embryo development. Traditional Chinese medicine therapy aims to optimise nourishment of the uterus."

Kwan Chi-yee, president of the Chinese Herbalists Association, said he had observed the same trend in foreigners.

He said traditional medicines could target specific aspects of a woman's health and create the best possible conditions for her to conceive. He cautioned, however, that in the absence of clinical data, any help it offered could not be conclusively proven.

Law said that from experience, using both types of therapies together could raise the rate of conception by 15 per cent, depending on the patient's age. However, she did not recommend relying solely on traditional Chinese medicine in order to get pregnant.

The past four years had seen a 15 per cent rise in the number of childless foreign women seeking help from Law. They account for about 65 per cent of all her patients with fertility difficulties.

Most were French or British, with a handful of Americans, Japanese, Koreans and Indians.

Law said 90 per cent suffered from a condition Chinese doctors called "kidney deficiency" - meaning the reproductive system was weak or unhealthy rather than being related to the kidneys. Caused by a stressful and unhealthy urban lifestyle, the condition caused aches in the lower back, dizziness, fatigue, a dry mouth or cold hands and feet, she said. It could be treated by applying acupuncture on points around the stomach and hands to stimulate the "kidney", or the reproductive system.

"People who seek our treatment are usually undergoing conventional ovulation induction, injections and in vitro fertilisation. They want to increase their chances of getting pregnant with the help of traditional Chinese medicine," she said.

Patients should beware of having sexual intercourse when drunk, because of age-old beliefs that this would upset the balance of the body, Law said. Unfortunately, it was the one health tip that Westerners found hardest to comply with, she noted.

Women trying for a baby were also advised against eating cold food, which was thought to throw the body off balance, she said.