Traditional Chinese Medicine
Typically, a woman will experience menstruation, pregnancy, delivery of newborn as well as breast-feeding at different stages of her life. TCM mainly helps to maintain a good and healthy female reproductive system, as well as study the pathological characteristics of certain reproductive disorders or diseases in an attempt to treat the ailments early to prevent further pathological changes. In TCM, the most important organs that govern the regulation of Qi and Blood are the liver, spleen, and kidneys. The liver is responsible for maintaining a smooth and even flow of Blood and Qi in the body. If the liver malfunctions, it will result in menstrual disorders.
In TCM, treatments include replenishing the Qi, nourishing the Blood and strengthening the physiological functions of the spleen. To replenish the body's Qi and nourish the blood reserves, the mother needs to watch her diet and consume proper and nutritious food, such as broccoli, spinach, soya beans, milk and other nutrient-rich food. In addition, she should also have adequate rest with moderate exercise, such as taichi, yoga, frequent slow walks or just simple stretching movements. This ensures the smooth flow of Qi and Blood in the body. There are old grandmother's recipes in TCM such as the red date tea or ginger tea for the day-to-day wellbeing of mothers by constantly and slowly replenishing and nourishing the Qi and Blood in the body.
Different foods correspond to different elements and may be Yang or Yin in nature (see Box 3.1). In the West, our food sources are a means of getting the right balance of vitamins and minerals. In Chinese medicine, the five flavours - sour, sweet, bitter, pungent and salty, corresponding to the different elements - are as important as the remedial action of the different foods tonifying, sedating, moistening, cooling and dispersing. Also important is where the energies of foods are directed in the body and how they are used therapeutically.
A woman's physiology is dominated by Blood. Western medicine sees blood simply as a collection of cells with no emotional link, although it is recognised that a woman suffering from anaemia may be tearful and low in spirits. When menstruation stops as a result of pregnancy, changes occur in the Penetrating and Directing channels. An abundance of Yin Blood in the Chong and Ren channels nourishes the fetus. But the Blood in the body as a whole is Deficient and Qi is in Excess. This is the reason why many pregnant women feel warmer.
In Chinese medicine, the Blood is seen as more than just a collection of cells. Blood is Yin and is regarded as receptive and sensitive, the seat of our emotions. So the relationship between the Blood and our emotional state is very important. If the Blood is low, a woman is likely to feel weak, anxious and depressed.
Western medicine usually treats the condition with splints or bandages. Acupuncture works very well but a daily treatment is required. I use PC-5 with the needle angled towards the carpal tunnel, and ST-36, the empirical point of the wrist. Obtain Deqi and leave the needles in with even technique.
In Chinese medicine the menstrual cycle is divided into four phases - period, post-menstrual, mid-menstrual and premenstrual. The Kidney energy is the most vital aspect 'The treatment of infertility according to the four phases is always based principally on treating the Kidneys, because the phases are a result of the waxing and waning of Kidney-Yin and Kidney-Yang and because the Kidneys are the source of the Heavenly Gui which is the basis for reproduction' (Maciocia 1998, p. 695). Acupuncture treatment through an IVF cycle can help in many ways.
Emotional stress has a huge influence on the pregnancy, labour and the postnatal period. (The specific effects of emotions according to TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) were discussed in Ch. 5.) Women with a predisposition to mental and emotional problems in the past may find that these resurface. Any history of physical or sexual abuse can affect the Heart the Heart is linked to the uterus and the movement of Blood and Qi is affected.
The Chinese pay special attention to herbs used for pregnant mothers. TCM physicians have formulated many well-known TCM formulations or Chinese prescriptions that are deemed effective to prepare women for different stages in pregnancy. In order to understand how these prescriptions work, we need to take a closer look at how Chinese herbs interact with each other. According to the basic principles in TCM, every single herb has its own function or group of functions to keep the internal body environment balanced and in harmony. During pregnancy, it is important to keep the Qi (energy flow) and Blood (blood and its related functions) in harmony to ensure a smooth pregnancy. When a TCM physician puts single herbs or groups of herbs together, he she produces a prescription. Every TCM herbal prescription is customized for each individual. Therefore, not every formulation is suitable for all. It is prescribed according to each specific set of symptoms of the patients. For example, in TCM,...
Medical ethics can therefore be defined as the disciplined study of morality in medicine and concerns the mutual obligations of physicians and their patients to health care organizations and society. Medical ethics is as old as medicine itself, dating in Western medicine from the Hippocratic Oath and texts. Since the eighteenth century medical ethics has been understood to be secular. By this we mean that medical ethics does not appeal to religious or theological sources of moral authority but to what people can and should agree upon based on careful analysis of concept and rational argument.
In Western medicine delivery of the placenta or afterbirth is often literally an afterthought in the minds of practitioners, midwives and mothers. In traditional or Third World cultures, however, the afterbirth is given more respect. It is seen as a miraculous organ, which has kept the baby healthy and alive.
In Western medicine, this corresponds to a bacterial infection. Any infection occurring after delivery is called a puerperal infection. The placental site is a large unhealed vascular area, which is warm and moist and an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. If laceration has occurred anywhere in the genital tract, it can become infected. Such problems generally manifest themselves a couple of days after delivery, possibly as the result of an infection from the uterus, stitches, a wound or a breast infection.
Like all branches of Chinese medicine, traditional gynaecology and obstetrics have a long history. The earliest records of gynaecological medical writings date from the Shang dynasty (1500-1000 bc) bones and tortoise shells have been found with inscriptions dealing with childbirth problems. The text 'Book of Mountains and Seas' from the Warring States period (476-221 bc) describes medicinal plants to treat infertility. The 'Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine' (Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen) has many references to women's physiology, anatomy, diagnosis and treatment of gynaecological problems. Throughout the ancient Chinese medical literature, there are many references to obstetrics. The famous doctor Zhang Zhong Jing refers in his work 'Discussion on Cold-induced Diseases' (Shang Han Lun) to a previous book entitled 'Series of Herbs for Obstetrics' (TaiLu YaoLu) which proves that even before the Han dynasty there were books dealing exclusively with obstetrics but all of these...
In Chinese medicine there is no discourse on the immune system as such. However, according to Professor Yu Jin of Shanghai Medical University, 'The Kidneys are said to be the essence of life, while the Liver has a common source with the Kidneys. Both relate to growth and reproduction, and can thus be associated with the functions of the hypothalamus, pituitary, ovaries, adrenals, and thyroid, which also comprise the body's immuno-neuroendocrine framework' (Yu Jin 1998). There may also a link between the Kidney Essence, jing, the bone marrow and the immune system, as in Western medicine the immune response is thought to come from a stem cell in the bone marrow (Maciocia 1994).
My first introduction to acupuncture came after the birth of my second child, when I was suffering from postnatal depression. The success of the treatment I received inspired me to study the subject further, and four years later I graduated from the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Leamington Spa. Having been a practising midwife for many years, and having had two children of my own, I understood the reluctance of pregnant women to take pharmaceutical remedies for their ailments. Acupuncture treatment, used in conjunction with conventional Western medicine, seemed to me the ideal solution.
In TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), everything is considered to be created through the interaction of Yin and Yang. Conception occurs when the Yang sperm meets the Yin egg (Maciocia 1998). According to ancient Chinese texts, the best time for conception to take place is when the cock crows at 4 a.m., as this is considered the time when Yin and Yang are in balance.
This condition is often dismissed as 'par for the course' in pregnancy because there is very little that Western medicine can do to relieve it. Women may be offered physiotherapy, given back exercises and advice on posture, or supplied with a Fem Brace, which gives support to the lower back.
There are two published articles from studies carried out in Sweden on pelvic pain relief for pregnant women. Both articles concluded that acupuncture relieves low-back and pelvic pain without any serious side-effects. However, the studies are noted to have used acupuncture points which are forbidden in TCM texts. The 2001 study by Kvorning Ternov et al used local painful points and mainly LR-3 and LI-4 the acupuncture was performed by midwives in a maternity unit. The more recent study by Elden et al, published in the British Medical Journal in 2005,
Another possibility is fibroids these may have been present before the pregnancy but, due to the increased blood supply in pregnancy, a fibroid may enlarge, often causing abdominal pain. (This equates in Chinese medicine to Blood stasis.) Do not treat fibroids in pregnancy.
Recent studies from Germany and Denmark have shown a remarkable, almost 50 increase in success rates in women who had acupuncture 25 minutes before and after embryo transfer. The studies used the same acupuncture points which, according to TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) principles, would increase blood circulation and energy to the uterus as well as relax the patient (Paulus et al 2002, Westergaard et al 2006).
From personal experience, I believe the body adapts to whatever needle technique you use. Before my TCM training (at the College of Integrated Medicine), I studied Five Element acupuncture, so my techniques may be considered different from those of classically trained TCM practitioners. When I began training, I soon came to realise through observation that all practitioners develop their own personal needle technique. The following recommendations are therefore based on my own preferences.
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