Background: Traditional Western treatments for female infertility can take a costly toll on patients, both financially and emotionally. For patients undergoing such treatment, having the option of increasing likelihood of pregnancy via a treatment variation like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that has few risks and side effects would be an important consideration. The purpose of this literature review is to assess the efficacy of TCM in the treatment of female infertility when used as an adjunct to traditional Western fertility treatments.
Method: An exhaustive search of available medical literature was performed using Ovid-Medline, CINAHL, EBSCO, Alt-Health Watch, CAM Power Search, AcuTrials, and Google Scholar. Results were limited to meta-analyses and English-language. Meta-analyses that utilized a broad scope of TCM—defined as acupuncture and herbal medicine—that was used in adjunct with Western fertility treatment were included. The use of sham acupuncture was permitted.
Results: Three meta-analyses met inclusion criteria. Two studies analyzed the use of Chinese herbal medication in adjunct to Western fertility treatment. One study analyzed the use of acupuncture in adjunct to Western fertility treatment, specifically in vitro fertilization (IVF). All studies reported an increase in the rate of pregnancy in the TCM treatment group versus control.
Conclusion: The use of TCM as an adjunct treatment to Western fertility treatments may provide an increase in the rate of pregnancy when compared to the use of Western fertility treatments alone. Future research should focus on analyzing the combination of both acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatment together, and used in adjunct to Western fertility treatments.
Keywords: Chinese medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, Chinese herbal drugs, East Asian traditional medicine, acupuncture therapy, moxibustion, female infertility, female subfertility, assisted reproductive technology, in vitro fertilization.
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