Patient Care

Acupuncture for Women's Health

Did you know that oriental medicine and acupuncture effectively diagnose, treat and manage many common health concerns for women? Acupuncture and oriental medicine are growing in popularity for women seeking help with fertility issues, hormonal imbalances, menstrual irregularities, menopause, heart disease, and even adjunct therapy for cancer prevention and treatment.

Hui Yan Cai, MD (China), PhD, LAc, a new faculty member in the acupuncture and oriental medicine clinic at National University of Health Sciences in Lombard, brings a wealth of experience in women's health issues to clinic patients.

Dr. Cai says perhaps one of the most popular reasons women seek acupuncture is to help increase their fertility. In her practice, she sees many patients with fertility issues. "I find that hormone problems respond very well to acupuncture: irregular menstrual periods, infertility, uterine bleeding, etc." says Dr. Cai. "I also treat many in-vitro fertilization (IVF) patients seeking to increase their chance of conceiving and sustaining a pregnancy to term."

Clinical Research

Clinical trials and case studies suggest that acupuncture can improve the success rate of IVF and the quality of life of patients undergoing IVF, and that it is a safe adjunct therapy. IVF results in pregnancy about 35 percent of the time. Adding acupuncture might boost that to around 45 percent, according to researchers assessing trial data funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Their analysis was published in a 2008 issue of the British Medical Journal.

Through this and other research findings, the western world is now discovering and proving the types of clinical benefits that people in Asian countries have been experiencing with oriental medicine for years.

Dr. Cai's Experience

Before she came to the United States in 1986, Dr. Hui Yan Cai was an attending physician at a large hospital in China. In addition to earning her MD in China, Dr. Cai completed two fellowships in biomedicine, including one focusing on hormone receptor research. She also completed her PhD in Traditional Chinese Medicine in 2004. Dr. Cai travels to other oriental medical colleges across the U.S. to give seminars on women's health and cancer treatment.

At Dr. Cai's hospital it was quite routine for doctors to combine western medical care with acupuncture and herbs. She provides several examples of how combining the two approaches works in women's health care:

"In China, when I performed C-section deliveries in the obstetric ward, we would use acupuncture and herbal medicine as the only anesthetic. This worked very well for both the mother and baby. It was especially helpful when the fetus had heart beat irregularities, making the use of pharmaceauticals more risky," recalls Dr. Cai.

Dr. Cai also combined surgery with oriental medicine in treating women with cervical cancer. "We would perform a radical hysterectomy, but also give the patients acupuncture before, during and after the surgery along with herbal injections. The patients receiving acupuncture and herbal injections combined with a small amount of chemotherapy had much higher 5-year survival rates compared to patients who only had surgery and chemo-therapy," says Dr. Cai.

In regards to cancer patients, Dr. Cai notes that acupuncture and herbal medicine can often reduce the devastating side effects of chemotherapy. It is increasingly common to find acupuncture being used as part of the overall care for cancer patients in progressive hopitals across the United States.

In her work with cancer patients, Dr. Cai always uses tongue diagnosis in conjunction with biopsy, MRI and CT scans to get a more accurate picture. Part of her job in the hospital in China was to oversee pap smear procedures. "In China, we always used a pap smear in combination with assessing the vein color of the underside of the tongue to give us information we needed to pick out the most 'at-risk' patients," she says.

Seeing an oriental medicine practitioner can also help diagnose and prevent disease before it becomes a serious condition. According to Dr. Cai, "In oriental medicine, we use tongue analysis to make diagnoses of both current conditions and the patient's risk for future health trouble," she explains. "By assessing the condition and color of various locations on the tongue, we can often determine patients who are at a higher risk for heart problems and certain cancers, like breast cancer. If I see a patient with certain tongue patterns that warn of potential serious disease, I can recommend that she see a cardiologist or have a cancer screening and possibly intercept a serious health problem before a western doctor would normally detect it."

"For example, patients at risk for heart disease often have a purple color or purplish blue spot and color changes on their tongue and changes in the features and size of the vein on the underside of their tongue," says Dr. Cai. "If we notice this, we can help that patient by not only advising them to get a heart check-up, but also by beginning dietary intervention and lifestyle changes to prevent future problems."

Even though she practices only oriental medicine in the U.S., Dr. Cai still insists that her patients bring their complete medical records to her office before she will treat them. "Increasingly, patients are coming to me along with their MD. It is good news that doctors in the United States are becoming more and more open-minded about oriental medicine, and how we can best help patients by working together."

Contact Us

To find out how acupuncture and oriental medicine might benefit your overall health care, call National University of Health Science Whole Health Center.

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