Objectives: To assess the effect of Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine
(CHM) in the management of female infertility and on pregnancy rates
compared with Western Medical (WM) treatment.
Methods: We searched the Medline and Cochrane databases and Google Scholar
until February 2010 for abstracts in English of studies investigating
infertility, menstrual health and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). We
undertook meta-analyses of (non-)randomised controlled trials (RCTs) or
cohort studies, and compared clinical pregnancy rates achieved with CHM
versus WM drug treatment or in vitro fertilisation (IVF). In addition, we
collated common TCM pattern diagnosis in infertility in relation to the
quality of the menstrual cycle and associated symptoms.
Results: Eight RCTs, 13 cohort studies, 3 case series and 6 case studies
involving 1851 women with infertility were included in the systematic
review. Meta-analysis of RCTs suggested a 3.5 greater likelihood of
achieving a pregnancy with CHM therapy over a 4-month period compared with
WM drug therapy alone (odds ratio = 3.5, 95% CI: 2.3, 5.2, p < 0.0001, n =
1005). Mean (SD) pregnancy rates were 60 ± 12.5% for CHM compared with 32 ±
10% using WM drug therapy. Meta-analysis of selected cohort studies (n = 616
women) suggested a mean clinical pregnancy rate of 50% using CHM compared
with IVF (30%) (p < 0.0001).
Conclusions: Our review suggests that management of female infertility with
Chinese Herbal Medicine can improve pregnancy rates 2-fold within a 4 month
period compared with Western Medical fertility drug therapy or IVF.
Assessment of the quality of the menstrual cycle, integral to TCM diagnosis,
appears to be fundamental to successful treatment of female infertility.