Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Making use of traditional remedies for treating infertility


Infertile couples in India will often resort to using traditional medicines . Many will go to temples and take a prasad or tie a holy thread to help them to have a baby. Not only does traditional medicine have a long history in India, it has also helped many couples with unexplained infertility to have a baby, which means it has an established track record of success !

However, many modern IVF doctors make fun of these "remedies". They believe these are useless, and will often discourage a patient from adopting these.

It's not smart to do this. A good doctor respects a patient's beliefs, and understands that different people have different world views - and there is no one right way of looking at things ! After all, IVF specialists and Western medicine do not have a monopoly on the truth !

The important thing is to work together with the patient, so that the doctor and patient form a team. An open approach will give the patient permission to confide in her doctor as to what alternative medicines she is taking - and will also teach open-minded IVF doctors that other systems of medicine can also help women to have babies ! In fact, it can be quite a humbling ( and eye-opening ) experience when patients who have failed IVF get pregnant after doing yoga or taking siddha medicines !

Some of these traditional beliefs are harmful ; while many are helpful . A good doctor will study these beliefs; research them; and encourage patients to make good use of the helpful beliefs.

After all, all doctors will acknowledge that the placebo effect is very powerful, and works in real life , even when we do not understand how and why it does. A clever doctor will make good use of the placebo effect by selecting his patients carefully.

This is where the importance of an open mind is so critical. Using a blended approach can provide the best results. We can use modern technology to define what the medical problem is and then select patients who can benefit from simpler ( and much less expensive) alternative medicine approaches. Thus, while young patients with unexplained infertility are likely to benefit from these options , those with blocked tubes will just end up wasting their time if they do so !

One major benefit of these traditional medicines is that they are much less expensive than IVF. However, a major problem is that they are very poorly researched and results are often now well documented. This means that quackery flourishes in this field, and traditional medicine doctors make all kinds of tall claims as to how their medicines help to open blocked tubes and improve low sperm counts. This is very unfortunate, as they end up giving traditional medicines a bad reputation.

Also, do not forget that modern medicine is also riddled with false beliefs , which can be equally harmful. An excellent example of this is the over-diagnosis of TB in infertile women by using PCR technology on endometrial samples. As a result of this mindless unthinking approach, thousands of infertile Indian women without TB are needlessly forced to take 9 months of toxic TB medicines to "treat their infertility " !

The simple answer is that there is no simple answer - patients need to intelligently use a combination of modern and traditional medicines to find the right answer for themselves !
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