Thursday, March 24, 2011

Q&A: What Does Chinese Medicine Think of Birth Control Pills?

A client wrote to me and asked me about hormonal birth control methods, including the birth control pill, and how it affects her body's health from a TCM perspective. She also wanted to know if there are negative effects, can Chinese Medicine or Acupuncture counter them.

My Answer: Family planning is a sensitive social and personal issue for many people. It is not in my scope of practice to endorse or recommend methods of birth control for individuals. That responsibility is with you and with your Western medical physician. I can however tell you that although hormonal birth control was invented after Traditional Chinese Medicine, we practitioners have observed certain patterns in many individuals who have used hormonal birth control methods for three years or longer that show accelerated aging of the body. Frequently, the person presents with a decline of Kidney (usually Qi, but sometimes also Yin and/or Yang) and Liver Yin. Keep in mind hormonal methods of birth control mimic pregnancy and the physical toll that a constant pregnancy over years would have. Common Kidney and Liver decline symptoms include: tinnitus, tiredness, insomnia, weakness of knees and lower back, back pain, hot flashes, low grade headaches, eye problems, dryness of the skin, wrinkling of the facial skin, melasma, etc...

In short, No. There is very little Traditional Chinese Medicine can do to prevent the symptoms. Kidney and Liver decline are a natural part of being alive for all people, on hormones or not. Those organs naturally decline as we get closer to death. A person can take herbal medicine to tonify those organs, but tonification can also have side effects such as increased fertility (cross purpose), hormonal fluctuations, and other problems the client may not want to deal with. Stopping the hormones would stop the problem, but again this is an issue to take up with a physician and not an acupuncturist.

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