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Chinese herbal medicine for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

In a nutshell

This review examined whether Chinese herbal medicine was beneficial for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. Authors reported no evidence that Chinese herbal medicine improves pregnancy rates among women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Some background

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) occurs when many cysts grow in the ovaries. This causes hormonal imbalance, and can lead to problems such as acne, excess hair growth, absent periods, and infertility. Chinese herbal medicine has been used by some as an alternative treatment for infertility due to PCOS. It is unclear how effective it is.

Methods & findings

5 studies involving a total of 414 women with PCOS were included. None of the studies reported birth rate.

Clomiphene (Clomid) is a medication used to stimulate release of eggs by the ovary. There was no difference in pregnancy rate with women taking Chinese herbal medicine and women taking clomiphene. Women who received Chinese herbal medicine plus clomiphene compared to women who received clomiphene alone had a 2.6 times higher chance of pregnancy. However, these results were based on low quality evidence.  

Follicle aspiration and ovulation induction is a procedure where excess cysts are removed and the ovary is stimulated to release eggs. Women who received Chinese herbal medicine plus follicle aspiration and ovulation induction were compared to women who received follicle aspiration and ovulation induction alone. There was no difference in pregnancy rate. There was also no difference in rate of ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (swollen and painful ovaries). These results were based on low quality evidence.

Laparoscopic ovarian drilling is a surgery where destroying part of the ovary can stimulate the release of eggs. Women who received Chinese herbal medicine with the surgery were compared to women who received the surgery alone. No difference in pregnancy rates was observed between the groups. These results were also based on low quality evidence.

Methods & findings
The bottom line

The authors concluded that there is not enough evidence to support use of Chinese herbal medicine for PCOS.

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Published By: Cochrane database of systematic reviews
Date: Nov 11, 2020
Original Title: Chinese herbal medicine for subfertile women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.

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