China / Hot Issues

Pregnancy pulse checks will be put to the test

By WANG XIAODONG (China Daily) Updated: 2014-10-16 07:30

Footage of a doctor practicing traditional Chinese medicine determining if a woman is pregnant by just feeling her pulse is usually the preserve of Chinese movies, with few people questioning the accuracy of the technique.

But Ning Fanggang, a doctor at Beijing Jishuitan Hospital, has declared publicly that pregnancy cannot be determined by this method.

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He has offered a cash award to any senior doctor performing traditional Chinese medicine at a reputable hospital who can demonstrate the effectiveness of the technique.

In a statement Ning posted on his micro blog, he said he will organize a test in which a group of women, some of whom are pregnant, will take part.

He is offering 50,000 yuan ($8,160) to any traditional Chinese medicine doctor who can tell whether more than 80 percent of the women are pregnant just by feeling their pulse.

"If a doctor is successful, I will never state that traditional Chinese medicine is a fake science," Ning said in the statement.

He said the money on offer has been increased to 100,000 yuan through donations by Internet users.

The challenge has triggered heated public debate about the effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine, with thousands of Internet users posting their comments.

One netizen said: "Traditional Chinese medicine has been used for thousands of years and cured countless people, so how can it be a fake science? Traditional Chinese medicine and modern medical science are complementary."

Wang Zhian, an investigative reporter who is helping Ning with the challenge, said they already have a doctor lined up, according to a statement released online on Tuesday.

"Contestants should hold senior positions at reputable hospitals. We won't accept unqualified doctors," he said.

Yang Zhen from Beijing University of Chinese Medicine is the first to accept the challenge. "I just want to prove that traditional Chinese medicine is a science," he told China Daily. "I don't want my students to live in the shadows."

Yang said the statement posted by Ning has greatly harmed the reputation of traditional Chinese medicine and angered many of his students studying it.

He said traditional techniques such as feeling a patient's pulse have been very useful in determining pregnancies. "I think my chances of winning are more than 80 percent," he added.

Yang said that when a woman becomes pregnant, the volume of blood in her body increases sharply, leading to enlarged blood vessels, faster blood flow and a faster heart beat.

He said he will not be too worried if he fails the challenge, believing it will not have a significant negative impact on the development of traditional Chinese medicine.

"Even if I fail, it only proves that I am not very capable when it comes to feeling pulses," he said.

Zhu Qingwen, who practices traditional Chinese medicine and modern medicine at Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, said pulse-feeling, a commonly used clinical method in traditional Chinese medicine, has been used for thousands of years in China and is supported by science.

"But the proficiency of doctors in using the technique varies and only those who are highly experienced can detect subtle changes in pulse with a high degree of accuracy."

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