me myself and i · the journey · thoughts

Going down the TCM route

I have received numerous emails asking me for my TCM contact after this entry and thought that I should just write an entry about it because I have quite a bit to say. I guess when one is on the long drawn infertility journey, it is easy to try everything within our means to conceive a child. I know because we’ve been there. And even though we have been blessed with Elliott, we will never ever forget the journey.

Trying everything would most probably include seeking alternative routes, i.e. traditional chinese medicine, or TCM. The Chinese believe that one’s body must be “strong enough” and “balanced” before it is able to conceive and “hold” a baby. I remember a TCM doctor using this analogy which made sense:

If your womb is too cold (similar to a winter climate), it will not be able to “bear fruit”. If your womb is too hot (similar to a desert environment), it will also not be ideal.

Basically, you need the elements to be in harmony and balance for conception to take place. It may all sound very airy fairy (especially when I explain it in English!) but if you delve deeper into the study of TCM, it kinda all makes sense.

I was never a big believer in TCM. Growing up, my mum used to try and make me ingest all sorts of strange-coloured black soup. I had no idea what went into those soups and naturally, would try all ways and means to avoid drinking them. This changed when I was introduced to ba zhen tang or Eight Treasure Decoction. I used to get terrible cramps when it was the time of the month. I remember one time, I was in such pain, I was lying on the office couch, helpless and in pain. It was then I decided to seek out TCM and tried this “wonder” soup that many women swore by. Long story short, it took away the cramps and after a few months of taking it, Aunt Flo would come visit and leave without me even noticing it because I stopped having cramps completely.

I was amazed. And very very impressed.

Then came our long long journey to conceive. Many friends told me to seek out TCM and we did. I must have seen 3-4 TCM doctors who all declared that “nothing was wrong” with me nor the husband and to just “relax and keep trying”. It was frustrating, to say the least. I knew that I wasn’t ill per se but yet, at the back of my head, I knew that I wasn’t at my optimum, health-wise. I was tired easily and despite all the huge meals that I ate, it was very difficult for me to put on weight. I constantly looked gaunt and tired.

The BFF was the one who introduced me to my current TCM doctor, Dr Chia. He apparently cured her sinus as well as her MIL’s eczema which plagued her for 30 odd years. In fact, almost her entire family sees Dr Chia for an entire gamut of reasons. I decided to see him as well because what’s another TCM visit, right?

My first visit to him was back in October 2012. I was expecting an elderly doctor (as with most TCM doctors) but he looked to be in his 40s. Also, he speaks English which helps because sometimes, it is hard to explain medical terms in Mandarin. Other than Mandarin, he is also conversant in Cantonese, Teochew and Hokkien. I know because whenever I lie on the treatment bed during acupuncture, I marvel at how he switches effortlessly between languages for different patients. His patients range from the usual aunties, to parents with young children. He shared that the youngest patient he’s had was a 3-month old baby. Wow.

The clinic is a family business so they’ve been in the business for a long long time. For the record, the clinic is old school. Like, seriously old school. If it wasn’t a recommendation from the BFF, I would be a tad afraid to venture up the stairs. Ha.

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It’s located on the second floor of a row of shophouses along Upper Serangoon Road. If you know where the porridge places are, that’s where it is. The clinic does not take appointments so you just walk in and register. Here’s a tip if you want to minimise waiting time: Be the first in line, just before opening time. When I was doing my weekly visits, my mum would be in the queue by 5.45pm to be the first in line when he opened at 6pm. This means that we can be in and out of the place (including acupuncture treatment in about an hour).

He is one hardworking TCM doctor because his clinic is open even on Sundays and public holidays (9.30am to 12pm). Just be prepared to wait if you pop in on a weekend or public holiday.

See what I mean about the clinic being old school? I always feel like I’ve gone back to the 70s. Check out the retro floor tiles. That little window is where you register and collect your medicine after you’re done.

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Here’s Dr Chia himself giving advice to the boy. I brought the boy along with me at my last visit because he has been getting crazy migraine and his shoulders are ridiculously tight. Dr Chia was explaining to him what was causing the headaches (gall bladder and liver overworking which leads to the bad headaches).

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I like that he takes time to explain the cause and not simply brush you off with your complains and throw you a bunch of meds. If you look very carefully (near the model of the ear), there’s a red card on his shelf – that’s the thank you card I sent him 🙂 I told him at the same visit that I have introduced quite a few patients to his clinic and jokingly said that he should pay me some sort of commission. He said that he’s currently seeing about 3 that I referred but he feels a bit stressed because he feels like he needs to work miracles.

This is my fear too. That when I share our journey and mention that TCM somewhat helped, many would see it as the surefire way to conceive. I would thus like to highlight a couple of things:

#1 – Please know that as with all things fertility-related, there are no guarantees and definitely not some sort of “miracle” cure. Up till today, I still do not know how big (or small) a role TCM played in us conceiving Elliott successfully. I guess it’s something we will never know. The only fact is, I know that TCM made me sleep better and my qi se (complexion) was a lot better about 4 months after I started TCM treatments.

#2 – TCM is not a one-time-cure-all. It is a long term treatment process and a lot of patience and time is needed. I went faithfully every single week for acupuncture and took my medication religiously. It was tiring because I went after work every Friday. You will need to keep up the treatments and medication. Just remember that even if it doesn’t bring about a baby, your body will be stronger which is not a bad thing.

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#3Trust your TCM doctor. You need to find a TCM doctor that you fully, 100% trust. I’m the sort of person that needs to know what goes into the medicine that I am taking (I read labels and ingredients religiously on my medication) but this is something I cannot do with TCM meds. They’re just bottles filled with dark liquid and tiny little pills. So yeah, you just gotta trust that the meds will do you good. Also, although Dr Chia’s treatment and meds might have worked for me, this may not be the case for everyone else.

#4 – Listen and follow instructions. When I was undergoing treatment, Dr Chia said “no cold drinks“. It sounded easier than it was because we live in a very hot country and sometimes, I was just dying to have a cold glass of Coke! Apparently, this is because I had a “nei han wai re” constitution (cold inside, hot outside) and this made it more challenging to treat. As such, I had to stay away from cold foods. I had to always order warm instead of iced water whenever we dined out. Really difficult at the start but as with all things, over time, it became a habit and I no longer hankered after cold drinks. I know of some TCM doctors that give you a long list of items that you cannot eat/drink but thankfully, Dr Chia is pretty relaxed. I thought that I had to give up my daily dose of teh-si and spicy food but he said they’re ok (whoop whoop) as long as taken in moderation.

So yes, that’s what I wanted to say about my journey with TCM. If you’re still keen to give it a shot, here are his details:

Chia Kit Chay Medical Hall
1010A Upper Serangoon Road
Singapore 534748
Tel: 62883675

Opening hours:
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri: 9.30am – 12pm, 2.30pm – 5pm, 6pm – 8pm
Wed, Sat, Sun, PH: 9.30am – 12pm

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