Five areas of traditional Chinese gynaecology

Chinese gynaecology traditionally¹ has four (main) areas of concern, known in Chinese as jīng, dài, tái, chǎn (經帶胎產):

  • Menstrual disorders (jīng 經) is a category which traditionally includes shortened or lengthened cycle, irregularity, excessively heavy or overly light periods, amenorrhea, dysfunctional uterine bleeding, mood swings prior to periods, period pain, infertility, and symptoms at the menopause.
  • Discharge (dài 帶) is a category which traditionally involves excessive vaginal discharge and itching.
  • Chinese obstetrics (tái 胎), while nowadays relinquishing supervision of delivery to Western medicine, traditionally concerns itself with functional problems in pregnancy such as morning sickness, threatened miscarriage, abdominal or lumbar pain, fluid retention, urinary dysfunction, foetal malposition, and difficult or extended labour.
  • Post-partum difficulties (chǎn 產) is a category that traditionally includes lochia retention, vaginal bleeding, nightsweats, fever, abdominal pain, constipation, impeded or uncontrollable urine flow, anaemia, generalized aching of the joints, and deficient or excessive lactation.

A fifth miscellaneous category in tradtiional Chinese gynaecology includes such commonly seen complaints as abdominal mass (which includes endometriosis), prolapsed uterus, and emotional disturbances – for example, symptoms such as ‘hysterical’ throat obstruction.

These four areas were first laid out in this order in the AD 610 book Discussion of the Origins of the Symptoms of Disease (諸病源侯論 Zhū bìng yuán hòu lùn), a major medical encyclopedia. It was arranged according to symptoms, and compiled by a group of imperially appointed physicians under the guidance of Chao Yuanfang during the Sui dynasty. It also included various longevity techniques, including exercises, breathing and diet.