There is something about Robin Marchment’s Gynaecology Revisited that is guaranteed to appeal to readers, and quite deliberately: in her own words, it is “characterized by leanness.” Lightness in weight has definitely become a positive selling point in Chinese medicine textbooks over the last few years, although the physical benefits to a sedentary profession of heftier texts should also not be ignored.
Intellectually, however, Gynaecology Revisited is not lightweight at all. It provides a good grounding in the whole range of gynaecological and obstetric conditions one is likely to see clinically, based on the format of a simple Chinese medicine gynaecology textbook, but supplemented with much modern information. Each condition includes the essential Western bio-medical information clearly set out. In fact one of the several excellent features of this book is the up-to-date, detailed but clear bio-medical viewpoint, and the author’s discussion of how it might relate to the Chinese traditional explanation of the same clinical condition.
By contrast, however, the discussions of Chinese mechanisms of pathology are frequently rudimentary, and in a few cases such as polycystic ovaries and endometriosis even the suggested treatments are cursory, although the reader is usually referred to other sections in these cases for further information.
For most conditions the Chinese differentiation and treatments are presented, along with essential modifications to the suggested base formula, and also in some cases other formulas that could be substituted.
The price paid for the not inconsiderable benefit of ‘leanness’ lies in the choice of what to leave out. In this case it is explanation of the formula action, and detailed actions of the modifying herbs, so the reader will have to be well-versed in formulas and materia medica, using this text only as a reminder.
There is one space-saving decision however that will potentially impact strongly on the book’s reception in North America, and that is the lack of Latin for herb names, and more seriously, not even a Latin-pinyin cross-reference as an appendix. This will not be excessively distressing for Australian readers, since the preference here is pinyin as the primary nomenclature, but for readers who are most comfortable with Latin, its lack may prove somewhat daunting. A last quibble is the book design, which for the second edition should be completely redone by a professional.
The final section of the book contains some excellent illustrated appendices, including: female anatomy, the hormone cycle and basal body temperature, pelvic organ prolapses and relevant nomenclature, useful acupoints on the lower abdomen and their location in relation to the uterus, an illustrated timeline for embryonic development, assessment of foetal age by fundal height, and foetal lie and presentation at full term. There are also a number of tables showing at a glance the potential patterns of disharmony, useful acupoint suggestions, and points contraindicated in pregnancy.
Overall, a worthwhile book especially for its ease of reference for treatments, and its linked discussions of Chinese and Western descriptions of gynaecological conditions.
Section One - Foundations of Gynaecology & Obstetrics
Section Two - The Phenomenon of Menstruation
Section Three - Disorders in the Menstrual Cycle
Section Four - Disorders in the Menstrual Flow
Section Five - Disorders Associated with the Menstruation
Section Six - Vaginal Discharge, Pruritis & Ulceration
Section Seven - Miscellaneous Disorders
Section Eight - Fertility & Conception
Section Nine - Disorders in Pregnancy
Section Ten - Childbirth
Section Eleven - Problems in the Puerperium
Section Twelve - Charts & Tables