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Infertility and Chinese Medicine

Anna and Alex were eager to start a family. While both considered themselves to be quite active and healthy, they underwent tests and found that they both had factors that affected their fertility. After trying assisted fertility procedures several times without success, they researched their options again, and decided to try acupuncture and Oriental medicine alongside western reproductive technologies. Through regular treatments with acupuncture and herbs over a four month period and a final attempt with intra-uterine insemination (IUI), the couple was able to conceive, and Emily carried a healthy baby girl to term. When followed up on their overall experience, the couple reported that because they were able to address their own health concerns appropriately, they were now in the best health of their lives, as was their lovely daughter, Isabelle.

There are countless stories of couples and singles who wish for their dream of a family to materialize. Regardless of what course you choose to follow to reach this goal, Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can offer some practical advice on your journey through to parenthood.

From the moment each of us is created, we are given a very special combination of traits and gifts from our parents and ancestors. In Chinese Medicine this is known as Pre-Heaven or Congenital Qi (“pronounced “chee”). When we are born, we are nourished and nurtured by our parents’ and caregivers’ actions, the food we are given, and the environment we live in. This is known as Post-Heaven or Acquired Qi. While we have little control of what we are born with, we do have some influence over the factors we allow to nurture us. The foods we eat, the people we interact with, the activities we engage in: all of these affect our energy, mood, and overall health. And all these things in turn, can have a very real impact on the future generations we create as well.

What are the Causes of Infertility?

For women, the major causes of infertility are endometriosis, polycystic ovarian
syndrome, poor egg quality, difficulties with ovulation, female tube blockages
from pelvic inflammatory disease, sperm allergies (to partner’s sperm), scarring
from sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia, or previous sterilization

In men, infertility can be due to poor sperm quality, low sperm count, altered
sperm morphology (shape), sperm allergies (normally after a reverse vasectomy),
male tube blockages arising from varicoceles, and scarring caused from sexually
transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia or gonorrhea.

In cases of unexplained infertility, environmental factors such as exposure to
pesticides or other toxins, extreme stress, or extreme weight gain or loss may
be the root cause in failure to conceive or maintain a pregnancy. Infertility
in both partners, known as ‘combination infertility,’ may also arise if both
partners have factors that affect their fertility.

How Can Acupuncture and Oriental
Medicine Help

Acupuncture is a medical art based on over three thousand years of clinical
experience. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, there are
several patterns of disharmony that can lead to infertility such as those
relating to the Kidney and Liver energy systems. By restoring a smooth and
proper flow to these energy channels,acupuncture also allows for proper blood
circulation, digestion, metabolism, and reproductive functioning.

From a western perspective, acupuncture has been scientifically proven to
release pain-reducing endorphins; affect pain perception and mood; as well
as improve circulation and immune function.
Acupuncture can directly benefit fertility by relieving stress and encouraging
proper hormonal balance. For these reasons, it is often used to improve sperm
and egg quality, reduce scar tissue, fibroids, and cysts, promote a healthy
uterine lining, regulate menstrual cycles, and decrease the chances of

Herbal Medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbs are combined together to address your
particular set of signs and symptoms. The herbs work synergistically to
eliminate unwanted materials from the body and to encourage good circulation
and energy flow. For women this also helps to create a hospitable environment
for an embryo, and later a fetus, to grow. A consultation with a qualified TCM
practitioner (minimum of four years training in Acupuncture and Traditional
Chinese Medicine) can help your cycles become regular and resolve any other
health concerns that may need to be addressed.

While nutritional advice will depend on each individual’s pattern of signs and
symptoms, in general, it is best to eat a balanced diet of whole grains,
organic fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes as well as eggs, nuts, soy
products, and wild fish. Foods that are heavier on the digestive system such as
red meat, fried, greasy foods, processed foods, and dairy products should be
limited or avoided altogether. Preparation of food is also important. Too much
raw food can impair proper food digestion, while overcooking/ microwaving food
will destroy essential nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy. Drinking
plenty of fluids such as de-caffeinated herbal teas and natural spring water is
also advised to help flush out toxins in the body.

Chi Gong, Tai Chi and Exercise

Focused meditation and proper abdominal breathing techniques help us become
more aware of our surroundings and our selves. Engaging in abdominal breathing
during treatment not only helps one to relax, but also allows you to enter a
contemplative and restful state. Exercises such as Chi Gong and Tai Chi that
also incorporate proper breathing techniques are excellent ways to promote
optimum health. Some other exercises you may want to consider are pilates,
yoga, swimming, hiking, climbing, light trail running, and cycling. Whatever
form of meditation or exercise you choose, it is important to perform only
those that your body is comfortable with and that you can adapt or maintain
during pregnancy.

What to Expect from Treatment with Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

In Oriental medicine there is a saying that one should “cultivate the soil
before planting the seed.” While treatments with acupuncture and Oriental
medicine can indeed improve your rate of success and help couples conceive
within a relatively short period of time, it is more often the norm that
it will take at least a few months (generally 3+months) for you and your
partner to achieve successful results. This is because the body needs time
to return to a healthier state.

Through regular treatment with acupuncture (1-2 times per week) and herbal
medicine (taken daily as a tea in concentrated herbal granules or pill form),
you should notice overall improvement in both mental and physical health,
as well as a more relaxed state of mind. As the treatment course is normally
very reasonable in terms of cost,there is also less concern over how to cover
the expenses for such a procedure.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can safely be used in conjunction with
or without assisted reproductive technologies such as In Vitro Fertilization
(IVF), IUI, ICSI, GIFT, or ZIFT as long as it is performed by a properly
trained practitioner of TCM who can adjust the treatments according to the
stage of your fertility procedure. If you choose to use assisted fertility
procedures as well, please keep in mind that the best time to incorporate these
measures is once you and your practitioner feel that your body is in a more
balanced state. This can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months or longer. For men
with low sperm count and poor morphology or motility, the average duration of a
treatment course using acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is at least 3
months since it takes one hundred days for new sperm to mature.

Through proper nourishment and a lifestyle that promotes both your physical as
well as your emotional well-being, you can ensure the best of health for both
you and your baby and the generations that will follow thereafter.

“You, yourself, as much as anybody
in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”- Buddha



About the author: ChineseHerbalAdviser