A couple experiencing fertility issues or worrying about their fertility may often find this very challenging, and the information available on the subject possibly quite confusing.
We hope that the information on fertility presented here will help to clarify some issues.
At Yi Dao, our treatments of choice for fertility are acupuncture and/or Chinese Herbal Medicine with Conny. Both therapies are rightly famous for helping couples to conceive, either naturally or in conjunction with conventional procedures like IVF.
Fertility refers to a couple’s ability to conceive and stay pregnant.
The term “infertility” is a very broad one, and in itself is simply an observation: it means that a couple hasn’t conceived despite regular intercourse over a set period of time, (usually defined as between 1 and 2 years, or 6 months if the woman is over 35). It doesn’t imply any particular cause explaining the infertility, or any medical condition linked to it, nor does it imply any particular outcome for the future.
About 1/3 of infertility can be linked to a physiological cause in the woman (eg anovulation, or blocked tubes), about 1/3 to a physiological cause in the man (eg sperm morphology), and about 1/3 of infertility is unexplained. Some of the issues, like hormonal factors leading to ovulation problems, can be helped with acupuncture and/or Chinese herbs, whereas others, like blocked tubes, are more difficult to treat.
Chinese Medicine also holds that mental-emotional factors (eg stress), which would not show up on any particular conventional medical tests, have a very strong influence over a woman’s cycle and her fertility. The best preparation a woman can do to fall pregnant is to have a strong, relaxed mind and a strong, relaxed body.
If the definition of infertility is simply the fact that a couple hasn’t conceived over the last year, the definition of fertility treatment is any treatment that will help this couple to do so. Modern Western medicine has many ways of doing this, from drugs that induce ovulation (eg Clomid) to surgery (eg laparoscopy) or assisted reproductive therapy (eg IVF). It relies on an accurate medical diagnosis, and you will usually know within a cycle whether the treatment was successful or not.
Chinese Medicine also has a long history of helping women to conceive. Its aim is not to affect one particular cycle, but to coax a woman’s body into a generally healthier, more relaxed, and more fertile state. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are known to regulate the menstrual cycle, promote ovulation, and improve blood flow to the uterus. A Western diagnosis may help, but is not strictly necessary as the principles of Chinese Medicine are consistent enough to inform treatment. The effect of the treatment are not immediate -we usually schedule 3 months of regular treatment for any gynaecological issues, though of course we cannot predict particular outcomes when dealing with fertility.
Sperm issues may also be treated effectively with a look at a man’s lifestyle and acupuncture/Chinese herbal treatment. Three months of treatment are needed as this is how long it takes for sperm to be produced.
Sometimes the issue is not getting pregnant in the first place, but the fact that the pregnancy ends in miscarriage, often with no identifiable cause or explanation. Miscarriages can be very draining on a woman, both physically and emotionally. Often, she will play down her emotions and try to carry on “as normal”, while few people around her will even be aware of what she is going through.
It is important to acknowledge the impact that a miscarriage can have, and, if need be, for the woman and her partner to allow themselves to grieve fully in order to move on. This is often a time when women will turn to acupuncture or Chinese herbs to find physical and emotional support.
When the woman is ready again, we can then look at any imbalances that are found in terms of Chinese medicine to help sustain the next pregnancy.
Assisted reproductive therapy (ART) is in itself a relatively new medical field, and the Chinese classics that acupuncture and herbal medicine are based on obviously do not have any references to it. However we can use the principles of Chinese Medicine to analyse how ART may affect a woman’s body and use acupuncture treatment to enhance its effect and support the woman as she undergoes the procedures. Many IVF clinics advise against using herbal medicine during IVF as possible interactions between herbs and IVF drugs are unknown.
Acupuncture may be used in the cycle leading up to egg collection to both improve the body’s response physically and help a woman to stay relaxed at this pressured time. They can also be used after the embryo transfer and in early pregnancy to help maintain the pregnancy.
In particular, acupuncture research has shown that 2 treatments, one done within the 24 hours before embryo transfer, and one within the 24 hours after, helps implantation rates and lead to a higher number of successful pregnancies.
Should the cycle not be successful, some women choose to have either treatment in order to deal with any emotions that may come up at this stage. This is an important phase that should not be overlooked, as allowing sad or angry emotions to clear as much as possible is important to allow the woman to start afresh, whichever way this may be.