Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after 2 years of consistently trying.
This is becoming a more common problem in modern society. There are many factors to look at in terms of cause. Pollution, quality of food, chronic stress and toxic drugs are definite culprits. It is also common for women to wait until they are older to try to have children.
1 in 6 couples now experience infertility
Men are the cause 30% of the time
Women are the cause 40% of the time
Men and women together are the cause 20% of the time
10% of the time, it is not known what the cause is
If your infertility is due to a specific gynecological problem such as:
- History of STI such as chlamydia
- High FSH
- Luteal phase defect
- Fallopian tube problems
- Recurrent miscarriage
- Male factors
We treat the root of the problem to improve fertility.
If you are working with a fertility specialist and using assisted reproduction techniques such as IUI (Intrauterine Insemination), IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), ICSI ( Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection), Chinese Medicine can help to improve your chances of success.
Female Reasons for Infertility
Problems producing eggs
Having a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
Problems in the uterus
Problems with the fallopian tubes
Male Reasons for Infertility
Poor sperm quality
Low sperm count, or lack of sperm
History of sexually transmitted infection (STI)
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If you have been to see a fertility specialist and you have had the usual testing done (blood tests, ultrasounds, cycle monitoring etc) and they cannot give you a reason why you can’t get pregnant, they will say you have “unexplained infertility”.
This can be more upsetting, because you don’t know what to fix if you don’t know what the problem is.
This is where Chinese Medicine excels. The diagnostics in Chinese Medicine are more subtle, and take into account the body and mind connection. Chinese Medicine can give a diagnosis when Western medicine fails to give one.
By asking questions, looking at the tongue and taking the pulse, we can see imbalances that do not show up in Western medicine testing. We look at the body not in terms of it’s physical biology makeup, but in terms of balance within organ systems that perform functions within the body. The body is also seen as an extension of nature, all of the elements in nature such as wind, water, fire, cold, dryness are present in our bodies as well. The system that still works today was developed thousands of years ago when the knowledge of the body was primitive.
Imbalances within organs, between the two opposing energies of Yin and Yang (like fire and water) and the elements in nature are all possible ways to give a diagnosis in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). For any complaint in the body from a headache, to an emotional problem to infertility can all be boiled down to an imbalance and be diagnosed in Chinese Medicine.
How Can Acupuncture Help with Unexplained Infertility
Stress is often a major cause of unexplained infertility, if you are having trouble conceiving, you would have heard someone tell that you will become pregnant when you stop worrying about getting pregnant. That of course is easier said then done!
Let’s look at how stress affects the body: Whatever we are stressing about, whether about money troubles, relationship problems, traffic, trying to get pregnant; the response in our body is the same-we go into fight and flight mode. Within our nervous system, we have two opposing systems which control all of our unconscious functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestive motility etc. One being the sympathetic nervous system (fight and flight) and the other being the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest).
When stressed out, the fight and flight response is activated in our bodies, the heart rate goes up, blood pressure rises, cortisol and adrenalin are released. This “stress” response is a positive thing when we suddenly need it. But when we are experiencing moderate stress constantly, it becomes a problem. Continuous stress sends a message to your body that it is not a good time to conceive. Stress can also cause higher levels of estrogen and prolactin in the body which can decrease fertility.
From a Chinese Medicine view, stress blocks the flow of Qi (energy), blocking fertility. In terms of symptoms of Qi stagnation, these women will often have PMS signs along with infertility.
One major benefit of acupuncture is that is has a powerful ability to regulate the between the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems. This allows the body to relax and get a break from the damaging effects of constant stress. It also helps to regulate any problems with the cycle.
How Chinese Medicine Views Infertility
The most important thing to determine in Chinese medicine is whether the nature of the condition is excessive or deficient. In the case of infertility due to deficiency of vital substances such as Blood and Essence, the treatment principal is the nourish the body. In the case of excessive causes such as Blood stasis or Qi stagnation, we try to eliminate those factors. The two treatment methods are in direct opposition, if the wrong method is done, it will make the condition worse.
In deficiency cases, there is either a lack of egg because the body is too weak to ovulate or the body cannot present the proper conditions for an egg to be fertilized or it cannot nourish a fertilized egg.
The main deficiency causes are:
- Blood deficiency
- Kidney Yin deficiency
- Kidney Yang deficiency
- Essence Deficiency
In excess cases, fertilization cannot occur because pathogenic factors are obstructing the uterus as well as the Ren and Chong channels.
The main excess causes are:
- Excess cold
- Blood heat
- Qi stagnation
- Blood stasis
Causes of Infertility in Chinese Medicine
Deficiency of Kidney essence which is something that someone is born with, it is weakness that is passed on from the parents. For example, from a mother that was too old when conceiving her child.
Working long hours without enough rest and with irregular diet for many years is a major cause of Kidney Yin deficiency. Strong Kidney energy is essential for conception, especially Kidney Yin.
Excessive physical work
Too much strenuous exercise and sports weaken the Spleen and Kidney Yang. This is especially true for a girl around puberty when the uterus is prone to weakness.
Excessive sexual activity at an early age
Too much sexual activity at a young age (before and during puberty) is an increasingly more common cause of infertility in Western countries. It weakens Ren and Chong Channels which are essential in conception.
Invasion of cold
This is a very common cause of infertility in cold and damp climates. A common reason for the invasion of cold is improper care during the period. For young girls going through puberty, improper care during the period and exposure to cold while exercising or playing sports allows cold to invade the uterus and Ren and chong channels.
Excessive cold, and frozen foods/drinks leads to cold invasion of the uterus. Eating greasy food and dairy products leads to dampness which settles in the lower part of the body obstructing fertility.
Treatments Available at Radiance Chinese Medicine and Wellness Centre
Internal Medicine: Herbal medicine can strengthen weakness or reduce blockages. Herbs are available in powders, pills and decoctions which we can cook or can be cooked at home.
Herbal medicine is taken daily until the symptoms have cleared, usually for 3 cycles, and possibly longer for long standing issues.
Hip Bath: Raw herbs are boiled at home and the liquid is added to a small bath, deep enough to soak the hips in.
Hip baths are taken daily for 15- 20 minutes daily while taking internal herbal medicine.
Herbal Enema: Raw herbs are boiled at home and the liquid is added to an enema bag for use in the anus.
Enemas are taken daily while taking internal herbal medicine.
Herbal Compress: Raw herbs are boiled at home and the liquid is soaked into a cloth and placed on the lower abdomen for about half an hour.
Herbal compresses are taken daily for 30-45 minutes daily while taking internal herbal medicine.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture, as with herbal medicine can reduce blockages, increase circulation in the reproductive system and nourish deficiencies. Acupuncture is known to have a regulating effect on the hormones. Modern science is beginning to study the way acupuncture works, and they are finding that it is able to stimulate and regulate the release of hormones.
Acupuncture is done 1-2 times per week until the desired effect is achieved.
Heat Lamp: An infrared heating lamp is an added tool used during acupuncture treatments, it is especially beneficial for cases involving cold.