Boulder - Thursday, December 27th 2007 - Chinese medicine and fertility
By AMY DICKINSON
Janice, 33, was very agitated when she came into the office. She and her husband had been trying to get pregnant for 18 months, to no avail. Her husband's sperm count and motility had all checked out perfectly, and while some of her hormone levels were low, she was, by all accounts, within normal limits. She did not want to take another round of hormones, and felt she was at her wit's end.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), fertility is seen as a woman's natural state. Problems with becoming pregnant are treated by identifying the current state of balance in a woman's body and addressing the problems from the 'bottom up'. Possible "side effects" of pursuing fertility through Chinese Medicine include a higher energy level, improved digestion and sleep, decreased anxiety and better health in general.
Chinese medicine can be used as a first step towards promoting fertility for a couple who doesn't know if they want to invest in IVF, IUI, or if the woman doesn't want to cope with the hormonal effects of Clomid or other fertility drugs. It can also be used in conjunction with Western Medicine to increase blood flow to the uterus. And Chinese medicine can be used for women who are at the end of their tethers with western medical treatment.
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine have been helping women get pregnant for over 3,000 years. Chinese medicine is an excellent complementary medicine for women trying to get pregnant. Using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) does not preclude the use of western treatment; in fact, often the best results occur when the two are used together. Western medicine is indispensable for knowing precisely what is going on with many women, including if she has low levels of hormones, when she is ovulating, whether there are any sort of anatomical defects, etc. However, many women suffer from the maddening diagnosis of 'unexplained infertility', or may check out perfectly 'normal' in all tests but still have a hard time conceiving.
Chinese Medical treatment of Infertility is safe and almost always free of adverse side effects. Although one should expect to see the Acupuncturist weekly for at least three months, Traditional Chinese Medical treatments are generally a far less expensive alternative than what Western medicine provides, and it and can benefit a woman at the deepest level.
Following are some ways that your qualified practitioner of Chinese Medicine can help a woman with trying to conceive:
1) Help with circulation to the uterus: A recent study in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility (April, 2003) showed that acupuncture DOUBLED the chances of IVF implantation. Acupuncture is now commonly used in many IVF facilities. Even if you are not yet ready to consider IVF, circulation to your uterus will aid implantation.
2) A trained practitioner of TCM with a specialization in Women's Health can assist you in lifestyle changes that will be useful to promote a uterine environment that is not hostile to the coming fetus. For example, most people know to avoid nicotine and alcohol, but other important things to know include the role of Essential Fatty Acids and eating enough alkaline foods to prevent the cervical mucous from hyperacidity.
3) Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs have been proven to have an effect on the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis, which are the energies responsible for a woman's reproductive system, from menarche to menopause.
4) Acupuncture is RELAXING. Women today face numerous demands, and stress is a huge 'fertility killer'. Prednidalone is the chemical precursor to both progesterone, (the hormone necessary for pregnancy to occur and be sustained), and cortisol, the 'stress' hormone. When the body is under stress, prednidalone is 'stolen' from the production of progesterone and redirected into the production of cortisol, resulting in decreased chances of fertility. Regular acupuncture sessions can help reset this 'prednidalone steal'.
Couples usually want to know how long it will take for them to get pregnant. While it can be difficult to know precisely, there are some predictive factors. The prognosis depends on both the Western and Chinese diagnosis.
In my experience, when there is a structural impediment, such as blocked fallopian tubes or endometriosis, the chances of conception with Chinese Medicine alone are lowest. However, common problems such as Luteal Phase Defect can frequently be rectified in less than six months with consistent acupuncture and herbal therapy.
The diagnosis of 'Unexplained Infertility' frequently falls into the Chinese Medical diagnosis of 'Liver Qi Stagnation', and can be corrected very easily. While being treated for infertility, the patient will often find that her headaches occur less frequently, her moods will be less volatile, and if she has digestive disturbances, these will often be ameliorated as well.
Again, the state of fertility is considered a woman's natural state. If a woman has a difficult time with conception, there is a systemic imbalance that needs to be addressed. The effects of the Chinese medical treatment will most likely extend far beyond the ability to become pregnant.
Finding an Acupuncturist can be an intimidating endeavor. For fertility treatments, it is best to find a practitioner who specializes in Women's Health, and who is well versed in the intricacies and subtleties of a woman's rhythm. Call around and be certain you like the person on the phone, or ask your friends. Your doctor, either Western or Eastern, should respect the choices you make in this very personal journey of trying to conceive.
Janice, by the way, was pregnant within three months and delivered a healthy baby boy in June.
Amy Dickinson is a Licensed Acupuncturist with a practice specializing in Women's Health and Pain Management. She attended the prestigious Five Branches Institute in Santa Cruz, CA., and worked as an Advanced Intern at the Zhejiang Provincial Hospital of Chinese Medicine in Hangzhou, China. She can be reached at (303) 444-0192, or at http://www.wholebodybalance.com
Whole Body Balance
5420 Arapahoe #E
Boulder, CO 80303
Boulder Women's Magazine http://www.wholebodybalance.com/fertilityarticle.htm