Statistics on infertility (Data are for U.S. in 1995)
- Number of women ages 15-44 with impaired ability to have children: 6.1 million
- Number of women who have used or are using infertility services: approximately 9 million
- Number of married couples that are infertile: 2.1 million
- 30% of infertility cases are attributes to male causes; 30% to female causes: and
- 30% to combined male and female causes or unexplained infertility
Description of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
TCM is one of the oldest systems of medicine (over 2000 years old) that utilizes Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to bring the body into balance, and thereby, treat dysfunction . Treatment is based on patterns rather than disease. The Chinese Herbalist or TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioner first diagnoses a pattern of disharmony based on questions, pulse, and tongue. Treatment using acupuncture and herbal medicine is based on bringing the body back into balance using a specific herbal combination and acupuncture. Chinese herbs are used in combinations to create a synergistic blend. There is no such thing as infertility in Chinese Medicine, rather difficulty in conceiving shows the need to bring balance to the system. It is a holistic treatment, that takes into account the physical, mental, and emotional factors of imbalance. For women, treatment is based on regulating the menstrual cycle and treating any other concomitant disharmonies, such as, insomnia, indigestion, etc. When the whole system is functioning more optimally the factors allowing for conception are more possible.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of sterile disposable needles into specific points in the body. It is a safe and relatively painless treatment that has no side-effects when practiced by a licensed practitioner nor any contra-indications. Treatments weekly for at least 3-6 months are needed for best results. Acupuncture is an important adjunct treatment to ART and can be used in all cases of women wishing to optimize their fertility. Recently, there has been research that supports the 2000 plus years of history of using Acupuncture to treat fertility.
Goals of Acupuncture in treating fertility:
- Improve the function of the ovaries to produce higher quality eggs
- Regulate the hormones to produce a larger number of follicles
- Increase blood flow to the uterus and increase the thickness of the uterine lining
- Relax and de-stress (natural endorphin release)
- Prevent uterine contraction post IVF embryo transfer
- Reduce the side-effects of IVF medications
- Strengthen the immune system/Increase energy
- Improve sperm count, motility, morphology and reduce sperm DNA fragmentation
- Increase chance of conceiving
- Decrease chance of miscarriage
- Acupuncture may increase the chance of success with ART by 40-60%
There are over 365 acupuncture points on the body. Some commonly used Acupuncture points for fertility, include HT7 located at the lateral wrist crease, DU20 located at the top of the head, and yintang located in between the eyebrows.
The use of Chinese Herbology and Acupuncture for fertility
Many classical Chinese formulas have been used for thousands of years. The Chinese herbal combination chosen for a patient is based on their individual symptoms. The Chinese herbal formula is designed to bring the body into balance and support the goals of Acupuncture treatment. Chinese herbs can be taken as tablets, granules, or loose herbs. Brewing a Chinese herbal formula requires a process of triple warming and straining the herbal concoction. The raw herb formula is the most effective and time consuming method of taking a Chinese herbal formula. Many patent herbal formulas contain herbs that affect the endocrine system which in turn regulate the menstrual cycle to promote fertility.
Some commonly used Chinese herbs include:
- Angelica (Dang Gui)
Functions: nourishes and invigorates the blood.
Treats: irregular menstruation, amenorrhea, perimenopausal symptoms, and menstrual difficulties. Possesses mildly estrogenic qualities and has a regulatory effect in the uterus, hence its ability to normalize contractions in painful menstruation.
Caution: May cause increased bleeding if on blood thinners.
- American Ginseng (Xi Yang Shen)
Functions: used for concurrent qi and yang deficiency. Tonifies the digestive system, enhances immunity.
Treats: fatigue; poor endocrine, immune and nervous system functions.
- Astragalus (huang qi)
Functions: tonifies spleen qi, raises yang, and augments protective qi.
Treats: weakened immunity, as in immunological infertility factors. Helps the body mend broken parts (fallopian tubes post surgically etc.). Helps the body adapt to stress.
Caution: May immunosuppressive drugs and stimulate immune stimulating drugs.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES:
Lewis, Randine. The Infertility Cure. Little, Brown, and company. NY: 2004.