A Traditional Chinese Medicine Approach to Fertility

Fertility vs. Infertility

The word infertile means unable to conceive.  Unless you know for sure that you cannot ever conceive a child, we think it’s important to begin focusing on your potential to conceive, rather than on the lack of potential.  Western fertility clinics will tell you what percentage of their patients get pregnant and won’t accept you as a patient unless they believe you can get pregnant with the help of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) or other procedures.  In a Chinese medicine clinic like mine, however, helping you become pregnant is not our only goal.  We use acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to improve your general health and vitality so that you are more likely to conceive, carry and deliver a healthy baby, and no patient is turned away due to age or diagnosis.  While no one can guarantee you a pregnancy or a baby, we can promise you a careful and honest assessment of your fertility through the lens of Chinese medicine and make recommendations for lifestyle changes, diet adjustments, acupuncture and herbal therapies that will enhance your fertility.

Treatment for Both Partners

Most of our fertility patients are women and usually they are already well aware of the reproductive issues that are blocking conception.  Conception, however, requires both egg and sperm, so treating only the female half of a couple ignores an important part of the equation.  In about 40% of couples with difficulty conceiving, there is a problem with the male partner’s sperm.  If left undiscovered and untreated, problems with sperm can delay pregnancy for several years.   I routinely recommend that both partners receive a medical evaluation of their fertility andthat both receive treatment with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.

Female Fertility

With women, our initial conversation revolves around the details of your menstrual cycle, gynecological health, previous pregnancies and the results of any fertility tests or treatments.  If you have been using basal body temperature (BBT) charts and/or ovulation predictor kits (OPK) to pinpoint your most fertile days, I’ll ask you to bring your charts to each appointment.  Because BBT charts give us clues about how your reproductive organs are functioning, they can be extremely helpful in arriving at the correct Chinese diagnosis and treatment plan.  We recommend weekly acupuncture sessions and daily herbal medicine* for 4 to 6 menstrual cycles, during which your cycles should become more regular and symptoms of hormonal imbalance like ovulation pain, PMS, painful or heavy periods should lessen or resolve.

If you’ve already decided to try intrauterine insemination (IUI) or IVF treatment, you can still benefit from acupuncture.  Studies have shown that acupuncture may increase the odds of pregnancy with IVF by about 20% – 40%.  Typically, it’s best if we begin treatment one to two months before an IUI or IVF cycle, and continue weekly until insemination or embryo transfer.  A specific treatment protocol is offered before and/or after embryo transfer (IVF only) to help relax the uterus.  Following insemination or embryo transfer, we focus on calming your mind and easing anxiety while you wait to find out if you are pregnant.

Male Fertility

We recommend that men have a sperm analysis done as soon as you both suspect there is an issue with trying to conceive and/or if he is over 40.  If the analysis reveals an issue with sperm count, motility (movement) or morphology (shape), then it is important for him to receive treatment too.  It takes about 90 days for new sperm to generate, so the treatment received today will take at least that long to begin showing measurable results.  In some cases weekly acupuncture visits and daily Chinese herbal medicine are needed, in other cases daily herbal medicine along with one acupuncture treatment right before ovulation or sperm donation (for IUI or IVF) is enough.

Vitality and a Healthy Pregnancy

Whenever reproductive dysfunction keeps you from conceiving, your body is telling you that all is not well.  Even when your fertility problems are “unexplained” by conventional testing, there may be signs and symptoms that point to energetic imbalances that can be addressed with Chinese medicine.  The healthier you and your partner become, the more likely you are to conceive a child.  The healthier you both are at the time of conception, the better environment you provide for your growing baby.

Once a pregnancy has been confirmed, you may choose to continue treatment with acupuncture for anxiety, morning sickness, insomnia, the aches and pains that accompany any pregnancy or, toward the end of your pregnancy, as pre-birth treatment to help your body prepare for labor and delivery.

To find out more about how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can enhance fertility, or to make an appointment, please call us at 603-924-6624.

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