What can you do with a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility”? Read more to learn what Chinese medicine has to offer. Sign up for a free monthly e-newsletter about acupuncture and Chinese Medicine or use the online scheduling system to make an appointment with Julie Permut, Lic Ac today!
What happens when you’ve gone through all the recommended fertility testing and treatment but instead of getting pregnant you receive the puzzling diagnosis of “unexplained infertility”? What if the fertility specialist or clinic tells you that there’s nothing more they can do for you but you’re not ready to stop trying for a baby?
Unexplained infertility is a diagnosis of last resort for a couple who has been unable to get pregnant for over two years for no apparent medical reason. If less invasive therapies like Clomid don’t help the couple get pregnant, the conventional approach is to simply take over the reproductive process through in-vitro fertilization (IVF). If IVF doesn’t result in pregnancy, the couple is left with a vague diagnosis, no other options for conceiving their own biological children and, often, a sense of failure and despair.
How I wish at that moment (and even well before that moment) that their fertility specialist would suggest that the couple seek help from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)! TCM is an ancient system of medicine that originated in China at least 2500 years ago, giving rise to acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Chinese dietary therapy and more.
The beauty of TCM is that it provides a framework for the practitioner to make a diagnosis based on Chinese medical theory which is independent from the Western diagnosis and which takes into consideration the whole person, body, mind and spirit. In TCM, every substance, organ and function of the body can be categorized as either Yin or Yang. Yin and Yang are two halves of a whole, representing the duality of the universe: Yin is cooling, moistening and still, Yang is warming, drying and moving. Yin and Yang are interdependent and when there is too much or too little of either, symptoms arise.
For example, suppose that in addition to not being able to get pregnant, you’re also tired all the time, have no sex drive, feel cold even in a warm room and have trouble losing weight. Since these are also the symptoms of a poorly functioning thyroid gland, your doctor might run a blood test, but if your test results are normal, these symptoms are not considered when investigating why you are having trouble conceiving.
To me, however, these symptoms indicate a deficiency of Yang and provide valuable clues about your fertility. Abundant Yang is needed to support healthy ovulation and embryo implantation—without it, there isn’t enough warming, vital energy to support a pregnancy.
In this case, I would build and warm the Yang with acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, diet and lifestyle changes. As Yang recovers, you would feel more energetic, warmer and might even begin to lose some weight. You’d also see changes in your menstrual cycle: a slightly longer luteal phase (time between ovulation and your period) or, if you keep a basal body temperature chart, higher temperatures during the luteal phase, both signs of improved fertility.
By focusing on restoring your wellness and vitality, TCM offers hope and a way forward for anyone struggling to start a family. In the introduction to her book, The Infertility Cure, author and practitioner Randine Lewis writes, “I wasn’t infertile: I was imbalanced. To heal myself, I had to open my mind to other ways of thinking based on a concept of wellness rather than disease. I had to look at my body as an ally rather than enemy, as something that needed nurturing and healing in order to support the growth of a child inside it.”
So, what if you and your partner aren’t ready to stop trying for a baby? I would suggest it’s time to consider treatment with TCM. You can get started by consulting with a knowledgeable practitioner, preferably one who practices Chinese herbal medicine and has advanced training in treating fertility issues.