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Home > Newsletters > November 2006 > Enhancing Fertility with Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Enhancing Fertility with Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Emily and Ryan were eager to start a family. While both considered themselves to be quite active and healthy, they underwent tests and found that they both had factors that affected their fertility. After trying assisted fertility procedures several times without success, they researched their options again, and decided to try acupuncture and Oriental medicine alongside western reproductive technologies. Through regular treatments with acupuncture and herbs over a four month period and a final attempt with intra-uterine insemination (IUI), the couple was able to conceive, and Emily carried a healthy baby girl to term. When followed up on their overall experience, the couple reported that because they were able to address their own health concerns appropriately, they were now in the best health of their lives, as was their lovely daughter, Isabelle. 

There are countless stories of couples and singles who wish for their dream of a family to materialize. Regardless of what course you choose to follow to reach this goal, Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can offer some practical advice on your journey through to parenthood.

From the moment each of us is created, we are given a very special combination of traits and gifts from our parents and ancestors. In Chinese Medicine this is known as Pre-Heaven or Congenital Qi (“pronounced “chee”). When we are born, we are nourished and nurtured by our parents’ and caregivers’ actions, the food we are given, and the environment we live in. This is known as Post-Heaven or Acquired Qi. While we have little control of what we are born with, we do have some influence over the factors we allow to nurture us. The foods we eat, the people we interact with, the activities we engage in: all of these affect our energy, mood, and overall health. And all these things in turn, can have a very real impact on the future generations we create as well.

What are the Causes of Infertility?

For women, the major causes of infertility are endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, poor egg quality, difficulties with ovulation, female tube blockages from pelvic inflammatory disease, sperm allergies (to partner’s sperm), scarring from sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia, or previous sterilization procedures.

In men, infertility can be due to poor sperm quality, low sperm count, altered sperm morphology (shape), sperm allergies (normally after a reverse vasectomy), male tube blockages arising from varicoceles, and scarring caused from sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia or gonorrhea.

In cases of unexplained infertility, environmental factors such as exposure to pesticides or other toxins, extreme stress, or extreme weight gain or loss may be the root cause in failure to conceive or maintain a pregnancy. Infertility in both partners, known as ‘combination infertility,’ may also arise if both partners have factors that affect their fertility.

How Can Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Help

Acupuncture is a medical art based on over three thousand years of clinical experience. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, there are several patterns of disharmony that can lead to infertility such as those relating to the Kidney and Liver energy systems. By restoring a smooth and proper flow to these energy channels, acupuncture also allows for proper blood circulation, digestion, metabolism, and reproductive functioning. From a western perspective, acupuncture has been scientifically proven to release pain-reducing endorphins; affect pain perception and mood; as well as improve circulation and immune function. Acupuncture can directly benefit fertility by relieving stress and encouraging proper hormonal balance. For these reasons, it is often used to improve sperm and egg quality, reduce scar tissue, fibroids, and cysts, promote a healthy uterine lining, regulate menstrual cycles, and decrease the chances of miscarriage.

Herbal Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbs are combined together to address your particular set of signs and symptoms. The herbs work synergistically to eliminate unwanted materials from the body and to encourage good circulation and energy flow. For women this also helps to create a hospitable environment for an embryo, and later a fetus, to grow. A consultation with a qualified TCM practitioner (minimum of four years training in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine) can help your cycles become regular and resolve any other health concerns that may need to be addressed.

Nutrition

While nutritional advice will depend on each individual’s pattern of signs and symptoms, in general, it is best to eat a balanced diet of whole grains, organic fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes as well as eggs, nuts, soy products, and wild fish. Foods that are heavier on the digestive system such as red meat, fried, greasy foods, processed foods, and dairy products should be limited or avoided altogether. Preparation of food is also important. Too much raw food can impair proper food digestion, while overcooking/ microwaving food will destroy essential nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy. Drinking plenty of fluids such as de-caffeinated herbal teas and natural spring water is also advised to help flush out toxins in the body.

Chi Gong, Tai Chi and Exercise

Focused meditation and proper abdominal breathing techniques help us become more aware of our surroundings and our selves. Engaging in abdominal breathing during treatment not only helps one to relax, but also allows you to enter a contemplative and restful state. Exercises such as Chi Gong and Tai Chi that also incorporate proper breathing techniques are excellent ways to promote optimum health. Some other exercises you may want to consider are pilates, yoga, swimming, hiking, climbing, light trail running, and cycling. Whatever form of meditation or exercise you choose, it is important to perform only those that your body is comfortable with and that you can adapt or maintain during pregnancy.

What to Expect from Treatment with Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

In Oriental medicine there is a saying that one should “cultivate the soil before planting the seed.” While treatments with acupuncture and Oriental medicine can indeed improve your rate of success and help couples conceive within a relatively short period of time, it is more often the norm that it will take at least a few months (generally 3+ months) for you and your partner to achieve successful results. This is because the body needs time to return to a healthier state. Through regular treatment with acupuncture (1-2 times per week) and herbal medicine (taken daily as a tea in concentrated herbal granules or pill form), you should notice overall improvement in both mental and physical health, as well as a more relaxed state of mind. As the treatment course is normally very reasonable in terms of cost, there is also less concern over how to cover the expenses for such a procedure.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can safely be used in conjunction with or without assisted reproductive technologies such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), IUI, ICSI, GIFT, or ZIFT as long as it is performed by a properly trained practitioner of TCM who can adjust the treatments according to the stage of your fertility procedure. If you choose to use assisted fertility procedures as well, please keep in mind that the best time to incorporate these measures is once you and your practitioner feel that your body is in a more balanced state. This can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months or longer. For men with low sperm count and poor morphology or motility, the average duration of a treatment course using acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is at least 3 months since it takes one hundred days for new sperm to mature.

Through proper nourishment and a lifestyle that promotes both your physical as well as your emotional well-being, you can ensure the best of health for both you and your baby and the generations that will follow thereafter.

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”- Buddha _____________________________________________________________

Fay-Meling von Moltke Pao, D. Ac. is a Practitioner of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Toronto. For more information, please contact her at info@acutoronto.com or at (416) 486-5222. Website: www.acutoronto.com

Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
M. Pao, J. Sufi, E. Yang
Yonge Eglinton Medical Centre
2401 Yonge St., Suite 214, Toronto, Ontario, M4P 3H1

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