Fertility issues affect at least one in six couples in the United States alone. Millions of women have gone through every test Western medicine has to offer to try to determine why they have not been able to conceive. Ultrasounds confirm that the ovaries and uterus appear to be normal. Blood work confirms that hormone levels are within normal range. Their partners have passed sperm analysis with flying colors. Many women tolerate hormone injections to stimulate the ovaries to produce more eggs. Some attempt intrauterine inseminations (IUI’s) or expensive invitro fertilization procedures (IVF’s) in an attempt to bypass cervical, sperm or any other mysterious fertility issue. Many attempts fail and couples are given the dreaded, frustrating diagnosis of “unexplained infertility”. So, if nothing is wrong, what is wrong?
The good news is that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) looks at the reproductive functioning of the human body differently from Western medicine and may very well be able to determine what is interfering with the ability to conceive. Nothing may be wrong by western standards, but something is out of balance in the body. By using the diagnostic tools of TCM, the out of balance will become apparent and often corrected with acupuncture, herbal therapy and dietary changes.
Stress is probably the biggest contributing factor to unexplained infertility. High levels of stress, or ironically just the continued frustration of not being able to conceive, can impede the free flow of energy or qi (pronounced “chee”) in the body. Once the qi becomes stagnant, the circulation of blood in the body may also stagnate resulting in painful, irregular menstrual cycles. Qi and blood stagnation may also contribute to endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and uterine fibroids. A woman with qi and blood stagnation will often suffer from migraines, PMS symptoms of irritability and painful breasts, and will have a unique quality to the pulse where it feels wiry or like a guitar string. Sometimes the tongue will take on a purplish hue, reflecting the stagnation in the body.
Acupuncture harmonizes the body’s energy, improving blood circulation to all of the vital organs. Acupuncture is a very relaxing experience for most people and leaves the patient feeling energized and better able to handle the stress in their life.
Another concept of TCM that is a little difficult for us westerners to understand, is that the Kidney System controls all of the growth and development, reproductive functioning, and aging processes in the human body. The Kidney in Chinese medicine does include those two little kidney organs in the body that control urination, but also includes the functioning of the uterus and ovaries along with hormonal balance. The Kidney stores our essence – the genetic material that we inherit from our parents. There are many aspects of the Kidney that may be deficient by TCM standards that are interfering with conception, yet not measurable by western tests.
In addition to the qi that runs through the body, each organ has its own qi. If Kidney qi is deficient, there may be a history of delayed onset of the menses, scanty blood flow during the menses or menses may be accompanied by lower back pain. Low sex drive, general fatigue and frequent urination may be signs of Kidney qi deficiency. Since each organ in the body has a yin and a yang aspect (like everything in the universe), other symptoms may point to a Kidney yin or Kidney yang deficiency. Body temperature, tongue picture and pulse quality are important clues to diagnosing Kidney deficiencies.
Many acupuncture points have the function of tonifying the Kidney and regulating hormones. Herbal formulas that have been used for thousands of years to tonify the Kidney qi, yin or yang may be suggested. The TCM approach has the ability to improve ovarian function, which in turn can produce better quality and quantity of eggs for fertilization. TCM is often used in conjunction with western drug therapy and IUI or IVF procedures.
If western medicine has left you not knowing where to turn, maybe Chinese medicine will have an answer. What have you got to lose?