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Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs for Infertility

Infertility

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after 12 months of active trying. Females who are able to get pregnant but cannot carry a pregnancy to term may also be considered infertile.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has a long history when it comes to enhancing fertility for both men and women. Fertility treatments were first recorded by Zhang Zhong Jing, a famous physician from the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - 220 A.D.), in his discussion of diseases in women in the Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essentials of the Golden Cabinet).

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) provides safe and effective treatment for the majority of causes of male and female infertility. The use of TCM greatly improves the outcome of assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI), while providing an alternative to these treatments for those who desire natural conception.

 

Infertility in TCM

In TCM, human fertility relies on the normal functioning of the internal organs and the balance in the Yin, Yang, Qi (the vital energy of body) , Blood of the body. When one or more of these elements is out of balance, a disharmony results and infertility may occur. In Chinese medicine, the Kidney, Liver, and Spleen play important role in human fertility. The infertility occurs when one or more organs are impaired.

The organs described here reflect Chinese medical theories and philosophies. They may or may not be consistent with the actual anatomic organs


Kidneys

In TCM, the kidneys store the essence (Jing) and govern growth, development and reproduction. It is the essence in the kidneys which make men able to produce sperm and women able to ovulate. If an imbalance exists within the kidneys, the reproductive ability will be affected, possibly leading to infertility.


Liver

In TCM, the liver maintains and stores the blood, and therefore has a great influence over the menstrual cycles in women. The liver is also responsible for the smooth flow of Qi (the vital energy of body). When the liver is out of balance, the body will not receive the required supply of Qi and blood, causing increased possibility of infertility.


Spleen

An adequate supply of blood and Qi is required by a woman’s body to sustain a normal menstrual cycle, a growing fetus, and a healthy pregnancy. The spleen is responsible for producing the blood and Qi to nourish the body. Disharmony within the spleen can result in poor blood flow within the reproductive system, causing infertility.

 

TCM Treatment for Infertility

Acupuncture

Acupuncture improves natural conception rates, as well as conception rates when used in conjunction with assisted reproduction. The effects of acupuncture for infertility include:

  • Reduces stress levels
    Elevated stress can prohibit conception by blocking blood flow to the reproductive organs and causing an imbalance in hormonal production, thus resulting in irregular menstrual cycles, lack of ovulation, poor ovarian production, diminished egg quality, and poor sperm production and quality.
  • Increase blood flow to the pelvic cavity and strengthen the function of the reproductive organs
    • In female, the increase in blood flow enhances egg quality, thickness of the endometrium (uterine lining), and implantation rates as well as reduces the chance of miscarriage.
    • In male, the increase in blood flow helps the reproductive organs to generate more volume, count, and better morphology of the sperm.
  • Balance the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis to regulate and improve the body’s natural hormonal production
  • Stimulate ovulation
  • Decrease the side effects of fertility medications used with assisted reproduction
  • Strengthen the immune system to prevent immunological complications and decrease inflammation
  • Improve sperm production and quality to increase the fertilization rate of eggs and create better quality and quantity of embryos

 

Electro-Acupuncture

For certain conditions, electro-acupuncture treatment can be used. Electro-acupuncture is the usage of electric impulse stimulation through the acupuncture needles in the affected areas and in utilized in more severe pain conditions as well as in anovulation and fallopian tubal blockages. It is also a pain-free treatment with minor vibration in the affected area.

 

Moxibustion

As an additional therapy to the acupuncture treatment, moxibustion can be applied. Moxibustion is a procedure of burning a herb, Folium Artemisiae Vulgaris, commonly known as mugwart to create heat and therapeutic result on the affected areas. It is used to treat certain types of pelvic pain and infertility. Deep warmth is usually felt after moxibustion in the applied area. Moxibustion increases circulation thoughout the pelvic cavity and promotes healing and follicular development.

 

 
Benefits of TCM in Preconception Care
  • Increases chance of conceiving naturally
  • Improves reproductive health and strengthens immune system
  • Increases libido
  • Overcomes common fertility challenges, including:
    • Advanced maternal age
    • Cervical mucus issues
    • Endocrine imbalances
    • Endometriosis
    • Elevated FSH
    • Fallopian tube blockage
    • Luteal Phase Defect
    • Male factors
      • low sperm motility, morphology, and overall quality
      • Erectile dysfunction
    • Menstrual irregularities
    • Ovarian cysts and PCOS
    • Ovulation factors
    • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
    • Premature ovarian failure / poor ovarian reserve
    • Recurrent miscarriages
    • Thin uterine lining
    • Thyroid problems
    • Unexplained Infertility
  • Increases effectiveness of Western procedures, such as IVF and IUI
  • Reduces side effects of fertility medications such as night sweats, mood swings, and headaches

Chinese Herbal Medicine

Chinese herbal formulas are prescribed to help enhance egg quality and sperm parameters and to improve implantation rates and prevent miscarraige. They also normalize the function of the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis to regulate and improve the body's natural hormonal production. Chinese herbs are useful to control many of the underlying causes of infertility, including endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), fibroids, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), poor egg quality, blocked fallopian tubes, and immune system imbalance.

 

Massage and Physical Therapy

Reproductive organ massage and physical therapy manipulate the fascia of the pelvic cavity to unblock any obstruction in the reproductive organs and improve the blood flow to these organs. Massage and physical therapy can be used to correct structural imbalances caused by fibroids, endometriosis, blocked fallopian tubes, scar tissue from prior surgeries, and adhesions from trauma or injury, restricting the function and mobility of the reproductive organs.

 

Nutritional and Dietary Therapy

Dietary guidance is customized for each patient based on the health of her or his kidney, liver, and spleen functions, which control our reproductive health and underlie our metabolic processes. Balanced diet can improve pregnancy rates and can be used by both male and female partners to enhance fertility. Numerous research articles have shown that the use of nutritional supplements prior to and during pregnancy improves the health of both mother and baby.

 
Resources

How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Pregnant

Acupuncture, Fertility Research Delivers Healthy Results

Acupuncture and Reproductive Health

Acupuncture increases chances of success in IVF by 65%

 
 
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