||Infertility is defined as the failure to become pregnant after one year of unprotected intercourse. There are two types of infertility; primary infertility, which is infertility without any previous pregnancy; and secondary infertility, when there has been a previous pregnancy.
What are the common causes of infertility?
- · Ovulation problems
- · Tubal causes
- · Sperm causes
- · Unexplained infertility
- · Age-related factors
Some less common causes are:
- · Uterine problems
- · Endometriosis
- · Previous vasectomy
- · Various drugs
Taking the following steps may prevent some cases of female infertility:
- · Avoid excessive exercise
- · Avoid smoking
- · Control diseases such as diabetes and hypothyroidism
- · Follow good [weight management] guidelines
- · Get early treatment for sexually transmitted diseases
- · Have regular physical examinations to detect early signs of infections or abnormalities
- · Limit caffeine and alcohol intake
- · Practice stress management
- · Use birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancy and abortions.
How is the condition diagnosed?
Diagnosis of infertility begins with a medical history and physical exam. The healthcare provider may order tests, including the following:
- · An endometrial biopsy, which tests the lining of the uterus
- · Hormone testing, to measure levels of female hormones
- · Laparoscopy, which allows the provider to see the pelvic organs
- · Ovulation testing, which detects the release of an egg from the ovary
- · Pap smear, to check for signs of infection
- · Pelvic exam, to look for abnormalities or infection
- · A postcoital test, which is done between 2 and 8 hours after intercourse to determine whether sperm can survive in the cervical mucus
How is the condition diagnosed?
What are the conventional medical approaches for this condition?
Treatment of infertility will depend on the cause. Medical treatment for female infertility may include:
- · Surgery to treat certain problems (e.g., endometriosis)
- · Taking antibiotics for sexually transmitted diseases
- · Taking medications to cause ovulation, such as clomiphene and menotropins, artificial insemination (placing sperm directly in the cervix or uterus)
- · Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (placing individual sperm cells directly inside the woman's eggs)
- · In vitro fertilization (fertilizing the egg outside the womb and then returning it to the uterus).
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Following are some of the side effects of medications used to cause ovulation:
- · Abdominal pressure or fullness
- · Cysts on the ovaries
- · Headaches, hot flashes, mood changes
- · Multiple pregnancies, such as twins or triplets
- · Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which causes fluid shifts in the body
- · Antibiotics may cause allergic reactions, stomach upset, and rash.
- · Surgery carries a risk of bleeding, infection, and allergic reaction to anesthesia and other rare but serious complications may be involved.
Is there any natural approach to enhance the chance of my pregnancy?
Depending on the cause of infertility, a natural approach is found to be very valuable. In many cases, the natural approach should be tried first before proceeding to drastic medical interventions, especially if you are in your twenties. The natural approach for female infertility may include:
- · Eating a healthy diet
- · Exercising in moderation
- · Learning about the best time to conceive
- · Limiting caffeine and alcohol intake
- · Making lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation
- · Receiving a series of acupuncture treatments
How does acupuncture work for this condition?
Functional related infertility is very often related to stress. This may be the reason that infertility seems to be extremely common in women who work in stressful office environments. Acupuncture is very beneficial for decreasing excess tension in the body by balancing the autonomic nervous system. Possible hormonal imbalances and circulatory problems are also addressed by acupuncture.
Acupuncture/TCM and Infertility
Acupuncture and Herbal Therapy are ancient Chinese methods used for the treatment and prevention of disease. These systems are as ancient and effective as any other medical techniques used in the world today. They have been practiced consistently for the past five thousand years in the Orient. Seventy percent of one quarter of the world's population uses acupuncture and herbs as their main form of health care. Although acupuncture has been used in England, France, and Germany for several hundred years, only in the past two decades have Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) been recognized in the United States. The benefits of Acupuncture and TCM in treatment for the infertile couple can be found in early Chinese medical literature dating back to the 11AD. Not only do these techniques assist in regulating the menstrual cycle and invigorating the sperm, but they also serve to enhance the function of the whole body. This "whole body" health approach, in turn, provides a key to unlock unlimited potential in healing. This is especially appropriate for the over 40 couple as it stimulates overall health to effect reproductive health and a reduction of biological age.
PMS, amenorrhea, endometriosis, blocked fallopian tubes, immune system incongruities, and infertility related hormonal problems yield to many of these old world (traditional) procedures. Furthermore, herbal formulas that tonify the Kidney energy (renal and adrenal function), and Kidney essence (jing) are especially beneficial in raising sperm count and motility. The highly technical and expensive methods used in Western Medicine are supported by the complimentary set of procedures and herbal recommendations. There are several advantages to using Traditional Chinese Medicine as an approach to heightening a couple's fertility.
SOME ADVANTAGES OF USING TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE
- TCM sees the person as an integral Mind/body organism, thereby does not treat just symptoms/diseases. TCM ventures to stimulate the bodies natural healing potential by treating root causes rather than just symptoms.
- TCM, used in the treatment of infertility, minimizes undesired side effects and accumulated toxicity from invasive procedures and drug therapies, known and unknown.
- Traditional Chinese medicine may be used to strengthen and balance one's general health so that IVF, GIFT, ZIFT, ICSI, AHT and TET procedures are more effective. The TCM patient derives general health benefits and endocrine system balancing from specific acupuncture and herbal regimes. Pregnancy becomes easier to achieve and postpartum recuperation happens faster. Medical studies have been done in China to verify this type of whole body health enhancement.
- The widespread use of TCM suggests that it is a complete traditional medical health care system and can be used with or without the integration of Western medical techniques. The integration of Western medicine, as we know it in America, began in the Orient less than a century ago. It is called INTEGRAL CHINESE MEDICINE (ITCM). Ancient medical techniques of acupuncture and herbs utilized with modern procedures, seem to work best.
UNEXPLAINED INFERTILITY / LIVER QI CONGESTION
Irritability, depression, frustration are keywords to the Liver Qi Stagnation. It must be noted that whenever an organ is mentioned in oriental medicine it implies the related conduit or meridian. A meridian is a pathway along which energy / Qi flows. The psychological aspect of the Liver is said to assist us in planning easily and wisely. The person who suffers from Liver Qi congestion may be found in a job that they don't enjoy, working late hours, and with a history of taking birth control pills. There frequently exists an inner psychological frustration about having and raising children. Dysfunctional family factors play a major role in the upset Liver, as the condition may have existed for many years.
Physical symptoms of irregular periods, PMS, dark colored blood with small clots, breast pain with distention, worry and frequent sighing and headaches often accompany the psychological symptoms. Pulse diagnostic palpation at the radial artery usually reveals a wiry and small quality pulse in the person with a Liver imbalance. Pulse diagnosis at the radial artery is an extremely sensitive and skilled art that takes many years to perfect. It is like a laboratory blood test. There are over twelve different pulse positions on each wrist and twenty-eight pulse qualities that can be related to each one of these positions. The readings yield a multitude of relationships when integrated and compared with the patients' signs, symptoms and tongue characteristics. The different pulses can confirm a diagnosis and be used to monitor a patient's progress. Both pregnancy and the sex of a child can be diagnosed from the pulses by a skilled practitioner.
Infertility due to Liver Qi Stagnation manifests mostly in women and is a frequent cause of unexplained infertility. This is because this type of Liver stagnation effects the blood flow in the pelvic cavity. Acupuncture at the right time in the menstrual cycle, in conjunction with an herbal formula and some counseling, very likely can clear the congestion in several months. The resulting pregnancy is more than welcome along with the emotional clarity that arrives when the Liver organ/meridian is less toxic (stagnated).Couples must realize, however, that the prevalence of Liver Qi Stagnation in modern society is not something simple that can be relieved over night. It may take 9 months or more to release the stress, trauma, and toxin in the system, if it is at all possible. There have been cases resolved within a month's time.
MISCARRIAGE; A TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE VIEWPOINT
Since the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC.- 24 AD.), Chinese people have been using traditional medicine to effectively treat both male and female infertility. Many texts have been published in the medical literature focusing on these problems that have so recently come to the forefront in western society. TCM for threatened miscarriage includes acupuncture, herbs, diet and an a different approach to exercise. It must be remembered that treating infertility and miscarriage using any method is complicated and involved. The medicine that helps the patient attain a healthy vital energy (Tian kuei) can greatly aid the woman who has had miscarriages due to a hormonal imbalance. For the woman over 40 there are herbs that nourish the deeper vitality that is necessary for the body to call forth healthy ovum.
Currently TCM, both in China and America, is used in conjunction with Western medical techniques and testing to design an effective course of treatment for the couple wishing to achieve not only pregnancy, but a healthy baby delivered at full term.
Sixty percent of all spontaneous abortions occur in the first half of the first trimester of pregnancy. Genetics play a key role in habitual miscarriages. To presume that TCM alters genetic structure without triple blind studies etc., would be a stretch of most peoples imagination. However, Traditional Chinese Medicine is very effective in strengthening a persons' constitution.
If a woman has miscarried, it is important to build and conserve her Qi and build her Blood. This usually means building and conserving Kidney Qi, as within the Kidney both Yin (Blood) and Yang (Qi) are generated. We must remember that Kidney does not just mean the ear shaped organs guarded by the ribs just above the lower back. It means the whole psycho physical interrelated matrix and visceral relationship of Kidney function and its meridian pathways.
In oriental medicine we say that all chronic imbalances effect the Kidney organ/meridian network. What this means is that if a person has a weak constitution i.e., is pale, feels cold is undernourished, etc., then this is a result of either prenatal (genetic) influences and or lifetime habits and illnesses. The way to change these conditions, if possible, is to change them through treating the Kidney with tools of acupuncture, herbs, diet, and exercise. Kidney means bone and bone marrow and from the marrow is made blood. Blood nourishes Qi and the cycle regenerates and builds. Essentially, in oriental medicine it is said that the Blood nourishes, the Qi protects, and the Kidney Qi holds the fetus. The Kidney is injured by cold, therefore dietary considerations are generally applicable for this patient. Recent studies have also shown that good dental hygene and quality dental work can increase fertility.
There is a very famous formula, that builds both Qi and Blood, which is used to strengthen the body and prepare a woman for conception. This is especially useful if she has a history of miscarriage. The formula should be given for three to six months before conception is attempted. It is called "The Rock on Tai Mountain Decoction." This somewhat poetic name refers to a great mountain that many Chinese religiously pilgrimage to, hoping to get their prayers answered. It is an extremely demanding climb of a thousand steps, just as pregnancy is demanding of the modern mother. Just giving this herbal decoction does not guarantee that conception will take place and the next baby delivered to full term. Seeing the patient as a whole person and thereby considering their total health picture helps the TCM physician decide how to choose and change a formula to be specific to the patient.
SEX DURING PREGNANCY
In the oriental culture there is a very direct and honest attitude toward one's sexuality. Nothing is considered to be sexually "dirty" as sex is seen as a natural function, as natural as "clouds and rain". Within the training of a TCM practitioner, it is taught that it is not the job of the physician to make judgements about an individuals sexual practices, it is more important to point out the consquences of these practices. Therefore it is easy for the doctor to indicate that sex (intercourse) during the first trimester is contraindicated, especially for the woman that has a history of miscarriage, as the placenta is not yet fully formed. Many men have a problem with this recommendation. Usually, TCM practitioners go one step further and indicate that it is probably best for all couples to abstain for the whole nine months of pregnancy. As mentioned previously, modern couples usually have no problem with this idea especially when they consider the investment they have made. For the couple, where the woman is over 40, intercourse is not recommended for the entire pregnancy even by western physicians.
For more information or to meet with Dr. Sohn, conact the Emperor’s Acupuncture Clinic today.