Benefits of Using TCM for Infertility
In Chinese medical theory, the Kidney is the internal organ which is responsible for reproduction, growth, and aging. When Kidney energy is insufficient to support normal growth and development, or becomes depleted by lifestyle factors such as poor diet, overwork or emotional stress, can result in many health problems occurring, including infertility.
In general the TCM treatment for infertility focuses on assisting with conception in the following ways:
- Improve the function of the ovaries to produce higher quality eggs
- Regulate hormones to produce more follicles
- Regulate the menstrual cycle (eg. after long time on OCP)
- Building the woman’s energy (Qi)
- Increase blood flow to the uterus and increase the thickness of the uterine lining
- Decreases the possibility of miscarriage
- Increase sperm quality (volume, count, motility, morphology) to create better quality embryos
- Decrease stress
- Increase the basal body temperature
- Alleviating any psychological issues which may be present
Of particular focus are the Kidney, Heart and Liver meridian systems.
In Chinese medicine, the Kidney system provides a woman with the foundation of her energy. If this energy is deficient either from overwork or other health issues, conception may be difficult. In theory, a woman will ideally have more energy than she needs – that is, enough extra energy to offer to the baby. Many women with busy and stressful lives present with the kidney deficiency patterns described below.
The Liver system is responsible for the smooth flow of menstruation and of Blood and energy within the body generally. A major focus of the infertility treatment is to regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle and treat any associated issues such as PMS or dysmenorrhea. Regulation of the Liver system is an important aspect of treatment, particularly if menstrual issues are present. Liver imbalances such as stagnation are also a key component in psychological issues such as depression and anxiety.
The Heart system is largely related to a woman’s psycho-emotional states. As relaxation and enjoyment are crucial aspects of fertility, the treatments will work to alleviate any emotional issues. In addition to any previous psychological issues, many women who are also undergoing western therapies experience stress – as well as hormonal imbalances – from the western procedures and the time commitments involved. Working to alleviate this stress and reducing the side effects of hormonal therapies is an important aspect of treatment.
Outside of the meridian systems listed above, the Spleen and Lung meridian systems are often used as well. The spleen has a role in the production of energy and the lung has a role in emotional issues such as grief which may coexist with infertility.
Therefore, the main goals of treatment are as follows:
- Tonifying the Qi
- Replenishing the blood
- Nourishing the Conception Vessel and the Thoroughfare Vessel
- Regulate menstruation (irregular cycles, long and short cycles) – menses should become rich, red blood that is free of clots
- Menstrual issues such as, no periods/amenorrhea, painful period/ dysmenorrhea, early menopause, premenstrual syndromedistention, breast distention, etc. should be alleviated
- High FSH Levels
- Low Progesterone Levels
- Failed IVF attempts
- Low Sperm Counts
- Poor Quality, Low Motility Sperm Counts
- Frequent Miscarriage
- Supporting IVF treatment programs
- Building up energy, relaxing sleep and stress reduction should be promoted
- Any digestive issues should be treated
- Unexplained Infertility
In addition to the meridian systems described above, Chinese medicine also looks at infertility from a Yin/Yang perspective. Generally speaking the first section of a women’s cycle (days 1-14) is more related to the status of Blood and Yin, whereas the second section (ovulation to period) is related to the Yang. During the first section of the period the treatment may focus more on Yin building protocols, whereas, the Yang tonification may be the focus of the second section. This depends greatly on the overall set of signs and symptoms.
Practically, when TCM practitioners consider an appropriate therapeutic strategy, they usually take account of the Western medical diagnostic techniques and test results to design an effective course of treatment. It is advisable to find a qualified TCM practitioner who properly understands both Western and Chinese medicine modalities, so that he or she is capable of integrating the advantages of these two medical practices. Furthermore, when a couple complains of infertility, a physician should investigate both partners and treat either or both as appropriate.
Outlined here are some treatment options that can be employed singly or in conjunction with one another:
- Chinese Herbal Therapy
- Acupuncture and Moxibustion Therapies
- Massage Therapy
It is important to bear in mind that there is no exclusive TCM therapy for infertility. Each regime is customized for the individual’s conditions. Therapy adjustments during the course of treatment are not uncommon as an individual’s condition changes over time. It is necessary to be patient, open minded and determined. A standard TCM course may take at least six months for intensive treatment.