Infertility is a condition that, unfortunately, impacts both women and men who are trying to conceive. While starting a family should be an exciting time, infertility – defined as being unable to conceive after engaging in unprotected sex for an entire year – can make the process draining and exhaustive.
So what causes infertility in men and women? According to Chinese medicine, fertility can be diagnosed from anything ranging from a kidney deficiency, to blood, qi, or yang deficiency. The causes of infertility differ between men and women,and, accordingly, so does the treatment. For men, issues with sperm count and/or motility can be attributed to these blood, qi, or yang imbalances, and so treatment focuses on Kidney Jing, or on qi or yang deficiency. For women, infertility can stem from issues with menstrual cycles, uterine or ovum conditions, blocked fallopian tubes, or the aforementioned bodily imbalances. Treatments are based on these conditions, focusing on rectifying imbalance, and often applied in combination with each other. For both women and men, reducing stress is critical towards achieving success.
Acupuncture can be extremely impactful in dealing with infertility. It can boost blood flow to reproductive organs, balance hormones, regulate menstrual cycles, and normalize the systems that regulate ovulation. That is especially helpful for women who have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), an endocrine disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with cysts on the outer edges. In addition, acupuncture can increase blood flow, and nourish the follicles, thereby improving the quality of eggs. Finally, it can relieve stress, putting the body in a parasympathetic state where the body can create homeostasis to heal and replenish itself. Herbs can also be helpful, and we adjust both acupuncture and herbs at different stages of the menstrual cycle; furthermore, depending on where the individual is in her fertility journey, we adjust acupuncture and herbs to support the body’s particular needs at each important juncture. In general, we look at each person as a distinct individual, using our treatments to help everyone reach their optimum level of health.
Most people who are looking to conceive use various treatments when dealing with infertility. The two most common are IUI, in which fertilization takes place internally, when the sperm is injected into the woman’s uterus, and IVF, in which fertilization takes place externally, or outside of the uterus, such as in a lab. For both IUI and IVF, acupuncture and herbs can be supplemental therapies to help regulate the cycle, increase blood flow, and balance hormones, all of which are important factors and improve likelihood of getting pregnant. We recommend someone who is trying to get pregnant to receive regular acupuncture treatments during the entire treatment cycle, with the follicular phase and the ovulation phase being the most important. It’s also important that there is open communication between each provider. Whether it’s your acupuncturist, fertility doctor, OB GYN or endocrinologist, each one plays a key role in helping you achieve a successful fertility journey.
While IUI and IVF are undoubtedly great options, acupuncture and herbs can provide a much-needed balance to the body and are very good additions to every couple's fertility journey. Infertility might sound like a long and bleak road, there are many paths towards pregnancy, and traditional Chinese medicine could be the one your body needs.