Infertility and Traditional Chinese Medicine
What are Some Causes of infertility?
Infertility is defined as an inability to conceive in a couple who have tried to get pregnancy for a year. On average, 12% of all couples who try to get pregnant have difficulty doing so. There are many reasons why a couple may have difficulty conceiving both affecting women and men.
In women possible causes of infertility include decreased function of ovaries, not ovulating, blocked/damaged fallopian tubes, uterine fibroid, polyps, scar tissue, uterus being too small or abnormally shaped, inadequate or inhospitable cervical mucus, cervical narrowing, hormone imbalance, and poor egg quality. Risk factors that increase the chances of infertility are age, obesity, eating disorders, cancer, and certain medical issues such as: PCOS, endometriosis, STIs, and autoimmune diseases.
In men possible causes of infertility can include low sperm count, abnormal sperm, low sperm motility from genetics, age, obesity, stress, drug use, alcohol, environmental chemical exposure, medications, hormone imbalance, and certain medical issues such as: varicocele, diabetes, hyperprolactinemia, cryptorchidism, and STIs.
Theory of Chinese Medicine and Infertility
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes infertility is caused by an imbalance and blockage of Qi energy and blood circulation flow. When the free flow of the energy is blocked it can cause deficiency, stagnancy or heat syndrome.
A deficiency of Qi energy can disrupt sexual and reproductive function in men and women by lowering sexual energy and function of sexual organs. Blockage of Qi obstructs the flow of energy and blood circulation to reproductive tissue and organs. Heat syndrome is associated with inflammation which can lower semen quality or the function of sex organs.
How does Chinese Medicine Approach Infertility?
In order to treat this imbalance, blockage or heat syndrome causing infertility, Chinese medicine uses a combination of things to help with infertility: acupuncture, herbs, and lifestyle changes. All of these therapies are equally important in helping you conceive all of which interplay with each other in getting your body ready for pregnancy.
Both men and women are encouraged to get acupuncture, herbs and make lifestyle changes because this will greatly improve the chances of getting pregnant rather than just one person trying. Statistics show couples who are unable to conceive 60% of the time women are the reason why they are unable to conceive and 40% of the time men are the reason for being unable to get pregnant. Whatever the reason for infertility, acupuncture has a long history with helping couples get pregnant.
How many treatments will it take to get pregnant?
There are many factors in play here. Every person’s health is different in both men and women. Couples who are older, have more health issues, genetic disorders, and live an unhealthy lifestyle will need more time and treatment in order to get their body back in balance. It is important to note that Chinese medicine doesn’t cure aliments overnight. It takes time and work on the patient’s part because it is hard work getting your body ready to produce a tiny human. Treatments are usually 1 time a week for 3-6 months depending on your health status.
Can acupuncture still help if you are receiving IVF to help get pregnant?
Yes, studies have shown that getting acupuncture along with IVF improves the IVF outcome. In 2018, a study done in the UK showed that women who got acupuncture along with their IVF treatments had significantly higher rates of live births and positive pregnancies compared to the group who only received IVF treatments.
When is the best time to have acupuncture to promote pregnancy?
- During the follicular phase of your cycle which is can be any day between day 5 to day 8 of your cycle.
- The day before, of, or after ovulation.
- During implantation time which can be 6-10 days after ovulation.
If you are getting IVF treatments it is important to start acupuncture 6-8 weeks before your first visit and the above times to get acupuncture still applies. If there are more substantial issues going on you may need to get treated 2 times a week till those issues are addressed.
Homburg, R., Gillerman, K., Kulkarni, A., Shah, A., & Gudi, A. (2018). The impact of acupuncture on IVF success rates: A randomised controlled trial. Fertility Science and Research, 5(2), 48. doi: 10.4103/fsr.fsr_37_18
Lyttleton, J. (2013). Treatment of infertility with Chinese medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.
Male infertility. (2018, September 20). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/male-infertility/symptoms-causes/syc-20374773
What are some possible causes of female infertility? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/infertility/conditioninfo/causes/causes-female
Zhu, J., Arsovska, B., & Kozovska, K. (2018). Acupuncture Treatment for Fertility. Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences, 6(9), 1685–1687. doi: 10.3889/oamjms.2018.379