According to the World Health Organization, infertility is defined as a disease of the male or female reproductive system, failing to conceive despite having frequent, unprotected sexual intercourse for at least 1 year. Treating infertility with Acupuncture may be a novel concept for Western Medicine, but for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), infertility is a condition that has been recognized and treated for more than 3,000 years. Over time, sophisticated patterns of diagnosis and methods of treatment have been developed.
Let's establish a framework for common terms in TCM:
Qi: can be translated as the life energy of the body that flows along energy channels in the body.
Yin: represents the nutritive processes and substances of the body.
Yang: represents the heat and metabolic processes of the body.
What role can Traditional Chinese Medicine play in fertility?
TCM provides a valuable method of diagnosis that emphasizes the importance of looking for patterns of dysfunction, rather than specific symptoms. It aims to treat the root cause of the symptoms and establish balance in the body for both female and male infertility.
What are common TCM diagnoses when it comes to treating infertility?
Kidney deficiency: In TCM, the kidneys play a major role in fertility. In women, Kidney Yin supports the first half of the menstrual cycle, and Kidney Yang supports the second half of the menstrual cycle. Low Kidney Yin or Yang can lead to various symptoms, including cold hands or feet, intolerance to cold, menstrual cramping, night sweats, hot flashes, or even an absence of a menstrual period.
Blood deficiency: Blood is an energetically vital substance in TCM that provides nourishment. Blood deficiency can occur when people overwork, have a poor diet, and have high levels of stress. Signs and symptoms include pale features, dizziness, palpitation, poor memory, and hair loss.
Liver Qi Stagnation: Chronic stress and suppressed emotions can obstruct the free flow of Liver Qi, which can affect the reproductive system. Some symptoms associated with Liver Qi Stagnation include mood swings, breast tenderness, abdominal distention and pain, painful and irregular cycles, and frequent sighing or taking deep breaths.
Cold Uterus: In TCM, cold is damaging to the uterus because it can decrease blood flow to the uterus, negatively impacting fertility. Symptoms of a cold uterus include painful periods, dark red menstrual blood with clots, cold hands and feet, low back pain, uterine fibroids, and endometriosis.
Blood Stasis: This is a condition where blood circulation is sluggish. Blood circulation may be impaired due to physical trauma to the uterus from surgery, injury, or from a long-standing cold uterus condition. Symptoms include menstrual clots, dark menstrual blood, and a stabbing fixed menstrual pain.
Phlegm Obstruction: Phlegm is a pathological accumulation of fluids that can hinder the movement and circulation of energy in the body. Key symptoms include fatigue, foggy brain, cysts, and weight gain.
These are not all of the TCM diagnoses but are some common ones. An acupuncture workup includes identifying your pattern, treating accordingly with acupuncture, and, if appropriate, incorporating an herbal formula. Different diagnoses have different treatment principles, require different acupuncture points, and different herbal formulations. It is important to work with a provider who can diagnose you.
How often should you have treatment?
Ideally, once a week, but even twice a month can be very beneficial.
Plan for 3 months of preconception treatment because it takes 120 days for primordial egg cells to mature before they are released during ovulation. Additionally, it takes 2.5-3 months for a full cycle of sperm cell maturation.
It is highly recommended that both partners receive acupuncture treatment and, if needed, Chinese herbs. At IVY Integrative, you can work with one practitioner or build your own team of holistic practitioners! Reach your optimum health in-person or online. Check out our Get Started page to learn how to work with us!
Author: Dr. Yelena Okhotin ND, LAc
FOR MORE RESOURCES ON WOMEN'S HEALTH, CHECK OUT:
World Health Organization. (n.d.). Infertility. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/infertility
This information is generalized and intended for educational purposes only. Due to potential individual contraindications, please see your primary care provider before implementing any strategies in these posts.