Deciding to conceive a baby is often life’s biggest and most exciting choice. Excitement can turn to stress or disappointment if conception takes longer than expected. Many are labeled “infertile” making it difficult to maintain a positive attitude about conceiving.
A growing number of people today are experiencing conception difficulties. An estimated 10 to 25 % of coupled heterosexuals experience infertility with female infertility accounting for approximately two-thirds of the cases. Lesbians and single women have similar odds and often have further challenges due to lack of access to quality sperm.
Infertility is defined as an inability to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse. For women using assisted reproductive technology (ART) or alternative insemination procedures this definition is not very applicable as possible flawed procedures, poor sperm quality and other factors cloud the issue. Although Western
medicine is sophisticated in its treatment of infertility, treatments are often unsuccessful.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) identifies two main issues with lack of success when western mapping of health appears satisfactory. First is the reciprocity of body, mind, and spirit. Second is the woman and/or man’s inherent constitution.
TCM explains that bound emotions can adversely affect our physiology generally via the mind and/or spirit. For example, stress, resentment, frustration, fear and anger can damage the flow of one’s internal energy. This damage, in turn, connects to the blood and the reproductive system, which can make conception very difficult. For all involved, regulating the emotional landscape is crucial to increasing reproductive energy.
Strengthening the constitution is another important way TCM treats infertility. Unexplained infertility is most often linked with a predisposition to a genetic energy imbalance. If this area is not functioning well, becoming pregnant may be challenging, problems with the pregnancy may occur, or a difficult pregnancy may ensue that could compromise the woman’s future health.
Over thousands of years, the Chinese have developed tools to diagnose constitutional deficiencies and treat them successfully. They refer to a vital substance known as Jing, or Essence. It is the deep-rooted strength we receive from our parents, which we either deplete through an inharmonious lifestyle, or conserve through proper diet and moderate lifestyle. Activities such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong, yoga, and meditation are practices to nourish the Essence. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs are tools to build and regulate the Jing.
The exact reasons, from a western perspective, as to why TCM is so helpful in the treatment of female infertility, are yet to be established. It appears that acupuncture and herbs support the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis. Acupuncture efficacy in treating various conditions such as ovulatory dysfunction and endometriosis would support this theory. Acupuncture also improves uterine arterial blood flow and hence endometrial thickness, providing a positive effect on egg implantation.
Acupuncture is nontoxic and relatively affordable as an alternative for women who are intolerant of, ineligible, or contraindicated for conventional hormone induction of ovulation, or as an adjunct to western fertility treatments for any family experiencing clinical, undiagnosed or circumstantial fertility challenges, enhancing the effectiveness.
A deep sense of joy and love can be found in pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. Families of all varieties can be empowered and supported in their quest for a healthy pregnancy using Traditional Chinese Medicine during the childbearing years.