An overview of Traditional Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture
“A mediocre doctor treats disease, a good doctor prevents disease and a master doctor teaches his community to be well.” ~Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen
An overview of TCM basic philosophy and ideas is important to understand when facing infertility. TCM provides a powerful treatments for optimizing reproductive health, therefore it should be considered by anyone struggling to get pregnant.
With explanations of the fundamental principles including patterns and their symptoms, treatment of these patterns through acupuncture and herbs and accompanying case studies, I aim to give you an understanding of what it is that I do and how it can help you achieve your dream of having a baby.
One of the key components of TCM that differentiates it from western medicine is that the body, mind and spirit are not separate from each other. Your emotions, sleep patterns, stress levels, relationships, job satisfaction and personal fulfillment for example, are all connected to your health and your ability to conceive a child. TCM looks at you as a whole individual, diagnosing your patterns of disharmony and treating you accordingly. You will never leave the office of a doctor of TCM with a diagnosis of ‘unexplained infertility’. There is an explanation for your reproductive challenges and I am fully invested in helping you discover what that is and overcoming it.
There is never a wrong time to begin to utilize the powers of TCM to aid in your fertility journey. When women and couples come to see me, they are at one of three places;
- they want to optimize their chances of natural conception before any type of western medical intervention,
- they want support while going through western medical assisted reproductive technologies, or
- they have exhausted all western medical options and have turned to TCM as their last hope.
TCM is very much a partnership. Rather than telling you what is happening within your body, I will guide you through self-monitoring so that we can co-develop a plan that is tailored to you and addresses all areas of wellness – not only the symptom of infertility. The human body is highly intelligent and will tell you everything you need to know if you listen carefully.
The four ancient pillars of TCM pattern diagnosis are looking, listening/smelling, questioning and palpation (touch). By utilizing these simple and trusted techniques, an accurate foundation for diagnosis is identified so that specific acupuncture points, custom herbal formulations and individual lifestyle recommendations can be made.
Maintaining and restoring balance is at the heart of diagnosis and treatment in TCM and there are two primary tools used to do this: acupuncture and herbal medicine. While they are intricate and take years to master, the basic ideology is that acupuncture opens and herbal medicine heals.
What IS Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is based on the premise that we have energy meridians running through our bodies which gives power to our nervous system and provides our organic physical being with fundamental life force. When this energy or ‘Qi’ (pronounced ‘chee’) is blocked or not flowing smoothly, it causes a variety of problems including infertility. Using a series of very tiny needles at key points throughout your body restores the flow of energy and aids the body in returning to its natural state of perfect health.
Acupuncture is not a drug, nor does it override physiology; instead, it promotes the body’s regular circulation and rhythms so that it can function unimpeded. Your body’s innate desire is to be balanced and healthy. Acupuncture gives it a helping hand. Like stitches for a deep cut, acupuncture addresses deep programming and allows the body to do what it was designed to do: be well. While it’s not the actual healer, it creates an optimal environment for the body to do its own healing, not unlike stitches.
Benefits of Acupuncture
- Optimizes natural fertility potential by correcting conditions that may be contributing to difficulties with conception. It is also utilized by those who are proactive and simply want to be at their pinnacle of health before conceiving and carrying a pregnancy.
- Improves pregnancy and live birth rates, as well as reducing miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy rates when used in conjunction with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). There is a burgeoning body of research to support this. Refer to Step Nine for a more extensive discussion and references regarding TCM and how it helps improves IVF success.
- Improves blood circulation to the reproductive organs and thickens the uterine lining (for more things that you can do at home to enhance blood flow to the reproductive organs, see Step Eight). Blood delivers nutrients and oxygen to every cell, as well as carrying away waste. In the case of IVF, the possibility of enhanced delivery of IVF medications to the developing eggs via optimized blood flow is a well-accepted theory.
- Reduces stress and anxiety. Besides the effect acupuncture has on improving blood flow to the reproductive organs, this is likely the most accepted reason the Reproductive Endocrinologists (fertility & IVF doctors) send their patients to me. Its effect on reducing the tone or excitability of the sympathetic nervous system is well documented, reported by patients and observed time and time again in the clinical setting. This change in the nervous system further increases blood flow to the reproductive organs.
- Helps restore hormonal balance involved in all aspects of reproductive and whole body functioning (i.e. thyroid, insulin, estrogen, FSH-follicle stimulating hormone, progesterone, testosterone, adrenal).
- Regulates the menstrual cycle and induces regular ovulation by balancing hormones, helping with weight loss and removing emotional blockages (such as in women struggling with PCOS).
- Regulates immune function required for implantation and preventing miscarriage. The body’s delicate wisdom needs to be given the space to function as needed here. Too much or too little immune response may result in repeated implantation failure. If you suffer from allergies or atopic conditions like asthma, eczema, sinusitis or recurrent early pregnancy loss, then immune regulation should be an important health goal.
- Supports women suffering from recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) on an emotional level. TCM can help reduce the fear of trying to conceive or being pregnant and boost the willpower necessary to once again move forward. It may also help mend the broken heart that accompanies these losses.
- Reduces pain and inflammation in conditions such as Vulvodynia (pelvic pain) and Endometriosis.
- Can improve sperm quality such as motility, count, morphology, and possibly DNA fragmentation rates (see Step Ten for more information on the treatment of male factor infertility).
- Enhances sexual function and desire, which so often becomes major obstacles after trying to conceive for a period of time.
- Eases the discomforts of pregnancy. Reduction of nausea, aches and pains, hypertension, headaches and many other symptoms observed in the clinic. The management of gestational diabetes, turning breech babies, and preparing the woman and the cervix for labour are also common applications.