Traditional Chinese Medicine for the Treatment of Infertility
Medicine for Fertility
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a well-renowned medical system that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of medical conditions. Infertility, Gynecological Health, & Men's Health are three categories which can benefit from TCM because of its ability to support the entire body and its systems but also focus its medicinal effects on the individual needs and weaknesses of the body. TCM is frequently used to help improve fertility, balance menstrual cycles, address menopausal symptoms, treat infections (chronic, acute, recurring), balance hormones, treat chronic pain, reduce chronic inflammation and much more.
TCM is very unique because it takes in to account the entire body and its complete function to diagnose a disease, rather than just a few individual symptoms. For example, your digestion, mood, energy, sleep, stress, pain, and body constitution are all important clues that are considered. Along with the main medical symptoms a Naturopathic Doctor is trained to recognize and diagnose, all of these other important factors are also used in careful consideration before making a clinical diagnosis. This is very important because the treatment that is then prescribed will work to not only resolve the main medical symptoms, but also work to improve overall health as well.
TCM offers a variety of Treatment options which are often used in a combination that best suits the Patient. Some of the Treatment options include, but are not limited to:
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Cupping for Muscular Pain
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Traditional Chinese Medicine natural?
TCM uses Alternative Medical techniques mentioned above (acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary changes, etc.), which are less invasive, gentle in their effect, but have been shown to be helpful in the treatments for various patients.
How does TCM differ from Western Approaches?
A very large differentiating factor are the diagnostic tools used in TCM. Not only are laboratory results (ie. blood tests, ultrasounds, etc.) used, but Pulse Diagnosis, Tongue Diagnosis, and Constitutional Diagnosis are used to give a more holistic picture of what is happening in the body. This helps the Naturopathic Doctor to identify root causes of disease and treat them along with the uncomfortable symptoms that result from the disease.
Can TCM be used if I am already Pregnant?
TCM can be used for patients who are both trying to achieve pregnancy, or are already pregnant, but the treatment must be prescribed and delivered correctly to ensure safety of the patient. There are certain herbs and acupuncture points that cannot be used during Pregnancy or for Women who are presently trying to conceive.
Can Acupuncture help with IVF success?
Acupuncture for IVF is gaining a lot of recognition from the Scientific Community because of the promising results it has shown to improve the probability of successful pregnancy and live birth in patients concurrently undergoing IVF/ICSI.
Traditional Chinese medicine needs to be recognized as one of the original modalities of medicine that advocated for a whole body approach. Meaning instead of zooming in and focusing on just a symptom, the initial diagnosis also involved evaluating for the basics of overall health and vitality. It places a large focus on the digestive system, circulatory system, emotional well-being, dietary patterns, and herbal medicine. Although holistic medicine has many names across the globe, the common denominator among them is we do not just treat the symptom. We help to relieve the discomfort associated with troublesome symptoms and focus heavily on treating what is actually causing the symptom, and building a lifestyle to help prevent progress of disease (i.e. disease prevention).
With regard to fertility specifically, traditional Chinese medicine has contributed a significant understanding and treatment approach which has been scientifically validated with a multitude of research papers over the last decade and more.
The most significant approaches that traditional Chinese medicine has provided for us to help treat infertility and support healthy pregnancy rates include:
Fertility acupuncture has been shown to significantly improve fertility treatment outcomes when used prior to and during assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs). The latest systematic review and meta-analysis published in Australia in 2019 looked at studies from the last decade and found that including acupuncture improved IVF pregnancy rates by about 1/3. This means that if your estimated IVF pregnancy rate is, for example, 30%, statistically it should increase to about 42%. Acupuncture seems to help those who have had failed IVFs previously the most compared to patients who are going for their first IVF and for Women who have a lower estimated baseline pregnancy rate (i.e. advanced maternal age).
Botanical therapies have been shown to support hormone balance. For example Women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may benefit from herbal medicine to improve ovulation rates, support healthier progesterone levels, and lower circulating androgen hormones. It can also help with estrogen metabolism and support treatments for patients that suffer from endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or adenomyosis. Botanical medicines have been studied to support the reduction in premenstrual tension symptoms, support menstrual regularity, ovulation, and help to reduce stress/improve energy.
Dietary patterns are an untapped source for improving your chances of pregnancy and improving fertility. You can either allow your diet to work for you or against you when trying to conceive. Dietary choices vary depending on the cause of infertility and recommendations from a research perspective vary depending on whether you have male-factor infertility, endometriosis, fibroids, pcos, unexplained infertility, low egg quality, or a different cause. In general, consumption of certain food groups have been show to lower fertility by decreasing follicle growth, sperm concentration, sperm motility, and increasing inflammation. Healthy dietary changes, depending on your cause of infertility, should be implemented for a minimum of 3 months before fertility treatments.