Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a holistic medical system that takes into account body, mind and spirit. It includes acupuncture, Chinese herbs, nutritional counseling and a variety of other lesser-known treatments. Acupuncture is the most well-known aspect of Chinese Medicine. The variety of tools TCM encompasses, in addition to accupuncture, integrates well with western medicine, to provide a truly comprehensive approach to fertility.
TCM is really a lifestyle medicine. With its philosophical roots in Taoism, it is designed to help us live in a more balanced state of harmony with nature. Therefore, it is particularly well suited to providing support and guidance during what can be an arduous, highly technical and emotionally difficult experience. In fact, the word, “crisis” in Chinese has a dual meaning to include opportunity. You can use a fertility crisis as an opportunity to mother yourself or tend to your own health needs that you may have neglected, creating an overall healing environment in which to start a family.
The integration of TCM into an overall approach to fertility has shown itself to be invaluable.
Reproductive Endocrinologists and TCM
Ever since I started practicing in 2001, I have successfully applied this holistic approach to working in an integrative setting with western medical doctors. Culminating in the creation of an integrative fertility practice with Dr. Sami David. Most of my patients are referred to me by a reproductive endocrinologist, with whom I work very closely to meet the various needs of our patients.
I had one patient came to me at the age of 42, after experiencing four early miscarriages, one from natural conception and three through IVF. She was under incredible stress, having just experienced the death of her mother after a 15 year battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. When we started treatment I put her on an elimination diet. I also began giving her regular acupuncture treatments and provided her with a weekly sanctuary where she could focus on her total health and well-being. After three months, she was ready to try another round of IVF. This time she conceived and was able to deliver two healthy, twin girls.
Traditional Chinese Medicine For Your Fertility Journey
TCM is well suited to guide a woman through all phases of preconception, pregnancy, childbirth and beyond. Not only does the medicine lend itself well to improving the efficacy of western fertility treatments, but it is also useful in mitigating stress and other side effects. Particularly where many women are undergoing various levels of medical intervention to help them get pregnant, the integration of TCM into an overall approach to fertility has shown itself to be invaluable.
1. Fertility Diet
One of the most important things to incorporate when treating women who seek to become pregnant is a revised approach to diet. Yes, I recommend a healthy, predominantly plant-based diet of whole, organic foods, with limited sugar, processed flour, and unhealthy fats. But, it’s also important to look at the overall connection to food and its power to nurture and support. This is something I focus on with all my patients.
2. Chinese Herbs
If we are unable to correct underlying imbalances with proper nutrition, then the next step is to add in Chinese herbs. Chinese herbs are an important part of TCM. They can be very helpful in nourishing the body’s vital organs. They balance the reproductive system and strengthen overall energy levels. Of course, the use of herbs must be undertaken carefully and coordinated with the reproductive cycle, under professional supervision. But even during the times of your cycle, when herbs are not recommended, vitamins can be used to great benefit.
3. Movement and Exercise
TCM recognizes the importance of movement and exercise for fertility, with Qi Gong and Tai Chi. Both are known for their health benefits in helping to balance the body’s energies. These movement exercises are not widely popular. But, generally it’s important to note the value of movement in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Some of us are quite sedentary. In particular, IVF requires that women don’t exercise, because the stimulation of follicles creates a greater risk of ovarian torsion. Even if you are unable to exercise due to treatment, make sure you incorporate walking every day to keep your energy moving.
Good sleep hygiene is another essential component of health. While getting enough rest is important for anyone at any time. It’s even more crucial for women preparing for pregnancy and motherhood. An ideal bedtime is 10pm. However, many of us live extremely hectic and overburdened lives. Making a transition to a more restful schedule can take some doing.
Meditation and mindfulness are essential. Creating a time for this type of practice should be a big priority for anyone undergoing fertility treatment. It’s important to pay attention to breath and cultivating the relationship between breathing and mindfulness. Coupled with acupuncture, this can be of tremendous help in developing good energy movement. Mindfulness positively impacts body, mind, and spirit and therefore can help when you are trying to conceive.
TCM to Prepare Your Body For Pregnancy
The fertility journey has been likened to a marathon. For this kind of long-term process, TCM is well suited to support the type of introspection and healing needed. As an complement to western medical fertility treatment, TCM can be an invaluable way to help you attain a good, balanced state of health. In greater harmony with all aspects of your life and the world, TCM can support you as you prepare for motherhood.