Boost Fertility with Chinese Medicine



Couples trying to conceive have many options when it comes to improving their odds each month. While even the most advanced science or technology cannot guarantee a pregnancy, thankfully many treatment options exist for couples who are struggling to conceive. Chinese Medicine, which consists of acupuncture, moxibustion, customized Chinese herb therapy and nutritional advice, has been used for thousands of years to enhance fertility. Recent studies are confirming the ability of Chinese medicine to naturally improve fertility as well as enhance Western medical fertility treatments, such as IntraUterine Insemination (IUI) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). A more holistic approach not only enhances fertility, but also supports a healthy pregnancy and postpartum recovery.

Reproductive Endocrinologists & Acupuncturists

Many Western doctors, particularly Reproductive Endocrinologists (fertility specialists), are starting to value an integrative approach for their patients. Sarah (37 years old) came to see me for fertility support after several rounds of failed IVF cycles at a clinic in New York City.  She was producing abnormal embryos and had a history of chronic endometriosis. She also had a consistently thin uterine lining. Sarah’s doctor suggested she try Chinese medicine for a few months before doing another cycle.

To prepare, we did weekly acupuncture sessions and changed her diet to reduce foods that could cause inflammation. She also took supplements to improve circulation in her ovaries and uterus. After 3 months, another IVF produced a normal embryo. The first frozen embryo transfer attempt was canceled,  because her uterine lining did not get thick enough. After discussion with her doctor, we added a customized Chinese herb formula to her hormone protocol. This protocol was to help thicken her uterine lining. We also added additional acupuncture treatments leading up to the transfer. The final outcome was a successful transfer, resulting in the birth of her daughter.

How Does Chinese Medicine Help Fertility?

As research continues to be conducted, understanding the impact of Chinese medicine on fertility is a work in progress. However, many important discoveries have already been found. Couples who work with a Chinese medicine practitioner in the months leading up to an IVF have higher live birth rates.[1] Studies also show that acupuncture and Chinese herbs for fertility help strengthen the communication between the pituitary gland in the brain and the ovaries. Therefore this can improve the health of a woman’s cycle including:

  • Reducing PMS symptoms.
  • Regulating the menstrual cycle.
  • Promoting regular ovulation.
  • Strengthening the luteal phase.
  • Improving progesterone production.
  • Promoting ovulation in women with the polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).[2]
  • Promoting ovulation in women with hypothalamic amenorrhea.[2]

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been shown to promote pregnancy in women with complications from endometriosis. It’s used to manage associated symptoms like pelvic pain as well.[3] Acupuncture for fertility improves blood flow to the uterus and ovaries. When combined with appropriate Chinese herbs, acupuncture can help build a healthy, more receptive lining.[4]

Acupuncture is often used as a supportive therapy during IVF and IUI cycles.

Acupuncture to Boost Fertility

To enhance the effects of medications, acupuncture is often used as a supportive therapy during IVF and IUI cycles. First, acupuncture helps by bringing more blood to the uterus and ovaries and therefore improving implantation.[5][6][7] Second, it also helps moderate the immune system, which can also support implantation and possibly prevent some types of miscarriage.[8] Finally for male infertility, acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been shown to improve sperm parameters.[9]

Any intervention or treatment for fertility (Eastern or Western) merely increases the odds of conception by eliminating potential barriers and optimizing conditions. It is not always clear why a couple is not conceiving, so it is essential to keep trying ways to improve these odds by eliminating factors that could impede a pregnancy each cycle. Chinese medicine is one path to help and works very well alone or in combination with Western medical interventions.

Many women and couples who struggle with fertility experience high levels of stress and anxiety. It’s important to remember that anxiety and stress alone do not typically cause infertility, but women who attempt to lower anxiety and stress levels with techniques like acupuncture generally have improved fertility outcomes, enjoy a less stressful fertility journey and go on to have a healthier pregnancy, labor and delivery and postpartum recovery time.

Disclaimer

The information provided above is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or a substitute for medical care.

References

[1]Lee E. Hullender Rubin,aMichael S. Opsahl,bKlaus Wiemer,bScott D. Mist,c and  Aaron B. Caugheyc. Impact of Whole Systems Traditional Chinese Medicine on In Vitro Fertilization Outcomes. Reprod Biomed Online. 2015 Jun; 30(6): 602–612. 

[2]Julia Johansson 1 and  Elisabet Stener-Victorin 1 , 2 ,*Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Effect and Mechanisms of Acupuncture for Ovulation Induction.Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 762615. 

[3]Sai Kong, 1 Yue-Hui Zhang, 2 , 3 Chen-Fang Liu, 1 Ilene Tsui, 4 Ying Guo, 1 Bei-Bei Ai, 1 and  Feng-Juan Han 2 ,*The Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Endometriosis: A Review of Utilization and Mechanism.Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014; 2014: 146383. 

[4]Yuehui Zhang, 1 , 2 Yiman Fu, 3 Fengjuan Han, 1 Hongying Kuang, 1 Min Hu, 1 and  Xiaoke Wu 1 ,*The Effect of Complementary and Alternative Medicine on Subfertile Women with In Vitro Fertilization.Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014; 2014: 419425. 

[5]Shuai Z1, Lian F2, Li P3, Yang W2. Effect of transcutaneous electrical acupuncture point stimulation on endometrial receptivity in women undergoing frozen-thawed embryo transfer: a single-blind prospective randomised controlled trial. Acupunct Med. 2015 Feb;33(1):9-15.

[6]Fu H1, He Y, Gao Y, Man Y, Liu W, Hao H. Acupuncture on the Endometrial Morphology, the Serum Estradiol and Progesterone Levels, and the Expression of Endometrial Leukaemia-inhibitor Factor and Osteopontin in Rats. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.2011;2011:606514.

[7]Stener-Victorin E1, Waldenström U, Andersson SA, Reduction of blood flow impedance in the uterine arteries of infertile women with electro-acupuncture.Wikland M.Hum Reprod. 1996 Jun;11(6):1314-7.

[8]Gui J1, Xiong F, Li J, Huang G. Effects of acupuncture on Th1, th2 cytokines in rats of implantation failure.Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:893023.

[9]Sinclair S. Altern Med Rev. Male infertility: nutritional and environmental considerations. 2000 Feb;5(1):28-38.

Help us change the conversation


SHARE YOUR JOURNEY

mobile-menu