Fertility related issues seem all too commonplace in today’s society. In fact one in six couples in Australia experience infertility. Infertility is the inability of a couple to achieve conception after a year of unprotected intercourse, or the inability to carry pregnancies to a live birth (1). Infertility often is shared equally among women and men. Although many cases can be adequately diagnosed, numerous cases still remain “unexplained” which can be frustrating for many couples.
At Innate Harmony we have a particular interest in working with patients with fertility issues and have been doing so for over a decade. Utilising principles and protocols unique to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), our therapeutic care focuses on improving the health and wellbeing of our patients to assist them with their fertility concerns. This may involve helping patients manage their stress levels, modify their diet or incorporate more exercise into their daily routine. Essentially, by adopting a purely TCM perspective, our treatments are aimed at improving the health status of both partners to facilitate their chances of conception.
Infertility from a TCM Perspective
From a TCM point of view there are a number of different pathologies which can affect the capacity of both females and males to conceive. According to TCM theory , conception will occur when kidney jing (tian kui) is strong and plentiful, when yin, yang, blood, and qi in the channels are in balance, and the shen (spirit) is at peace. In combination, these elements are fundamental to overall health and perceived as being the root of conception. When these elements become imbalanced, disharmony and an impaired capacity to conceive eventuates. Fundamental to the TCM treatment protocols in this regard, is the restoration of harmony in these key health aspects. Hence in this context, TCM treatment protocols focus on utilising acupuncture and other related therapeutic techniques to regulate the kidneys, the production and flow of blood and qi and the shen (spirit).
Pre-conception care the TCM way
From a TCM perspective, ‘a healthy body is a fertile body’ and ‘healthy couples make healthy babies’. Hence TCM fertility protocols focus on getting both partners to an optimal state of health, so as to maximise the quality of both the sperm and egg. As it takes approximately 3 to 4 months for sperm and eggs to develop, it is important to spend this time before conception adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle incorporating acupuncture and supplementation where necessary.
Also during this time charting of the menstrual cycle (by way of recording basal body temperature) is recommended in order to determine whether ovulation is occurring and when. Ascertaining a females fertile period is so important for couples trying to conceive. Indeed, many women do not know when they are ovulating and often miss their fertile window assuming that it is occurring on Day 14 when in fact they are ovulating days before of after. Using the BBT chart as a guide we help educate the female to recognise the subtle hormonal changes (such as changes to the cervical mucous) that are occurring during her monthly cycle so to pinpoint ovulation. Only once ovulation timing is determined, can a schedule of intercourse that will maximise their chances of conceiving be formulated.
Acupuncture for infertility related anxiety
For many couples the fertility journey can be an extremely stressful time. Whether they are trying to conceive naturally or are under the guidance of fertility experts. For some this process creates certain stresses and anxieties they have never experienced before. Indeed, often couples start off their fertility journey with so much hope and high expectations. However, when things start to stall and a pregnancy doesn’t eventuate as quickly as first anticipated it can be a particularly stressful time.
Acupuncture may be of benefit for women experiencing infertility related stress and anxiety. In fact a recent study which is believed to be the first systematic review on the impact of acupuncture on infertility-related anxiety concluded that acupuncture could be an effective option to relieve stress and anxiety in infertile women. The authors of this review recommended that future studies with more appropriate designs be conducted to expand on these results (2).
(1) Fertility Society Of Australia online at www.fertilitysociety.com.au
(2) Hassanzadeh Bashtian, M., Latifnejad Roudsari, R., & Sadeghi, R. (2017). Effects of Acupuncture on Anxiety in Infertile Women: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Journal of Midwifery and Reproductive Health, 5(1), 842-848. doi: 10.22038/jmrh.2016.7949.