In the past decade infertility has been on the rise leaving young couples in a very expensive situation when seeking western treatments. In some cases IVF treatments can range up to $30,000 with no coverage from insurance companies. This is a big expense especially when the couple has to pay out of pocket and more importantly if they are a new couple and just starting their journey as husband and wife.
Luckily, there are many types of treatment out there for couples to try. Aside from the common IUI, IVF, etc there is also Traditional Chinese Medicine aka Acupuncture and Chinese herbal Medicine. Many people ask is it effective? Does it work? Or what does actually do? While Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years, dating back to the Chang Dynasty in 1500 B.C., it has only become popular among Westerners for the past 30 years or so. People in the United States and other Western countries are recently beginning to appreciate and comprehend the effectiveness of acupuncture. Overall, TCM treats patients with a "whole body" approach, meaning that the treatment addresses the complete body system as oppose to only attending to the symptoms. On the other hand, Western Medicine addresses the body as parts rather than one integrated system. So, how does this connect with fertility? Well, let's first define infertility. According to the American Fertility Society, fertility is when "a couple has had one year of sexual intercourse without contraception and has been unable to conceive." There are many factors that make it difficult to conceive even after conception, however using acupuncture to enhance fertility is providing hope and optimism for many. Additionally, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can work alone or in conjunction with western medicine and there have been a number of studies in the last decade which show just how effective acupuncture really is in regards to fertility.
In 2002, a German study, which received quite a bit of attention found significantly higher conception rates when acupuncture was used along side IVF, (42.5% VS. 26.3%). More recently, in May of 2006, two studies showed that acupuncture can improve the success rate of IVF. The first one taken place in Germany, included 225 women undergoing IVF, 116 of which received acupuncture with TCM during the phase after ovulation (luteal phase). The other 109 received standard acupuncture and the group using acupuncture with TCM had a significantly higher pregnancy rate than the placebo group, (33.6% vs 15.6%). The second study, which took place in Denmark found that receiving acupuncture on the day of the embryo transfer increased the rate of pregnancy by more than 10% (39% vs 26%). This concluded that getting an acupuncture treatment on the day of embryo transfer improved the results of the IVF.
So, why does TCM and acupuncture work so well with fertility? According to Dr. Raymond Chang, director of New York's Meridian Medical Group, who has been using acupuncture alongside fertility treatments for the past decade, "acupuncture provides better blood flow and circulation to the womb." Moreover, "it will give a better chance for the eggs to be nourished and therefore, carried. Conclusively, acupuncture and TCM with fertility have a number of long standing benefits which include:
1. Regulation of hormones
2. Improved function of ovaries
3. Improvements in uterine lining
4. Increased blood flow to uterus
5. Increased live birth rates
6. Reduction of stress
7. Lower ectopic pregnancy rates
The great thing about acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is that treatments are catered to the individual. This means that there is no cookie cutter treatment for each person or couple. Each person has a custom tailored treatment devised for them and there condition or pattern. With infertility, there are a few patterns which may cause infertility. The most common would listed below with patterns, point prescription and formulas that would work best. (Jane Lyttleton – Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine 2nd edition 2013)
- Kidney Yin:
Point prescription: would be based on nourishing both Yin and Yang. Ex. Kid 6 (Zhaohai) Kid 3 (Taixi) and Kid 2 (Rangu). This would be the basis of the point prescription and other points can be added based on specific signs and symptoms.
Herbal Formula: Gui Shao Di Huang Tang
- Kidney Yang Deficiency:
Point Prescription: Ren 4 (Guanyuan) Kid 3 (Taixi) Bl 23 (Shenshu) and Ren 3 (Zhongji)
Herbal Formula: Gui Shao Di Huang Tang with addition of Gui Ban and Bei Jia
- Heart and Liver Qi Stagnation:
Point Prescription: Liv 2 (Xingjian) Ht 5 (Tongli) Ht 7 (Shenmen) Pc 6 (Neiguan)
Herbal Formula: Gan Mai Da Zao Tang with an addition of of Chuan Lian Zi and Suan Zao Ren.
- Blood Stagnation:
Point Prescription: KD 14 (Siman) Ren 3 (Zhongji) Sp 12 (Chongmen) St 29 (Guilai) Lv 5 (Ligou)
Herbal Formula: We can use, Gui Shao Di Huang Tang with the addition or blood movers. Ex, Hong Hua, Tao Ren, Wu Ling Zhi.
- Phlegm Damp Accumulation:
Point Prescription: GB 26 (Daimai) Sp 5 (Shangqui) Bl 28 (Pangguangshu) Ren 6 (Qihai)
Herbal Formula: Gui Shao Di Huang Tang with the addition of Tu Si Zi, Xu Duan, Bai Ji Tian, Yi Yi Ren, Sha Ren.
Lastly, research has shown that acupuncture is effective with men as well. A study from 2005 showed that after the men received acupuncture treatments, their sperm motility and quality improved.
Importantly, studies have proved that acupuncture and TCM for fertility does not cause any harm. In fact, by taking the Chinese medicine approach and getting acupuncture treatments, you are not only treating your body, but your mind and spirit as well. The treatments not only increase your fertility, but your energy and spirit as well so that you experience a great sense of wellbeing overall.
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8. (Jane Lyttleton – Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine 2nd edition 2013)