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Chinese Medicine & Infertility

Chinese medicine has been used to enhance and promote reproductive functions for thousands of years. This ancient medicine is very effective in treating modern diseases and conditions for both males and females. Chinese medicine includes acupuncture and herbal medicine which are used for the treatments and prevention of diseases. To name a few of the more common conditions which Chinese medicine has been successful in treating:

Unexplained Infertility
Irregular menstrual cycle
PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
Menopausal symptoms and perimenopausal symptoms
Amenorrhea, luteal phase defect, anovulation
Repeated miscarriage
Low libido
Male infertility including low sperm count, low motility and morphology

Enhance Fertility
In using Chinese medicine to enhance fertility it is important to remember that this medicine takes some time to yield results. It takes about three to six months to regulate the menstrual cycle. For some individuals it may take longer if there is a history of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease or sexually transmitted diseases. For males it will take 70-90 days to generate new sperm. Sperm cycles take about three months to regenerate.

Chinese medicine diagnosis will include an individualized differential diagnosis based on different patterns of disharmony. One's reproductive abilities can be greatly enhanced by harmonizing the endocrine system. That can be achieved by using acupuncture and herbal prescriptions. In addition, nutritional guidelines and specific supplements will be recommended based on your individual conditions.

Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART)
As many couples try to conceive later in life, fertility difficulties are more prevalent. Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART) have become very acceptable and popular. For some couples ART is the only hope to conceive . Chinese medicine will greatly improve the outcome of ART procedures. It is a medicine which is powerful and gentle at the same time. It will ad a balancing aspect to the treatment and will increase the success rate of Western medicine's procedures. Chinese medicine is the Yin medicine balancing and enhancing Western medicine, which is a Yang medicine. Several scientific studies have clearly shown the increased efficacy of IVF procedures with acupuncture treatments. To read some of those articles look under "Acupuncture has fertility-boosting benefits" and "Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy".

Hormonal Imbalance & Infertility
Acupuncture and herbal medicine work more gently than reproductive pharmaceutical drugs. They work with the body to strengthen the whole system in general, as well as the reproductive system, to balance hormonal activity.

Hormonal imbalances can happen at different levels of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. In other words it can happen at different levels and locations. It may be at the brain level (hypothalamic/pituitary) or the ovaries/testes levels. Some of those may not be detected on blood tests. TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) can correct and restore balance to this delicate system. In order to conceive, the reproductive system needs to be functioning at optimal capacity as well as the rest of the body. The reproductive system is not essential to the survival of an individual. We can live without this system working properly. One can think of the energy needed to support reproductive function as an "extra" Qi (energy, vitality). This is designed by the body as a protective mechanism to prevent conception when conditions are not favorable. Unfavorable conditions for getting pregnant include too little body fat, excessive exercise, being on the verge of exhaustion most of the time, and high levels of stress. In modern life style overwork and stress are major causes for difficulty in conceiving.

Stress affects the reproductive system in adverse ways, often causing unexplained infertility. The stress hormones like adrenalin give the body the ability to run away from danger. This is called the "fight or flight" response. Those hormones are meant to flood the system for a short time period as they channel blood circulation to the brain, eyes, and muscles to facilitate 'running away from the lion.' As the stress level continues those hormone levels do not drop as they should. Stress hormones are not supposed to remain in the system at high levels for long periods of time. When they do, they cause blood flow to be redirected from digestive system, endocrine and reproductive systems. As a result they interfere with the body's ability to utilize some of the sex hormones, especially progesterone and prolactin, and decrease blood circulation to the ovaries and uterus.

Under stress the body will not have the available level of progesterone it needs. That in turn will impair ovulation and implantation. Another example is prolactin, a hormone which is normally secreted by the pituitary gland to stimulate lactation (milk production) prior to giving birth. During stressful times the pituitary produces higher than normal levels of polactin which interferes with ovulation. Again, this is the body's way of preventing pregnancy in times of stress. The endocrine system can not distinguish whether we are 'running away from the lion' or feeling stressed out about our lives, overwork conditions, emotional issues and excessive worries. The endocrine system has not adapted to the 21st century. It functions the way it did since humans lived in caves and were hunters and gatherers.

Chinese medicine treatments provide stress relief as well as opening the channels (meridians) to establish free flow of energy and blood into the body's internal organs. In addition treatments will balance hormonal levels.

A note for women with "High FSH" and "Poor Responders".

Some women have been labeled by their reproductive endocrinologist. It is important to step away from those devastating and upsetting statements and not identify yourself by those. An important part of this process is to restore faith in your body and your ability to conceive. I have treated many women with high FSH who have conceived on their own. FSH levels fluctuate every month and they can be brought down with the help of acupuncture & herbs. High FSH is not a fertility death sentence. There is a lot more to your fertility than your high FSH.

Some women do not respond well or at all to fertility drugs like clomid, Follistim, Gonol-F and others. However, I have found that many of those women respond very well to Chinese medicine treatments, as well as changing diets and life style.

Anat Raz fertility, infertility, menopause, peri-menopause


Anat Raz, M.S., L.Ac.
25 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY 10549