The treatment of infertility with Oriental medicine

The treat­ment of infer­til­ity with Chinese Medi­cine.
West­ern soci­ety has seen many pos­it­ive changes in last few dec­ades. In most coun­tries, women have now more pro­fes­sion­al oppor­tun­it­ies than ever before. Although, hav­ing young chil­dren while main­tain­ing a suc­cess­ful career remains a dif­fi­cult path to nego­ti­ate. One can under­stand why so many couples wait until their pro­fes­sion­al life is well estab­lished before decid­ing to start a fam­ily. Unfor­tu­nately, as the body gets older, the chances of con­cep­tion for both sexes gradu­ally decline.
Many sur­veys have shown that women who choose to con­ceive after the age of 35 have a great­er chance of hav­ing med­ic­al dif­fi­culties that may res­ult in infer­til­ity issues. These include: lack of ovu­la­tion, poor qual­ity of eggs, thin endo­metri­al lin­ing, poor qual­ity and num­ber of follicles, low pro­ges­ter­one, blocked fal­lopi­an tubes, uter­ine fibroids, ovari­an cysts, and endo­met­ri­os­is. Accord­ing to the Amer­ic­an Soci­ety for Repro­duct­ive Sci­ence, over 6.1 mil­lion, or 10 per­cent of women in the United States are dia­gnosed as being infer­tile, which is defined as one year of unsuc­cess­ful con­cep­tion. While the risks of mis­car­riage for a woman aged 25 or less is around 1 in 7, once she reaches the age of 40, there are over 30% chances that the preg­nancy will not be suc­cess­ful.
Also, men can be respons­ible for failed preg­nancy nearly as fre­quently as women. Between 35 to 40 per­cent of infer­til­ity prob­lems among couples are actu­ally caused by the male part­ner. Whatever the cause of the prob­lem, for the couples who have always con­tem­plated hav­ing chil­dren, the efforts to become preg­nant while the bio­lo­gic­al clock is wind­ing down can be both phys­ic­ally exhaust­ing and highly dis­tress­ing. Ulti­mately, when all the best efforts fail, Assisted Repro­duct­ive Ther­apies (ART) which includes manip­u­la­tion of the egg, sperm or both to increase the chances of con­cep­tion is often seen as the only remain­ing altern­at­ive, although it is an expens­ive option which is not always suc­cess­ful. While IVF clin­ics in Aus­tralia have improved their suc­cess rates to a remark­able extent over the last two dec­ades, recent research seems to indic­ate that we may have reached a plat­eau regard­ing how much we can presently achieve.
Accord­ing to Dr. Lifang Liang, an expert in infer­til­ity in the field of Chinese medi­cine in the United States, women around the age of 40 who have suc­cess­ful ART pro­ced­ures suf­fer mis­car­riages nearly 50 per­cent of the time. When these occur, or if IVF fails these patients have exhausted their options of hav­ing their own bio­lo­gic­al child which can be dev­ast­at­ing for many couples.
In South East Asia, Tra­di­tion­al Chinese Medi­cine has been pre­scribed for the treat­ment of infer­til­ity for many cen­tur­ies. Accord­ing to that frame­work, a woman’s capa­city for repro­duc­tion is ruled by the energy of her kid­neys. Also the spleen and the liv­er organs are also involved to some degree. Prob­lems with any of these organs can res­ults in prob­lems with con­cep­tion, or preg­nancy.
In many cases, Acu­punc­ture alone, or in com­bin­a­tion with Chinese herb­al medi­cine can treat the root cause of infer­til­ity, and pre­pare men and women for preg­nancy. In addi­tion, when used in con­junc­tion with IVF, Ori­ent­al medi­cine has been shown to sig­ni­fic­antly enhance a woman’s chances of con­cep­tion. It is now being used, in com­bin­a­tion with West­ern medi­cine, in many fer­til­ity clin­ics in the United States. A study pub­lished in 2002 shows that acu­punc­ture treat­ment admin­istered 25 minutes before, and after IVF treat­ment increased suc­cess of preg­nancy by 15 per­cent. The improve­ment was even sig­ni­fic­antly great­er when the women had been receiv­ing reg­u­lar acu­punc­ture treat­ment for weeks pri­or to the pro­ced­ure.
As we pre­vi­ously men­tioned, the male part­ner can be respons­ible for more than a third of the incid­ence of failed preg­nancy for sev­er­al reas­ons, which include low sperm count, abnor­mal sperm shape, size, and mobil­ity. Also, life­style, long term expos­ure to chem­ic­als, genet­ics, age and physiolo­gic­al changes can affect a man’s abil­ity to pro­duce off­spring.
Acu­punc­ture can be very suc­cess­ful in treat­ing male sexu­al prob­lems such as impot­ence, but a recent tri­al pub­lished in the magazine Fer­til­ity and Ster­il­ity sug­gests that it can also sig­ni­fic­antly increase the num­ber of nor­mal sperm, while redu­cing the num­ber of struc­tur­al defects.
In the pub­lished study, the sperm motil­ity levels increased sig­ni­fic­antly in semen samples in the men receiv­ing acu­punc­ture com­pare to the con­trol group Unfor­tu­nately, while acu­punc­ture appeared able to improve the over­all qual­ity and struc­tur­al integ­rity of sperm, it was inef­fect­ive against some com­mon sperm patho­lo­gies. The authors con­cluded by stat­ing that “des­pite the inab­il­ity of acu­punc­ture to sig­ni­fic­antly reduce some sperm abnor­mal­it­ies, the treat­ment could be used to improve over­all sperm qual­ity, lead­ing to the pos­sib­il­ity of increased fer­til­ity.”
The best out­come may be achieved by com­bin­ing Ori­ent­al and west­ern medi­cine togeth­er. We have seen recently in reput­able med­ic­al journ­als, the res­ults of clin­ic­al tri­als con­duc­ted to invest­ig­ate the effects of acu­punc­ture at the time of embryo trans­fer. It appears that the acu­punc­ture rates of suc­cess were sig­ni­fic­antly bet­ter when the over­all expect­ancy of preg­nancy was lower due to the women’s age. There­fore, many fer­til­ity clin­ics now recom­mend acu­punc­ture to women who have had pre­vi­ous failed cycles, or who are 35 or older.
Olivi­er Lejus MHSc, BHSc. is a registered acu­punc­tur­ist prac­tising in Sydney.

About Olivier Lejus

I was born in France and I emigrated to Australia in 1980. I worked as a circus performer, puppeteer and actor before I began studying Traditional Chinese Medicine a the University of Technology of Sydney in 1997. I graduated in 2000 with a Bachelor of of science degree in Traditional Chinese medicine. I am now specializing in Japanese style acupuncture for the treatment of female and male infertility, pain, and anxiety.

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