Enhancing fertility with Chinese medicine
- A Holistic Approach
Nowadays the conventional route for infertility results in Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) too quickly, even it may not be necessary. Changing life style, improving general well being, natural treatments are always worth trying first, at least to increase the success rate of fertility treatments.
Chinese medicine has been used in China for centuries to regulate the female reproductive system. My approach of enhancing fertility is to integrate Western and Chinese medicine. I will examine a whole range of physical symptoms, test results, lifestyle that may affect your fertility. The focus is to regulate your menstrual cycle. A good Chinese gynecologist can tell a lot how the body is functioning from a woman's menstrual cycle-colour, texture, timing and duration and accompanied symptoms. Integrated with the modern laboratory tests and BBT (basal temperature chart), your chances of conceiving will be maximised.
During consultation we will discuss what might be causing the difficulty to conceive or the miscarriages and how to move forward. Whether it is unexplained infertility, or there is an underlying condition like disorder of ovulation, endometriosis, reduced ocarian reserve etc, we will take a look from Chinese medicine perspective, to restore and balance your body energy, which may have become depleted, disrupted through age, stress or lifestyle.
The mechanism of acupuncture enhancing fertility may involve: improve the reproductive system’s blood flow to the endometrium and ovaries, improve the quality of eggs and sperm, balance hormone levels, reduce stress.
- Can Chinese medicine help with premature Ovarian Failure? If a woman has high FSH before 40, it is diagnosed as Premature Ovarian Failure or premature menopause, which means there is a low ovarian reserve and low fertility. There is no treatment from conventional medicine. The contraceptive pill or HRT may sometimes help to relieve the symptoms but they can't help to improve ovarian function. Because of the poor response to IVF drug, these women are often turned away by the IVF clinic and advised to use donor eggs.Acupuncture with Chinese herbs, sometimes combined with HRT, can be very effective in treating high FSH. The treatment focuses on regulating menstruation. When the FSH has come down (some doctors think that's impossible), the chances of conceiving is high, providing there are no other factors affecting fertility. If patients want to try IVF again, the treatment will help to produce better quality eggs and improve the condition of the lining of the uterus, which will increase the probability of success.
- Disorder of ovulation
Commonly seen ones include Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), post-pill Amenorroea or hypothalamic anovulation. Treatment from conventional medicine is to use stimulation drug like Clomid or IVF drugs. In Chinese medicine, it is to do with weak Kidney energy, or an interruption somewhere in the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis caused by Qi and Blood stagnation, Phlegm-Damp obstruction.
- It is a condition which has puzzled doctors for a long time - associated with painful period, pain during intercourse, spotting before periods and infertility. For extensive or bulky endometriosis, it’d better to be removed with surgery, hopefully leaving undamaged tubes and ovaries. The drug regimens haven’t been very satisfactory. The strategy behind all of them is to prevent ovulation and the flux of hormones associated with a normal menstrual cycle. The endometriosis often comes back after the treatment stopped! In Chinese medicine, the underlying pathology of endometriosis is Kidney deficiency and Blood stagnation.
- Fallopian tubes
- If there is structural blockage or there is damage to both tubes, IVF is the only option.
- Chinese medicine can produces a good outcome for functional blockages. Emotional stress can cause spasm and tension in the muscles of the tube walls. Women who have been trying to conceive for a long time, understandably feel some level of pressure at midcycle. The tension held in the body can manifest in tight or inflexible tubes. This is another reason(one reason is to promote the ovulatin process) that around ovulation time is a good timing for acupuncture treatment, to encourage flexibility of the tubes, also can prevent ectopic pregnancy as well.
- Excess secretions from the cells lining the tubes can also block the tubes, cause ectopic.
- Miscarriage/Recurrent miscarriage
- Having a miscarriage is distressing, to have several miscarriages or a late miscarriage can be devastating. There are a number of factors tha may play a part such as age, hormonal deficiencies, genetic factors, immune factors, infection, weak cervix, developmental problem of the baby, etc, but sometimes no underlying problem can be found.
- Chinese medicine has been used to prevent miscarriages for centuries. In Chinese medicine recurrent miscarriage is often to do with weak Kidney energy, Qi deficiency, therefore it is wise to strengthen the body first before trying to conceive again. I often combine acupuncture and Chinese herbs to address the deficiencies. After positive pregnancy test it is advised to carry on with treatment at least till twelve weeks. If there was a late miscarriage in the past treatment should be carried throughout the pregnancy.
Success Stories (Patients age in stories is at the time when they conceived)
C, 42, one miscarriage
12 weeks20 weeks
G, 40, secondary infertility
G has a 4 years old daughter. A year ago she had a missed miscarriage at 3 months (baby died at 5 weeks) and she bled for 5 months. When she first came to me she was just getting out of a long period of grieving from loss of her father and the miscarriage. My diagnosis on her was Liver Yin Blood deficiency due to the loss of blood and grieving. She was keen to take herbs to replenish her body. She felt happier and stronger. 6 months later she fell pregnant without realising it. When she came for her appointment I noticed her BBT was still high even she just had a period (lighter than usual). We did a test together and it was positive! She continued with acupuncture throughout her pregnancy and we did prebirth acupuncture to induce labour. Despite her age she didn't want to be medically induced. 6 days after her due date she went into labour naturally. She had a water birth in the hospital and a healthy baby boy arrived after only 1.5 hour labour, weighed 9lb14oz. When I saw him two months later he was no doubt a handsome little boy.
A, 41, premature birth and 2 failed IVF
A went in labour at 27 weeks while on holiday. But unfortunately the baby died the next day after he was born. She went on to have had 2 IVFs and both failed. Her AMH was 1.1 and she was adviced to use donor egg if she were to have another IVF cycle. Miracle happened; A conceived after only 3 session of acupuncture and 3 weeks on herbs! Because of her history A was monitored by the hospital with regular scans and urine tests. We continued with monthly acupuncture till she was 38 weeks when she finally felt she can relax! A lovely health baby boy was born by planned c-section.
M came to me in March 2014. As an acupuncturist herself, she had been using acupuncture and Chinese herbs to keep her well being for a few years. She fell pregnant just 2 months after coming to see me. Very pleased for her and it is a very encouraging news for all women over 40. Her dating scan showed very low risk of Down syndrome 1 in 1600. She continued with acupuncture throughout her pregnancy and it was a pretty uneventful pregnancy considering the stress she was having. A healthy baby girl was born at home with acupuncture and gas on her due date. "Thank you for my treatments to get her here."
D, 40, Endometriosis, one failed IVF
D had been ttc for two years when she came to me. She was inspired to try Chinese medicine from reading the book “The Infertility Cure” (by Dr Randine Lewis). She has previous history of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and was treated with thyroxine, testosterone and oestrogen implants 8 years ago. Her periods were heavy and painful with big clots. After five months of acupuncture and some herbal pills her menorrhagia had significantly improved. When Laparoscopy and dye hydrotubation was carried out, not much endometriosis was found. Unfortuantely she was told by the hospital not to take any Chinese herbs. She then had a cycle of IVF but failed. She was doing lots of research online and having various tests done privately. “It looks like things aren’t working for me and I may have to give up to save out sanity!” She finally agreed to take Chinese herbs. She conceived in the second cycle after starting the decoction! “Last week I felt like I had been doing sit ups. So muscle ache but high up closer to my ribs than my tummy. It now generally feels like before I start a period- a bit achy in tummy & lower back. A few stronger, very short pains now again, a bit like ovulation but not on any particular side..”
Her prenatal tests showed 1 in 1944 for Down’s and in 16100 for Edwards & Pataus syndrome. Apart from some morning sickness in the first trimester D had a healthy pregnancy. She was put on Aspirin 75mg in the third trimester because she was over 40. After a session of acupuncture at 40 weeks plus one day she had a show. A day later she texted “It is true; you make boys! Baby O arrived early this morning. Managed to avoid induction. Arrived at hospital 8cm so didn’t take too long. Not time for any water and no gas and air. Stats dropped at the end so needed a bit of help at the end. All well. Tired but loved up!”….”Thanks for all your help Ying. We love him “
J, 34, PCOS, natural conception after 6 Clomid cycles
J has PCOS. Her cycle is irregular 4-7 weeks. She came to me after she had finished her 6 months on Clomid. She was depressed, crying a lot. She conceived surprising quickly after 40 days starting acupuncture. Unfortunately she miscarriaged at 11weeks. She was devastated. 2 months later she decided to move onto IVF, which I didn’t think she needed it but told her to carry on trying. She was found 8 weeks pregnant when she was having her first baseline scan! This time she carried the pregnancy full term. A beautiful baby boy Austin was born on time, weighed 8lb2oz.
L, 37, raise FSH and male factor, natural conception after failed ICSI
L had her daughter through their first IVF 4 years ago. They had an unsuccessful ICSI a few months ago as her partner (40) had low morphology and anti sperm antibodies. He was asthmatic and developed high cholestrols in recent years. Both had some acupuncture and herbs. 6 months later L conceived but they kept it a seceret till she was 16 weeks; "Many thanks for all your help we really appreciate your assistance. My asthma appears to have stablised and I haven't had any cold sores for a while..." A healthy baby boy was born on term.
S, 30, natural conception after Clomid
S had been ttc for two years. They were found no cause for their delayed conception. She was keen for the least invasive. She came to me when she was on her first Clomiifene cycle. She was struggling with side effects- terrible mood swing, hot flushes, dry eyes etc. It didn’t work. She decided not to continue with Clomid but to try with acupuncture. She had a positive test in the third month but then unfortunately period started after a few days. She was devastated and felt like having a break from ttc. With my encouragement she continued with the treatment and fell pregnant again two months later! She had a baby girl through c-section. "I'm gutted that we didn't get to do acupuncture right up to the end. Thanks you so much for everything, you've been amazing & I can not thank you enough for what you have done for me".
I met up with her and her beautiful girl a few months later. "The biggest Thank You for everything that you have done for me! Your positivity and enthusiasm for life is infectious. I loved out chats and always left our sessions feeling ready to take on any challenges! You gave me strength and encouraged me to never give up and it worked! You are an incredible woman and I truly believe that without your work I would not have been blessed with my miracle Aurora!"
A, 33, Chronic kidney disease and secondary infertility
A has 16 months old boy. She was referred to me by her reflexologist. She had been using reflexology to help her conceive for nearly a year with no success. She did find it helpful with her first pregnancy. Her GFR was 52. She had lost 20% of her kidney function during her first pregnancy. It didn't take long at all -she conceived in the first cycle! What amazed me about this case is that during her second pregnancy, A's kidney function had improved by 20%! She didn't need to go on blood pressure medication as she did in her first pregnancy. She was planned to be induced at 38 weeks due to her kidney disease. But when she went in for induction she was already dilated. So they left her for 24 hours then broke her water. A healthy baby girl was born after very speedy 3.5 hour labour, weighed 8lb."She practically shot out!" Much better than the first birth when she was induced at 39 weeks and the labour lasted 34 hours with forceps.
S, 31, PCOS, after Clomid and 2 failed IVFs
S has PCOS but relatively regular periods. She had tried for two years before she was referred to the fertility clinic. She tried on Clomid for 8 months. She had two failed IVFs. She was over stimulated the first time on bith Clomid and IVF. She came to me to prepare for FET. I explained to her that it was possible for her to conceive naturally. 5 months later she fell pregnant. Totally unexpected for her. A baby boy Charlie was born at 34 weeks, when her water broke after a long walk, weighed 4lb 12oz. 4 years later S came back when she was trying for the second child. she conceive in the second cycle. a baby girl weight 8lb12 was born on full term. "She was only one day early. can't believe I made it that far! birth was straightforward and really quick. started contraction at 2pm and she was born at 5:50pm.."
R, 36, irregular periods
R came to me for her IBS, which was really bothering her. I noticed her menstrual cycle was long and irregular every 2-3 months. She would love to have children. Three months later with her IBS having improved, she had a positive pregnancy test too! R enjoyed having acupuncture throughout her pregnancy. She hardly gained any weight and absolutely had no symptoms. She gave birth to a beautiful girl at 39 weeks, naturally, weighed 6lb9oz (Chinese baby!)
L, 33, unexplained infertility
L had been trying to conceive for a year and was about to be started on Clomid by the hospital. She has asthma since a year old and been on preventive inhaler Serotide and oral Montelukast. I remember on her first visit she described she had another devastating period on Valentine’s day. It didn't take long at all- her next period never came. Her asthma was well controlled during pregnancy. A beautiful healthy baby girl Orla arrived after emergency c section due to labour not progressing at 41 weeks, weighed 7lb2oz. Three years later L came to for number two. Again she conceived straightaway. She went into labour naturally but had to have another emergency c section as her previous scar ruptured! "Daughter number 2 Esme arrived...7lb13oz. I love my girls so much, thank you.."
R, 31, PCOS, one miscarriage
R was diadnosed as PCOS when she was 14 years old and had been on contraceptive pills since to control the symptoms. She hadn't had a period since she stopped the pills two years ago. 4 weeks after starting acupuncture she had her very first period! The following month she had positive pregnancy test. Unfortunately she miscarriaged at 8 weeks. She was devastated. She moved onto Clomid treatment and was getting worried after 3 months with no success. I persuaded her to combine herbs with her Clomind cycle and it did the trick. She really enjoyed being pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy George naturally, weight 10lb3oz, exactly on her due date. "He's here...On time just like his mum. Actually enjoyed the latter part!"
U,39, high FSH and low AMH, natural conception after 2 failed IVFs
U had 2 IVFs 3 years ago, both failed. Her FSH was 20, AMH 1.1 then. She came to me but didn’t have any hope. Surprisingly she conceived 3 months later, with only a few sessions of acupuncture and some herbs. She didn’t continue with acupuncture during pregnancy but I heard from a friend of hers that she had a healthy baby. It is not uncommon to hear women can conceive naturally after failed IVF/s, with the help of acupuncture and herbs.
N, 36, natural conception after two failed IVFs
Recommended by a friend, N came to me after her second failed IVF. Both her and her husband were in despair. All her tests are normal: antral follicle count of 7 in each ovary, AMH 17, FSH 9.9, CA125:21, two progesterone levels:50.4 and 46.6. I explained to her that she has a good chance of conceiving naturally. It didn’t take long at all; she had a positive test in her second cycle. “Still in a state of shock!” N had an eventless pregnancy and “ had a gorgeous little boy Tuesday night…7lb14.
J, 37, miscarriages
She first came to me in 2010, 8 months after a miscarriage at week 8(baby stopped growing at week 6). She conceived two months later and had a healthy baby girl E at 41 weeks. She came back in 2013 after another miscarriage at 7 weeks. She fell pregnant again three months later. She gave birth to another beautiful baby girl Olivia at 40 weeks in April 2014, weighed 8 pounds 5 ounces.
T, 45, 3 consecutive miscarriages, fibroids, natural conception
“We are absolutely over the moon that Ben is now here. He is perfect and we are smitten! It’s such an immense feeling of love and blessing-what a miracle it is!
It's been an amazing journey and I am so grateful to you for all your help in preparing my body for conception and a healthy pregnancy. I credit you and the Chinese herbs with making it all possible!
I would love to come and see you again but we are so far. I would love to continue with some herbs especially to help me recover from the c section operation. If that is something we could do remotely please do let me know.
With loveand lots of baby gazing.”
C, 44, 6 miscarriages, natrual conception
C had two miscarriages before she had her first child 5 years ago. She had another four since, despite she was on Progesterone pessaries and Heparin during the last two pregnancies, when she miscarriaged at 9 and 6 weeks. Testing for chromosomes were normal. Auto immune profile showed she was heterozygous for the factor v leiden gene whcih means there is more risk of a blood clot hence she would need be taking Clexane in her next pregnancy. She had been having acupuncture from elsewhere. She came to me because she became very fatigued after a viral infection at the beginning of the year. She was very happy to try Chinese herbs which I think were the best to strengthen her constituation. Miracle happened; C conceived after 3 sessions of acupuncture and two months on herbs. C was put on Clexane and progesterone pessaries (till 11 weeks) again. She contunied with acupuncture throughtout her pergnancy which she felt very beneficial. As she was doing so well the consultant took her off Clexane at 28 weeks which was planned for 34 weeks. C had a very healthy pregancy. She had a baby girl at 39 weeks, weighed 9lb6! Both C and her husband are having acupuncture now for their own health, "baby N is 10 months now and doing very well. We can't thank you enough for all of your help with my successful pregnancy".
K, 39, 2 consecutive miscarriages, one ovary
K has already got two children aged 10 and 5 then. She Came to me just after the second miscarriage at 9 weeks. The first miscarriage was a year ago at 5 weeks, when her left ovary was removed (she didn't explain well to me what had happened then). She felt that it was sensible to refrain from trying for a few months to give her body a chance to get stronger. She started to ttc again 6 months later and conceived in the second month. She had some mild spotting for a week or so( 5-6 weeks). With acupuncture and herbs the spotting stopped quickly. She carried on having a very good pregnancy and gave birth to a baby boy Osca at 41 weeks, weighed 8lb.
G, 32, stillbirth
G had a stillbirth at 25 weeks 6 months before she came to me. She was still suffering from anxiety, insomnia, palpatations, pain on chest, aching neck and back. With the treatment she started to recover and became much happier. I was impressed that Gcarried on working till 34 weeks and managed really well. She developed gestational diabetes (has family history) at 37weeks and had to be induced. It was a long labour unfortunately but a baby boy, weight 3.67kg arrived healthy and handsome. I felt very proud that G stayed calm and strong during her pregnancy.
B, 33, 2 consecutive miscarriages
B came to me after the second miscarriage. She had to have blood transfusion after her first miscarriage at 6/7 weeks. And then she conceived straight after. Her 12 weeks scan showed the fetus stopped growing at 7weeks. She had ERPC. All tests came back normal. She was still bleeding heavily with abdominal pain and very upset on her first visit. She had a few months break from trying to let her body recover. She conceived about a year later and continued with acupuncture through out the pregnancy. She had a very good pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy baby boy exactly at 40 weeks, weight 6lb9oz. "The labour went really smoothly without drugs. Dream come true…”
S, 42, recurrent miscarriages
S had her first child 3 years ago conceived on her 7th cycle of Clomid, after two miscarriages. When she came to me she had had another four miscarriages, at around 6-8 weeks. She is a keen runner and runs 10-15 miles or more a week for over ten years. I suspect it was her weakened Kidney energy (age and running) and many months on Clomid that had contributed to her miscarriages. I suggested she take Chinese herbs to strengthen her constitution and monthly acupuncture. She discontinued the treatment after 6 months. A year later a friend of her told me S had a healthy baby girl.
N, 26, 4 miscarriages, 2 ectopic pregnancies
N had her first miscarriage at 6 weeks three years ago. Her first ectopic was two years ago when she started bleeding dark blood around 5 weeks and scan showed the pregnancy in her left fallopiantube was dissolving. Six months later her second ectopic happened on the same side which ended with left fallopian tube removed. Three months later she had another miscarriage. I advised her to refrain from trying to conceive for at least two months after starting acupuncture and herbs. She had positive test two months later and she was anxiously waiting to find out on her 6 weeks scan that it was in the right place this time! N carried her pregnancy full time and gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
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- Yes, herbal medicine can help women achieve pregnancy - Guardian newspaper