What infertility conditions can you successfully treat using functional nutrition, acupuncture, and herbs?
- Thin uterine lining — Eggs need a thick, blood-rich uterine lining to implant themselves in. Acupuncture has actually been proven to increase blood flow to the uterine wall. This helps immensely with both implantation and getting adequate nutrition to the placenta throughout the pregnancy. Click here to read how acupuncture can increase blood flow to the uterus and help with implantation.
- Poor egg quality — Poor egg quality is a common infertility diagnosis. Though it may sound unfixable, just a 6-month course of acupuncture and herbs can significantly improve egg quality. Click here to read about improving poor egg quality.
- Recurrent miscarriages — Chinese medicine has been used to prevent miscarriages for 2,000 years. If you have miscarried due to chromosomal defects, we can correct the situation with a three- to six-month course of treatment before you try again. Miscarriages due to progesterone deficiency often show up as menstrual irregularities; we can usually correct that with acupuncture and herbs. Click here to read about recurrent miscarriages and what can be done to prevent them in the future.
- Elevated FSH — Sometimes this is identified as “low ovarian reserve.” As with poor egg quality, from a Chinese medicine perspective we aren’t concerned about the diagnosis. HIgh FSH is not itself a problem, but more of a symptom of a problem. If there is a regular menstrual cycle this can often be corrected.
- PCOS, amenorrhea, or anovulatory cycles — First we need to bring the cycle into balance. As long as you have had regular non-medicated cycles, Chinese medicine can often correct these hormonal imbalances. The Western approach to PCOS-related infertility uses Clomid or gonadatropins (Follistim, Gonadal-F) to stimulate follicle development — but for some women this can cause even more imbalances. Women with untreated PCOS have a much higher risk of miscarriage. Chinese medicine can help correct the hormonal imbalance causing high androgen production that goes along with PCOS, which then allows Western ART methods to be used more safely. Click here to read about Chinese medicine and PCOS.
- Luteal phase defect — Luteal phase defect (LPD), also known as corpus luteum defect, is a controversial diagnosis but I do occasionally get those patients. If a woman knows the day she ovulates and then her period starts less than 12 days later, that may be termed an LPD. The idea is that the corpus luteum is not maintaining adequate progesterone levels so menstruation begins prematurely, not allowing proper implantation. Acupuncture, improved nutrition, and herbal therapy are all effective methods of increasing progesterone, lengthening the luteal phase, and increasing the chances of implantation. This is typically an easy clinical fix.
- Unexplained infertility — One very frustrating infertility diagnosis is when it is simply deemed “unexplained.” When a woman has regular cycles and a man has a “normal” sperm analysis, Western medicine often can’t explain why they’re having difficulty conceiving. In Chinese medicine, the word “unexplained” is never used, and we’re able to diagnose conditions often not detected by common Western medical tests. Acupuncture, herbs, and nutrition unequivocally enhance outcomes in these cases.
How does acupuncture improve fertility for women?
- Acupuncture can affect fertility, ovulation, and menstrual regularity by triggering neurotransmitters that in turn increase gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).
- Acupuncture can stimulate blood flow by inhibiting central sympathetic nerve activity.
- Acupuncture can stimulate production of endogenous opioids, which may inhibit the central nervous system’s outflow and the biological stress response.
What percentage of infertility cases are because of poor sperm quality?
- It is generally accepted among reproductive endocrinologists (REs) that up to 50% of infertility cases involve “male factor.” About 30-35% of infertility cases are due to male factor alone, and about 30-35% of cases are due to female factor alone. Another 15-20% of cases involve both male and female factors.
How can male factor be the cause if my husband’s sperm parameters are normal?
- Western medicine’s methods of “sperm testing” are not specific enough to determine the actual quality of the sperm. It’s sort of like trying to determine the weather based just on cloud cover.
- There is more to sperm than just motility, viscosity, morphology, count, etc. One example is DNA fragmentation, which can have a significant effect on fertility.
- High sperm DNA fragmentation does not appear to affect fertilization or the first or second embryo cleavage stages. So blastocysts can grow when this condition is present — it’s just that the pregnancy doesn’t advance.
- High sperm DNA fragmentation can affect embryo cleavage once the paternal genome is switched on, which can lead to miscarriage.
- DNA fragmentation levels are closely correlated with IUI, IVF, and ICSI miscarriage and pregnancy rates
- DNA fragmentation is significantly higher in sub-fertile men.
- High sperm DNA fragmentation is also found in men with normal semen parameters.
What conditions require Western ART fertility intervention?
- Pelvic adhesions — Women sometimes require surgery to remove endometrial adhesions on the tubes, polyps, and hydrosalpinx. Even when surgery is necessary, however, it does not address the root cause of pelvic adhesions, often an inflammatory metabolic imbalance. This is why in addition to surgery to take care of existing pelvic adhesions, it’s important to keep up a regimen of herbs, acupuncture, and proper nutrition — to correct root imbalances and prevent new adhesions from forming
- Advanced maternal age — The concept of advanced maternal age is a mixture of myth and fact. While it’s true that there comes a time when a woman can no longer conceive, a cutoff point in the late thirties makes no sense. Even if a woman is in her forties, treatment with herbs, acupuncture, and nutrition will often help ease conception with IVF and her own eggs (as opposed to using a donor, which can be costly).
- Late menarche with lack of natural cycles and amenorrhea — If a woman cannot have a cycle without the regulation provided by birth control pills, it is best to use Western ART technology. However, Chinese medicine and nutritional intervention should be used to support IVF.
- Other less common conditions — Severe fibroids impinging on the uterus or ovaries; congenital abnormalities such as a bicornuate uterus; antiphospholipid antibodies; repeated chromosomal abnormalities not responding to complementary medicine (these require specialized IVF); a history of thrombophilias (women with this condition should use Western care for monitoring and complementary care for treatment).
I heard that research showed acupuncture helps pre- and post-IVF transfer. Should I come to your office to get a treatment?
- Probably not, unless you live near my office and are already experienced with acupuncture. You are referring to a well-known study that showed acupuncture before and after an IVF transfer dramatically increases the success rate.
- This study was done at the IVF clinics and the participants didn’t have to drive anywhere. In addition, several followup studies failed to reproduce the successful results. There are many possible reasons for the failed research results. But safe to say I would not want you to have your very first acupuncture treatment on the day of an IUI or IVF (which is what women did in the failed followup studies). If you find acupuncture relaxing and your reproductive facility offers it, then get a pre- and post-transfer treatment at the facility. Otherwise take the day off from work and enjoy another mellow activity.
Can environmental factors play a role in infertility?
- Absolutely. Our environment — the food we eat, the air we breathe, the thoughts we think, the exercise we do, the sun we sit in, etc. — is what turns our genes on and off. The role the environment (software) plays in our gene (hardware) expression is known as the epigenome. Most diseases can be linked to environmental influence, as can infertility. Click here to access a great website regarding environmental issues and fertility.