Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been used for thousands of years to treat women’s health conditions from the beginning of their reproductive years all the way through to the end of them. Not only can it treat issues of the menstrual cycle and menopausal symptoms, but is very effective in enhancing fertility and dealing with pregnancy complaints.
Acupuncture stimulates the brain to release neurotransmitters that in turn stimulate the release of reproductive hormones that control the menstrual cycle and ovulation. Therefore, TCM can address irregular cycles, painful periods, uterine fibroids and cysts, endometriosis, PCOS, PMS, other hormonal disorders and breast diseases. It can also improve a couples’ ability to conceive a child naturally.
For couples who are not able to conceive naturally for any number of reasons, they may decide to get some help from conventional medicine. Commonly referred to as ART, Assisted Reproductive Technology, is a term used to describe medical procedures designed to increase the chances of fertilization and implantation resulting in pregnancy. Acupuncture has been proven to greatly increase these chances by enhancing the effectiveness of the ART by 65%. An individualized treatment protocol will give couples the best chance for conception to occur whether naturally or with the help of ART.
Acupuncture’s Proven Benefits:
- Regulate the menstrual cycle
- Improve blood flow to the uterus & thicken the endometrial lining
- Regulate hormone & endocrine function
- Improves sperm count & motility
- Reduces stress & anxiety
- Decreases chance of miscarriage
- Increases the likelihood of live birth
Treatment Recommendations for Acupuncture and ART:
Before: If you are undergoing ART, it is recommended you begin weekly acupuncture treatments once the decision has been made to do ART. The goal will be to increase blood flow to the uterus, improve egg & sperm quality, balance hormones, and prepare your body for conception. Treatments will also be done pre and post transfer to achieve the highest success rate.
After: For the 2 weeks following your transfer, we encourage you to continue treatments to achieve implantation & strengthen the pregnancy. Once conception has occurred, weekly treatments are recommended through the first trimester to minimize chances of miscarriage, reduce stress levels, & help with morning sickness.
Herbal & Nutritional Supplements for Fertility:
We have a wide variety of premade Chinese Herbal Formulas in our pharmacy that we use to complement your acupuncture treatments. If we can’t find one to suit your needs, we will custom write you a prescription. Usually we will use 2-4 different formulas during your menstrual cycle to regulate the different phases of the cycle, menstrual, follicular, luteal, and premenstrual.
The following are some of the nutritional products we recommend. It is very important to have a consultation to see if some of these products are appropriate for you. We may also recommend other dietary, lifestyle, and exercise advice.
Antioxidants: Help prevent oxidative damage to ova due to aging and environmental toxins. Examples are Co Q10, grape seed extract, & green tea.
Green Drinks: Contain blue green algae, spirulina, chlorella, and cereal grasses, such as wheat grass. They are a source of concentrated vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in a highly digestible form. Due to their high chlorophyll content they are also cleansing to the liver and blood.
Pre-Natal Multi-Vitamin and Mineral Complex: Contains additional folic acid specific for the reduction of birth defects in children and choline for brain health.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These are extremely beneficial because they provide fluidity to cell membranes and improve communication between brain cells. They improve blood flow to all tissues including the uterus and reduce clotting. Omega-3 fats, often referred to as “Healthy fats”, are generally deficient in most Americans due to the high consumption of vegetable oils relative to Omega-3’s. Fish oil is a common example of an omega-3 fat. DHA & EPA’s are crucial to a baby’s proper brain development.
According to the National Institutes of Health, male infertility is involved in approximately 40% of the 2.6 million infertile couples in the United States. Research has shown that acupuncture, Chinese herbs and nutritional supplements can significantly improve sperm quantity, motility and morphology.
The following have been implicated in male infertility:
- Hormonal imbalances
- Inflammation from excessive oxidation Prostato-vesiculo-epididymitis (PVE)
- Excessive heat
- Pesticide exposure
- High intake of cotton seed oil
- Hepatic cirrhosis
- Xeno-estrogen exposure
- Radiation exposure
- Heavy metal toxicity
Sperm maturation averages 70-90 days. Therefore, it is essential for men to receive treatment (herbs, supplements, acupuncture) for at least 3 months prior to starting a family.
Nutritional Supplements and Herbs for Enhanced Sperm Production and Motility:
L-arginine: Studies have shown L-arginine improves sperm count and motility without side effects. It is also used for erectile dysfunction due to its positive effect on blood circulation.
Dosage: 4 grams/day
L-carnitine: An essential amino acid found in high concentrations in sperm and seminal fluid. Carnitine transports fatty acids into the mitochondria (the power house of the cell). L-carnitine is associated with significant increases in concentrations of sperm, increased motility and count and the percentage of motile sperm.
Dosage: 3 grams/day
Zinc and Folic Acid: Zinc is a trace mineral that is essential for sperm production. Folic acid is a B-vitamin also important as a co-factor in DNA synthesis. A study showed that these nutrients improved sperm counts by 74% for both fertile and subfertile men.
Dosage: 66mg zinc sulfate, 5mg folic acid
B Vitamins: The B-complex vitamins B6, B12 and B9-folic acid are critical nutrients in the male reproductive system for proper hormone metabolism, sperm formation and motility.
Antioxidants : High concentrations of free radicals can directly damage sperm cells and contribute to erectile dysfunction. It is recommended to take the following antioxidants:
Vitamin E – 600mg/day
Glutathione/selenium – 200mcg/day
Co-Q10 – 60mg/day
Pycnogenol – 40 mg.
(One study shows pycnogenol combined with L-arginine improved erectile dysfunction in 92.5% of the patients for 40 men age 40-45.)
Chinese Herbal Formulas: Certain herbs such as astragalus, epimidium, ginseng and pygeum have been favorably researched for their effect on sperm. However, a personally tailored herbal formula that includes Chinese Medicine pattern differentiation combined with nutritional supplements is the best way to approach the issues.
Once conception has occurred, TCM can manage symptoms associated with pregnancy from morning sickness to headaches to low back pain. It can help to prevent recurrent miscarriages. Towards the end of the pregnancy, if the baby is breech, acupuncture and moxabustion can be used to turn the baby into the proper position. TCM is also a safe and effective way to promote labor naturally in a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy.
Some of the major complaints that most menopausal women have are night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia, decreased libido, and moodiness. TCM is very successful in getting the hormones back in balance in the body and alleviating these symptoms naturally with the use of acupuncture and herbal medicine.