Fertile Ground: The Basics

Natural Support for Fertility Enhancement with Acupuncture

Planning a pregnancy is often a time filled with new expectations, experiences and discoveries. It is a time of looking inward as well as towards the future, and an ideal time to explore optimal health.

For thousands of years Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners have been examining the most effective ways to help naturally boost fertility, and ameliorate imbalances that contribute to reproductive difficulties. The practice of TCM includes acupuncture, nutrition, herbal medicine and gentle energy building exercises.

We know that many different factors play a role in determining the chances of conception and carrying to term. Much of the time natural medicine and moderate lifestyle changes are enough to tip the scales in favor of positive results without any adverse side effects. Additionally, acupuncture is regularly utilized in conjunction with Assisted Reproductive Therapies (including Intrauterine Insemination and In Vitro Fertilization), to increase their effectiveness.

After an in depth diagnostic analysis the TCM practitioner uses acupuncture to stimulate the body’s innate ability to heal itself rather than merely suppressing symptoms. One of the strengths of Traditional Chinese Medicine is that it takes into consideration every aspect of one’s life, including factors such as: sleep, stress level and digestion. Thus, acupuncture works by treating the “root” of the problem as well as the “branch” to enhance overall functioning.

It is important for the prospective mother to become intimately familiar with her body’s rhythms and cycles. This can be done by charting early morning temperatures, examining physiological changes throughout the menstrual cycle, and using non-invasive home test kits to determine hormonal shifts. This serves several purposes: one is to know the time when conception is most likely to occur (ovulation), another is to reveal the underlying imbalances that may be contributing to fertility difficulties. Lastly, it helps her get in touch with her body. I always encourage my patients to become curious observers of the interconnected nature of all life. This is elegantly demonstrated within the menstrual cycle as physical, mental and emotional changes all ebb and flow together.

A balanced diet is of utmost importance where reproductive health is concerned. I often recommend holistic nutritional counseling – which is offered at our center. Reducing caffeine, alcohol, sugar and foods high in saturated fat, while eating plenty of color rich vegetables and essential fatty acids is key. More specifically, there are foods and medicinal herbs that facilitate balance, based on each individual’s needs. Chinese herbs – with over 25 centuries of continual use – can be safe, effective and nourishing when prescribed by a Nationally Board Certified Herbalist. Additionally, incorporating gentle energy building exercises – such as Tai qi, Qi gong, or Yoga – nourish the spirit, calm the mind and tonify the body.

Today scientists are attempting to translate the effects of this ancient medicine into modern biophysical terms as more research comes out in support of acupuncture’s effect on fertility. Western medical theory holds that acupuncture initiates electromagnetic signals via the nervous and endocrine systems, to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is responsible for the hormonal activity that is directly connected to ovulation, menstruation and conception. Furthermore, by mediating the sympathetic nervous system (which is easily and often over-taxed due to stress), acupuncture stimulates vasodilation and effects blood flow to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus. This, in turn, increases the viability of the ovum, thickens the uterine lining, and assists implantation of the fertilized egg – while decreasing the likelihood of miscarriage.

It is important to note that statistics show at least 30% of infertility cases are caused by male factors and another 30% involve a combination of both male and female. A recent study indicates that acupuncture improves sperm count and motility (Pei, J. Fertility and Sterility, July 2005; vol 84: pp 141-147). The researcher indicates that acupuncture treatment is a simple, noninvasive method that can improve sperm quality.

The goal of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the treatment of fertility is to harmonize the entire being, tilling the soil for the creation of an overall environment that nurtures growth and well-being. I work in partnership with my patients to address their specific needs and objectives. They are often delighted to discover what far reaching effects it has on their health.

Sadie Minkoff L.Ac. FABORM