Traditional Chinese Medicine is a profoundly useful therapy for couples having difficulty conceiving. It can play a main role as the only modality used, or a supportive role in conjunction with Assisted Reproduction Technologies (ART) procedures. TCM uses herbal therapy, acupuncture, femoral acupressure and relaxation techniques to treat infertility.
USING TCM ALONE
From the perspective of truly getting at the root of the fertility problem, using TCM alone is preferable, especially for cases without pelvic obstruction. This is because herbal therapy and acupuncture can correct hormonal imbalances and abnormalities of the menstrual cycle, and greatly increase blood flow to the pelvis. Many recent studies, published in mainstream scientific publications, confirm some of these effects. See studies for details.
When the hormonal/menstrual cycle is normal, fertile cervical mucus abundant, and the endometrial lining rich and plentiful, the chances for healthy eggs, conception and live birth are maximized. Chinese herbs can directly influence all the above parameters.
TCM therapy directly addresses the causes of PCOS, premature ovarian failure, premature menopause, thin endometrial lining, luteal phase defect, etc. We strongly encourage women to chart their Basal Body Temperature (BBT). An abnormal chart will begin to improve rapidly with TCM treatment, and reflect the increased health of the reproductive system.
One last word about Chinese herbs: many of the "Emperor" herbs of TCM, so-called for their prized abilities as tonics, or strengtheners of body organs and functions, can be used to directly boost the function of "aging ovaries" and the quality of the eggs produced. Studies have shown that Yang boosting herbs, for instance, caused an astounding 230% increase in ATP, which is a marker of the energy required for the developing embryo to thrive and successfully implant. Click on studies for more.
Sperm factors account for 30 - 40% of infertility. These may be related to the count, shape or mobility of the sperm, or autoimmune antibodies that attack them. In all of these cases, research has shown that acupuncture can greatly improve the outcome.
If sperm count is low, men are prescribed many of the "Emperor" herbs that are known to benefit sperm production. Morphology and motility problems are treated with herbs that facilitate proper circulation of blood and body fluids in the pelvis. If blood and energy are moving well, sperm will no longer develop misshapen. See studies for more detail.
A study reported in the journal Andrologia in 2000 Jan:32(1):31-39 found that men with no functional sperm achieved a sperm count of 43 million per ml. after acupuncture treatment.
USING TCM WITH ART
This can be done in one of two ways:
1. A three to four month course of TCM that precedes any ART procedures. It takes 4 months and 3 months for eggs and sperm to fully mature, respectively. Taking herbal medicine and acupuncture during this time can improve their quality, as well as the patient's subsequent response to ART.
2. Concurrent TCM/ART treatment. Conventional MDs often prohibit use of herbs during fertility drug therapy, but acupuncture alone plays a very useful role for egg retrieval and Embryo Transfer, as well as implantation. Several scientific studies have confirmed this.
According to Dr. Paul Magarelli, an American fertility specialist, using acupuncture in this way can increase IVF's success by 10 - 15%.
1. Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy Paulus W et al, Fertility and Sterility 2002 77;721-724
Women who received acupuncture at the time of embryo transfer had a 42.5% pregnancy rate at 6 weeks, versus a 26.3% pregnancy rate for women who did not receive acupuncture.
2. Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer significantly improves the reproductive outcome in infertile women: a prospective, randomized trial Westergaard L et al, Fertility and Sterility 2006, 85, p1341-1346
3. Acupuncture and Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
Zhang M et al, J Huazhong University Med Sci 2002;22(3):228-230
After acupuncture treatment, motility increased by 7%, normal morphology by 5% and fertilization rates by 26%.
4. Herbs which strengthen Spleen Yang and nourish Heart Blood treat PCOS
Hua L et al, Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi, 2003 Nov;23(11):819-822
Women with PCOS were treated with either Chinese herbs or Clomid. The Body Mass Index, testosterone and luteinizing hormone levels in the herb group was significantly reduced, and 66% became pregnant.
The Clomid group experienced no change in the above markers, and only 25% became pregnant.
5. Acupuncture and sperm morphology
a.Gurfinkel E et al Asian J Andrology 2003 Dec;5(4):345-348
Controlled study with 19 infertile men randomized into 2 groups, 1st given 10 acupuncture treatments, 2nd given sham acupuncture. Significant increase in the % of normal forms in acupuncture group.
b. Pei J et al Fertility and Sterility, 2005 Jul;84(1):141-147
Controlled study with 28 infertile men. After 10 acupuncture treatments, there was a significant improvement in sperm quality, especially morphology.
6. Kidney supplementing herbs support implantation
Wu R & Zhou F Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi 2002;22(7):490-3
The herbs enhanced receptors in endometrium in mid-luteal phase, promoted the differentiation of endometrium, and raised the level of midluteal phase serum progesterone, all of which make the uterus more receptive to implantation.
7. Kang Mian herbal formula in 2062 cases of immune infertility
Da Y et al J TCM 2005; 25( 4), 278-281
After taking the treatment, 85% of women became antibody negative and 37% became pregnant.