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    How Traditional Chinese Medicine Boosts Fertility

    Excerpted from
    What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Getting Pregnant: Boost Your Fertility with the Best of Traditional and Alternative Therapies
    By Raymond Chang, M.D., Elena Oumano, Ph.D.

    Scholars place the earliest documents demonstrating the use of traditional Chinese medicine at around 250 BC. Some believe that this safe and effective holistic healing system has been in practice for several thousand years. As we tell our office patients, TCM has been fine-tuned over time. Its original engineers left us a blueprint that tells us how it should be done, so we follow it and it works. Today, TCM is used by millions of people around the world to induce balance in the mind-body matrix to promote balance and movement of life-force energy called qi (pronounced "chee"), as well as blood and other fluid circulation. Like conventional medicine, traditional Chinese medicine works by diagnosing and treating illness. Unlike conventional medicine, however, within the traditional Chinese healing point of view, no single part can be understood except in its relation to the whole.

    Within TCM philosophy, imbalances that disrupt fertility can even originate outside a person's actual physical body. For example, prolonged exposure to overly cold or damp weather can impair health and lower fertility.

    You probably know about the most well known element of TCM, acupuncture, a procedure in which fine needles are inserted into, and can be manipulated at more than 365 points in, the body. You may not be aware, however, that TCM also includes a complex and venerable system of herbal treatments, nutritional guidelines, special exercises, and massage as well as other lifestyle modifications. The aim of TCM is not only curing specific ailments, but also protecting sound health so that problems can be prevented before they arise. Acupuncture has had great acknowledgment and respect ever since the seventies, when it first made an impact in this country, and has grown tremendously in popularity over the decades. An increasing number of conventional medical doctors are incorporating acupuncture into their practices, and TCM schools are opening up all over the country, both training practitioners in this venerable practice and teaching them how to practice TCM in tandem with conventional medicine. Because the science of Chinese herbs is so complex, some TCM practitioners use acupuncture as their sole treatment modality; however, others incorporate herbal therapy and other TCM elements in their treatments. Licensing boards have been set up in most states to regulate practitioners and protect clients. Of course, the skill of your acupuncturist is one of the factors that determines the successful outcome of your treatments. In addition, there are many different acupuncture techniques and styles. The cost can vary, and some insurance companies cover acupuncture treatments for only a limited array of conditions that often do not include infertility.

    Acupuncture, as well as other TCM treatments, improves ovulation cycles, even in women with ovarian disorders. It also improves the lining of the uterus, thereby making it more likely that an embryo can embed itself and draw the nourishment it needs to thrive. This lining is like soil in a garden; if it is lacking in essential nutrients, the embryo can't attach itself and grow.

    At our center, we use TCM and acupuncture alone to treat infertility or in tandem with conventional fertility-enhancing dings and/or assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization. It all depends on the wants and needs of the patient. The great advantage of using acupuncture along with IVF is there's no possibility of chemical interactions, since all we use for treatment are sterile needles. We are even less likely to prescribe herbs for someone undergoing IVF at the same time as acupuncture to make sure there's no interference with the fertility drugs.

    Some people who come to our clinic are "first timers," people who are having trouble getting pregnant and want a natural, health-enhancing strategy to boost fertility. Many of our patients, though, are referred to us by conventional reproductive medicine specialists, usually after they have failed one or more attempts at IVF. Before administering another IVF cycle, the fertility doctors recommend adding our TCM treatment to complement their efforts. As we stated earlier, we have found that our treatments can increase the success rate for IVF by up to 30 or 40 percent. That's a dramatic figure when you keep in mind that the patients who come to our clinic are on average thirty-eight years old and have previously failed two IVF cycles. Some may have undergone as many as ten IVF cycles before they come to us. Of course, these patients' chances of becoming pregnant are significantly lower. In general, your chances for success go down as your age and the number of failed IVF cycles goes up. Yet, one out of three of our patients winds up with a successful pregnancy.

    Linda was married for eleven years, suffering from unexplained infertility. Before that, Linda had endometriosis and her husband had sperm quality issues. Throughout their marriage they were told that nothing was preventing Linda from becoming pregnant. After seven years of trying, a doctor suggested IJ F, which they tried without success. Just before her eleventh wedding anniversary, Linda noticed her menstrual periods were becoming lighter. A fertility specialist took her FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) levels and told Linda and her husband that the number was high and indicated premature menopause. He suggested using an egg donor. Two IJ F specialists then rejected Linda as a patient unless her FSH numbers lowered sufficiently for two consecutive cycles.

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