Infertility is defined as not becoming pregnant after having unprotected sex for over a year. It affects about 12% of men and women trying to conceive. Despite popular belief, infertility does not always fall on the woman. Infertility may be a result of an issue from either the male or the female partner, or for unknown reasons. In fact, 30% of infertility cases have no known cause! This is where acupuncture and Naturopathic Medicine can really shine (although it can certainly help with known causes as well).
You may not realize you have issues with fertility until you begin trying (unsuccessfully) to get pregnant. According to the Mayo Clinic, the only symptom of infertility is the inability to get pregnant. Therefore, there might not be any other obvious warning symptoms that you have fertility issues. However, irregular periods, missed periods, as well as severe PMS symptoms, indicate there may be some hormonal and reproductive imbalances in women.
Key signs of potential infertility in females are:
- Irregular periods
- Missing periods
- Abnormal hair growth (hirsutism)
- Severe acne
- Intense uterine pain
- Weight gain or loss
- Changes in sex drive
Causes of infertility in women may be:
- Aged over 37
- Extremely low body fat or overexercising
- Being overweight
- Premature ovarian failure
- Scar tissue in the fallopian tubes
- MTHFR genetic mutation
In men, there may not be any indicators of infertility at all!
However, some signs of hormone imbalance in men are:
- Hair loss
- Change in sex drive
- Lumps or growth on testicles
Causes of infertility in men may be:
- Decreased sperm production
- Chronic marijuana use
- Ejaculation issues
- Alcohol use
- Steroid use
- Being overweight
Our Naturopathic Doctors offer the most advanced hormone testing which can identify any hormone imbalances in men or women which may be leading to infertility. Call us to find out more, or schedule an appointment online today!
Acupuncture for Fertility
Modern healthcare has vastly expanded its treatment options for couples who are unable to become pregnant. From fertility drugs to in vitro fertilization, there is a multitude of options, some that come at quite a price. Beyond the many possible side-effects, some treatment options can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
In the search for affordable and effective health care, alternative and holistic treatments are gaining broader appeal among the general public.
One of the most foundational ways acupuncture helps with fertility is by reducing stress levels. When a man or woman is experiencing high levels of stress, their body will relate a hormone called cortisol from their adrenal glands. This hormone, when released in excess and for a prolonged period, can interfere with a person’s reproductive system functioning.
Stress can influence a woman’s ability to ovulate. There is an interaction between the hypothalamus, pituitary, and reproductive glands that guide ovulation. Stress can interfere with each of these parts of a woman’s brain and body. Chronic stress, whether it is mental, emotional, or physical, can thus prevent a woman from ovulating, thus preventing her from becoming pregnant. Stress can also as disrupt hormone levels. In addition, chronic stress can lead to irregular motility in the fallopian tubes, which can prevent fertilization and implantation of an egg. Plus, stress in men can lead to erectile dysfunction, a decrease in sperm count and impotence. This can contribute to the cause of female infertility.
Also, acupuncture can promote fertility by unblocking stagnant qi, improving blood flow, and invigorating the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the goal is to uncover the imbalances in the mind and body and correct them. So what does this look like?
Infertility in Traditional Chinese Medicine
TCM is based on the theory of yin and yang, as well as the flow of Qi (pronounced “Chee”). In TCM, various meridians in the body influence different aspects of your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. To read more about what acupuncture is, click here!
From a TCM point of view, infertility is related to a handful of different patterns. These patterns help to explain what is occurring in the body and guide treatment with acupuncture and herbs. In TCM and Naturopathic Medicine, the foundation of care is to treat the underlying cause, as well as to treat each person as an individual. This means that not every infertility treatment is the same – no cookie-cutter approach here!
There are a few common patterns we see in infertility. Most of the time, the meridians involved include the Liver, Kidney, or Spleen (or a combination). As you will see, each pattern is distinct from the others and creates a different set of symptoms (along with infertility, of course). This means acupuncture for fertility will look slightly different for each woman or man.
The Liver Meridian and Infertility
In TCM, the liver controls the blood. The liver meridian is in control of the female hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, as well as a woman’s menstrual cycle and reproductive organs.
Liver-Blood Deficiency & Liver Qi Stagnation
The most common liver patterns that affect fertility are liver blood deficiency and liver qi stagnation. These are common patterns in women with heavy periods, women in their 30’s, or thin women who exercise frequently.
From an emotional stand-point, suppressed emotions, including resentment, anger, irritability, chronic stress, and overwork can “congest” the liver (liver qi stagnation), which disrupts the proper flow of blood and Qi. When this happens, it can also lead to infertility in women.
Common Symptoms of Liver-Blood Deficiency & Liver Qi Stagnation are:
- Light periods
- Irregular or missed periods
- Tender breasts
- Blurred vision
- Dry eyes and throat
- Anxiety, irritability, depression, issues sleeping
- Dry stools/constipation
- Brittle nails
- Dry hair/hair loss
- Numbness and tingling of limbs
When the liver becomes very congested, it can lead to liver-blood stasis. This is often the equivalent of endometriosis, fibroids, and other “congestive” conditions of the uterus.
Common symptoms of liver-blood stasis are:
- Abdominal pain
- Very painful periods with clotted blood
- Dry skin
The Kidney Meridian and Infertility
The kidney meridian stores our “essence,” which controls reproduction, sexual function, as well as contributes to menopause and andropause. The kidney meridian is essential for creating the foundational energy for growth, development, energy, and sexual potency.
Kidney-yang can be thought of as our sexual fire. Aging naturally decreases kidney essence and kidney yang. Overwork, emotional strain or chronic illness can also impair kidney yang. This can lead to issues infertility, and commonly infertility in men.
Symptoms of kidney-yang deficiency are:
- Impotence & low sperm count
- Decreased Libido
- Ringing in the ears
- Weak legs
- Abundant urination
- Water retention
- Loose stools
The Spleen Meridian and Infertility
The spleen meridian helps the body digest food and transform it into energy, which supplies all areas of the body, including the muscles and digestive tract. Also, the spleen meridian helps with fluid balance in the body. When it is weakened, a person is typically tired, has loose stools, muscle weakness, and water retention. The spleen meridian is responsible for “holding things up.”
The spleen meridian can become weakened through irregular eating patterns, overeating raw, cold foods, worrying, and overthinking (stress!). When this happens, a person can experience spleen-qi deficiency or the sinking of spleen-qi.
Common symptoms of spleen-qi deficiency and sinking of spleen-qi are:
- Diarrhea or undigested food in the stool
- Poor appetite
- Feeling weak & tired
- Being over or under-weight
- A bearing down sensation in the pelvic organs
- Potentially miscarriages
- “Flooding” of menstrual blood
Damp-Heat in the Uterus
The spleen is involved in transforming fluids in the body. When the spleen-qi becomes deficient, fluids can stagnate, leading to “dampness.” Dampness can affect many different meridians in the body. The spleen meridian, liver meridian, as well as the uterus itself, are typical examples. Dampness in any of these three examples can cause infertility. Another typical TCM pattern in infertility is damp-heat in the uterus.
Symptoms of damp-heat in the uterus is:
- Excessive vaginal discharge/candida
- Mid-cycle ovulation pain
- Mucus in stool
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- A feeling of heaviness in the body/ joint pain
- Skin outbreaks – acne, eczema
- Headaches (feeling of heaviness in the head)
- Poor appetite
Acupuncture for fertility is wholly individualized to help treat the underlying imbalances a man or woman is experiencing. It can help to decrease stress levels, support hormone balance, and encourage proper blood and qi flow in the body and reproductive organs. The best part of all is that there are typically no side effects whatsoever! The most common thing people reports is feeling extremely relaxed after an acupuncture session.
Not only can acupuncture help infertility, but it can help with morning sickness, muscle aches, and pains, and anxiety or digestive issues a woman faces during her pregnancy.
The ancient, time-tested TCM therapy may be the answer you are looking for.
If you would like more information on acupuncture for fertility, give us a call! Our Doctors work with men and women to prepare for pregnancy & identify any causes of infertility using advanced lab testing.
At Onyx, we help couple to optimize their health before and during pregnancy for the health and wellness of you, and your baby.
Or, schedule an appointment to get started with our Naturopathic Doctors and get started on your health journey.