Fertility, Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.
(The article below has been kindly supplied by Jeff Shearer, a highly experienced, local acupuncture practitioner).
The Lowdown on Fertility
What is Infertility?
Infertility is classified as the inability to conceive a pregnancy after 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse.
What are the causes of infertility?
The Male factor
Yes regardless of the issue it takes two so looking at both partners is important. Males commonly don’t like the idea of potentially having fertility issues but ignorance is definitely not bliss in this scenario. So getting checked out sooner rather than later can provide solutions to any potential problems and significantly reduce the stress associated with delayed pregnancy.
- Blocked Vas Deferens – These are the tubes that transport sperm from the testes and blockage means no chance of connection with the egg for fertilisation. This can be caused by malformation or inflammation
- Sperm quality and quantity – Low sperm count or abnormal sperm are the most common issues here and can be surprisingly easy to resolve using simple lifestyle adjustments including diet and exercise.
The Female factor
- Blocked fallopian tubes – these are the tubes that deliver the egg from the ovary so if these are blocked just like the Vas Deferens blockage means no potential for a fertilised egg. This can be caused by systemic inflammation that leads to swelling of the tubes and therefore blockage or from previous inflammation that has caused scarring
- Endometriosis – this equates to approximately 30-40% of the cause of fertility issues in women. Endometriosis is the abnormal growth of endometrial tissue within or outside the uterine wall. Endometriosis can be incredibly distressing resulting in severe pain, mood fluctuations, depression and digestive issues. Surgical intervention can have high success rates however can leave scar tissue and may also not prevent the return of endometriosis.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) – this condition is a hormonal imbalance and results in the inability to ovulate.
- Autoimmune disease – this is where the body’s immune system incorrectly identifies ovarian cells as foreign bodies. The result is the immune system attacks these cells affecting their ability to function.
- Stress – This is by far one of the largest issues associated with fertility. Stress results in the body kicking into the adrenal system of operation otherwise known as the fight or flight response. When this occurs all systems not vital for survival at the point in time shut down. This includes the reproductive system. Stress management has a huge impact on any poor functioning system including reproduction.
What are some ways to improve fertility?
- Diet – a good quality diet can have a significant impact on fertility. The right nutrients are one part but also a digestive system that is in good function is also important. A poorly functioning digestive system can result in higher levels of toxins in the body and a significant increase in inflammation. High inflammation levels can affect sperm quality, fallopian tubes, vas deferens, ovarian cell function and endometriosis. For more information check out some simple diet strategies.
- Stress management – as previously mentioned high stress levels will over time reduce reproductive function. Active management of stress can include removing the source or learning how to cope with it better. Meditation is a very powerful stress management technique that has been used for thousands of years across many cultures.
- IVF – this includes a range of different strategies including hormone intervention right through to fertilisation of the egg outside the body and then transfer into the uterus.
Chinese medicine and fertility
Chinese medicine does not necessarily focus on specific conditions such as fertility. The approach of Chinese medicine is to assess the function of the entire body to find where issues may be present.
Chinese medicine includes the use of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, diet and lifestyle advice. One or several of these approaches can be implemented to assist the body toward improved function. Acupuncture as well as Chinese herbs have specifically been shown to improve stress, reduce inflammation and improve circulation.
Many health practitioners may recommend acupuncture as an adjunct treatment that may assist with IVF treatment. There is continuing research about how acupuncture can assist with the effectiveness of IVF treatment and you should consult your treating practitioner/s about how acupuncture may be able to help you.
Thank you to, Acupuncturist, Jeff Shearer for providing this article.
Note from Natalie: “We do not currently offer acupuncture directly through the Hunter Birth Education Centre, but for referrals to highly reputable, local acupuncturists, call me on 0406 934 645 and I’ll pass you a choice of three or more practitioners to assist you to find one that matches your requirements”.
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