Published on 08-14-2018
Infertility, by clinical definition, is the inability to produce offspring after trying to conceive for a year. The many issues that may contribute to fertility problems vary from person to person as well as by age and other health factors. Taking into consideration that partners are having sex and that both partners are of healthy normal reproductive function, the Mayo Clinic estimates that 10-15% of couples are infertile.
When we think of infertility we usually, for some unknown reason, think of a woman that cannot conceive. Sad stories of men divorcing their wives because they were not able to have any kids, not knowing if the problem is maybe in him and not her. I remember a story of a guy back in Europe that divorced his wife because she couldn’t bear children, only for her to remarry and years later to have 3 kids with her new husband. This is wrong because infertility does not only affect women but also can affect men too and it is wrong to generalize as infertility being as women’s issue only.
As per Maciocia’s Obstetrics and Gynecology book, in TCM infertility can be from many different factors such as constitutional weakness where prenatal or postnatal Kidney-Essence is weak, overwork with working long hours and not taking ample rest, excessive physical work with too much physical activity and too strenuous exercise, irregular diet with consumption of too many cold foods and drinks, invasion of Cold into uterus, and being sexually active at too early in age. All of the mentioned etiologies will affect the body differently and cause deficiencies or excesses, more information may be found on our TCM diagnostic patterns section.
Just to mention and explain a couple of things about Kidney-Essence for non-acupuncturists on this blog. I hope I don’t further confuse you with my explanation since Chinese Medicine can be different in its context and sometimes very confusing to understand for someone who didn’t study this branch of medicine. As per Maciocia’s Foundation of Chinese Medicine, Kidney Essence is derived from both the prenatal and postnatal Essence. Functions of the Kidney Essence is determining growth, reproduction, development, sexual maturation, conception, and pregnancy. It controls the growth of bones in children, teeth, hair, normal brain development and sexual maturation.
Prenatal Essence determines each person's basic constitutional make-up – like a basic DNA make up when we are born, it also determines strength and vitality. It can be influenced only with difficulty during adult life, so as we age and live a hard life and don’t take care of our bodies this prenatal Essence can be further depleted.
Postnatal Essence is a general term to indicate the essences produced by the Stomach and Spleen after birth – or as I use to explain to my student this Essence is derived from the digestive process of foods we eat – as opposed to the prenatal Essence which is formed before birth.
In western medicine female infertility could be due to ovulation disorders, uterine and cervical abnormalities, blockage or damage of fallopian tubes, endometriosis, pelvic adhesions, primary ovarian insufficiency, and damage from cancer or from cancer treatment. Male infertility is due to abnormal sperm production or function or delivery of sperm, exposure to environmental factors, and damage from cancer or from cancer treatment.
TCM and acupuncture, in general, have had great results with infertility, male and female kinds. There are so many different reasons why the patient has infertility so I will mention a couple of cases, one on a female and one on male and what points were used in the treatment.
In one study done in Germany and Italy on forty men with idiopathic infertility, scientists deduced that patients can benefit from acupuncture and that acupuncture has improved overall sperm quality. Out of forty patients, twenty-eight have received acupuncture two times a week for five weeks. Main acupuncture points used were Liv3, Ren4, Ub23, Ub32, Kid3; and secondary points used were St36, Sp10, Sp6, St29, and Du20, where all needles were retained in for 25 minutes.
In another study done on thirty-four females with ovulatory dysfunction, scientists deduced that acupuncture may regulate levels of FSH, LH, E2 and raise progesterone to normal levels. Acupuncture points in this study were Ub18, Ub23, Ren3, Ren4, and Sp6 with patients being treated around 30 times.
In conclusion, infertility can be a male and female issue, not just female by itself, and acupuncture can help both these infertility groups. With infertility treatments acupuncture can help with quality of the sperm in males and may regulate levels of FSH, LH, E2 and raise progesterone to normal levels in females. Acupuncture is a very viable and clinically proven modality for a broad range of fertility issues in both men and women.
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