Natural Fertility: Acupuncture and Herbs Induce a Productive Balance
Aug 01, 2012 10:21PM
By Jude Forsyth
When doctors can find no identifiable medical reason for a woman’s inability to conceive, the diagnosis is labeled “unexplained”, which statistically is the most common infertility diagnosis. At that point, lifestyle factors such as nutrition and emotional concerns become an issue. Natural fertility treatments are becoming more popular, with several natural methods now thought to enhance successful conception.
Changes in diet, the use of supplements and herbs, ovulation charting, chiropractic care, massage therapy, hypnosis and relaxation techniques are all being used as natural fertility methods. Even for women using hormone injections and in vitro fertilization (IVF), natural methods are employed to increase the chances of conception.
Two methods gaining in popularity are the ancient art of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. Their popularity as a natural treatment, affording complementary therapy to other fertility treatments, stems in part from studies (the Paulus Protocol is most well known) showing that acupuncture increases the rate of pregnancy in women undergoing IVF.
Doctor of Oriental Medicine Drew Smith, owner of The Tortoise Clinic, in Santa Rosa Beach, explains, “Many women do not want to take strong drugs that are often part of a Western prescription for fertility treatment. Additionally, treatment with acupuncture and herbs is often less expensive.” Smith also sees many older women that are educated about the success rate for conception at their age and want to increase their odds by using acupuncture and herbal medicine.
Smith points out that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treats unexplained infertility as the manifestation of a deeper underlying imbalance of the organ system. Acupuncture theory states there are 12 energy channels in the body, or “meridians”, with each one linking to a specific organ. Obstructed energy flow at certain points along the meridians causes health issues. “Acupuncture treatment stimulates meridian flow and harmonizes the body’s energy that controls reproduction and therefore, creates a fertile body by helping the body bring the organ system into balance,” says Smith.
Chinese medicine has been used to improve other OB/GYN concerns as well. Erin Taliaferro, DOM, the owner of Coastal Acupuncture, in Pensacola, explains, “Recurrent pregnancy loss brings females into the acupuncture clinic as well; hypothyroidism, endometriosis, PCOS, autoimmune disorders and other clinical disorders are all common concerns in the acupuncture clinic.”
In addition to rebalancing the body’s systems, treatments can strengthen the body’s energy and improve the ability to conceive. Taliaferro explains how acupuncture is used to treat fertility, “Most commonly, acupuncture attempts to increase circulation to the uterus and ovaries, regulate hormonal imbalances contributing to infertility, reduce overactive immune responses that inhibit conception, reduce the stress response to increase reproductive functioning, increase weight loss when needed and address many other nuances relating to various breakdowns or difficulties.”
Within treatments, the practitioners use acupuncture, herbal medicine and natural fertility management. Smith explains further, “We are seeking diagnosis using basal temperature and cervical charting (in acupuncture terms—women’s yin), the taking of certain pulses, the examination of the tongue, and most important, learning the ebb and flow of the woman’s own cycle. Once we see the patterns, we can provide treatment to bring that pattern to normal.”
Both men and women may use acupuncture for fertility issues. According to Taliaferro, couples often seek treatment together. For each woman, regulating the menstrual cycle can create the ideal conditions in the uterus for conception. The treatment of fertility issues for men may include sperm abnormalities, treatments to benefit varicocele, erectile dysfunction, prostate issues, pelvic pain, stress and lifestyle concerns. Smith wants to reassure both men and women about the biggest fear they may have. “There is no direct treatment of the genital organs with acupuncture treatments. We don't even have to stimulate points in sensitive areas, some of the best on the body are on the hands and feet,” he states. “Most often, we don’t ask them to take off their shirt, just their watch.”
The timing of acupuncture treatments varies for each person and situation. “Acupuncture is most effective when employed a few months or weeks ahead of any planned procedure, or any time when conceiving naturally. It is gentle and cumulative, so in general, having a longer window of time gives the treatments longer to make adjustments to the body,” says Taliaferro. “Acupuncture is useful through the first trimester of pregnancy to support healthy development. Ninety days, or three menstrual cycles, is generally a good guideline to use when attempting to schedule acupuncture therapy.”
The risk of using acupuncture is minimal, as long as the patient is treated by an acupuncturist that specializes in treating fertility disorders. “Acupuncturists are very well-educated and are aware of the safety of administration during pregnancy and therefore, know any points or methods that would be considered contraindicated.
It is important to seek a practitioner who does understand the advanced levels of conception and endocrinology as today’s methods are so nuanced,” says Taliaferro.
Smith also wants women to know that treatments may not start and end with conception. “Women also seek treatment to deal with menstrual problems, labor and delivery support, breech presentation, postpartum recovery and insufficient breast milk.” Smith believes herbs are an important part of a successful treatment both before and after delivery, saying, “I like to include an herbal recipe to restore vitality after birth.”
Both Taliaferro and Smith suggest that one of the biggest benefits of acupuncture and herbal medicine for OB/GYN concerns is the overall wellness that patients can achieve during treatments. Says Taliaferro, “There may be other health concerns, and they can become minimal or non-existent during treatment. This is because treatments help the body heal itself and come into a natural balance.” Smith agrees and adds, “Of course, nothing is more wonderful than helping to usher in a new soul.”
Drew Smith can be reached at the Tortoise Clinic, in Santa Rosa at 850-267-5611. Erin Taliaferro can be contacted at Coastal Acupuncture, in Pensacola at 850-312-8186.