Infertility

Infertility, unfortunately, is on the rise.  More and more women are finding themselves unable to get pregnant or sustain a pregnancy.  The cause is multifaceted.  We find ourselves in an extremely toxic environment with chemicals in our foods, in our houses and in our air.

I am so excited to help women create their dream families.  I highly recommend using a combination of functional medicine and acupuncture to do this.  The lab work gives us very specific information to what exactly is happening in your body.  This information is then used, to create a very individualized treatment plan.

How Functional Medicine Can Help Infertility

The Hormonal System:

Adrenal hormones that underlie proper female hormone production are the leading cause of female hormone symptoms such as PMS and menopausal symptoms.

The Digestive System:

Unstable blood sugar, over-consumption of carbohydrates and sweets, poor digestive function and food sensitivities all contribute to female hormone problems. Chronic undetected infections, particularly in the intestinal tract, weaken immune function, and are a leading cause of adrenal hormone and female hormone problems.

The Detoxification System:

Women who have taken birth control or hormone replacement therapy have placed an extra burden on the liver detoxification pathways as the body tries to eliminate the hormones from an external source. Many women who react poorly to birth control or HRT or even natural hormone programs have liver detoxification issues.

Example of a Month Long Hormone Panel

 

fertility hormone graph - infertility
Normal Estrogen and Progesterone Curves in a Woman

In the graph above, the blue line represents the normal fluctuation of estrogen throughout a normal 28 menstrual cycle.  The purple line is the way the progesterone changes should look.

Now, compare the above graph to the one below.  What do you see?

infertility functional medicine hormone panel
The top graph is the estradiol levels. The bottom graph represents the progesterone levels.

You don’t have to have a lot of medical training to see the the third (bottom) graph does not look anything like the purple line of the first light blue graph (top).  Progesterone levels in the woman above are completely erratic.  They should be about the same low level for the first 14 days of the cycle, and then spike after the estrogen level spikes on day 14.

Once the progesterone spikes, it should stay at a high level until the menstrual flow starts.  If you look carefully, at the 3rd graph, representing progesterone.  Look at day 24.  Do you see the large decline in progesterone on that day?  That drop in progesterone is what will cause you to lose a pregnancy.  That drop in progesterone on that day is the difference between having the family of your dreams and not having it.

The reason I like this panel is because we can see what is occurring during the entire cycle.  Is your timing correct?  Are you ovulating on the proper day?  Do you have enough hormones?  Do you have too many hormones?  Is the production smooth and even or is it jagged with sudden rises and sudden dips?

The single sample blood test just cannot give enough information to correctly figure out where the problem is in the cycle.  If the woman above was to go in for a single sample hormone level check on day 18 of her cycle, everything would seem to be ok.  Her levels are a bit low, but the proper spike is present.  She would need to get a blood draw on day 24 to see the huge drop in progesterone on that day.

In my opinion, the better option is to run the month long panel.  I have home kits available at my office.  There is no blood involved.  You will take a saliva sample and every other day for an entire menstrual cycle.  You will also record your basal body temperature daily during this cycle.  The samples are frozen and then mailed directly to the lab.

The woman who’s graph you are looking at cannot get pregnant.  The erratic progesterone levels make it impossible.  The only way she has a chance to conceive is to balance out her hormone production, distribution and timing.  Without the lab, that task is almost impossible.

Now, the hormones don’t just suddenly go haywire like the example we see above.  This happens over time and the root cause is either mental/emotional stress, dietary stress, trauma and injury or hidden inflammation.  These stressors, if occurring continuously for a long time, wreak havoc on the adrenal system.  If the adrenal system is broken for a while, then there is consequences on the hormonal system, as indicated in the graphs above.

For more information about the adrenal test, click here.

 

How Acupuncture Can Help Infertility

The treatment of infertility with acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) dates back 2,000 years. These ancient, time-tested techniques improve fertility rates and support a woman’s whole body, unlocking unlimited potential for health, healing and childbearing.

Research:

Studies reported by The American Pregnancy Association suggest that the most effective fertility treatments involve a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine, and traditional medical interventions. However, conception does sometimes occur without traditional medical interventions when acupuncture and herbal medicines are used alone.1

Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York reviewed recent studies and concluded that acupuncture helps to:

  • Increase blood flow to the uterus, which improves the chances of an ovum implanting on the uterine wall.
  • Reduce anxiety and stress. The hormones that are secreted during stressful situations can significantly decrease fertility.
  • Normalize hormone and endocrine systems that regulate ovulation, especially in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.
  • Positively affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, which plays a key role in fertility.
  • Regulate menstrual cycle.2

In a 2007 study, researchers found that acupuncture may improve the quality of life in patients undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). It was also found that women receiving acupuncture reported significantly
less abdominal pain, other pain, nausea, and stress two hours after
oocyte aspiration (egg collection) compared to women receiving conventional analgesia.3

In 2008, the British Medical Journal published research which
concluded that acupuncture can be offered as a significant, clinically relevant adjunct to IVF, relaxing the uterus and increasing blood flow
for the successful implantation of an embryo within the uterine lining.4

An Acupuncturist’s Approach To Fertility.

According to the theories of acupuncture and TCM, infertility is caused by an imbalance of Qi (pronounced “chee”) and blood affecting the healthy functioning of one or more of the organ systems. When Qi, also known as our vital energy, and blood are circulating freely throughout the body, every cell, tissue and organ is properly nourished and can function well. Acupuncture and TCM can raise the fertility potential of women by effecting the quality, quantity, balance and flow of Qi and blood (keep in mind that the organs described reflect Chinese medical theories and philosophies).

Kidney Organ System.

The release of an ovum is controlled by the kidneys. The kidneys also create a substance called Jing Qi, which is required in order to have a healthy body, mind, and pregnancy. If an imbalance exists within the kidneys, Jing Qi may be inadequate in supply and may be a cause for infertility. Chinese herbal medicine, along with acupuncture, can nourish and support Jing Qi and overall kidney health.

Spleen Organ System.

An adequate supply of blood is required by a woman’s body to sustain a normal menstrual cycle, a growing fetus, and a healthy pregnancy. Disharmony within the spleen can result in an inadequate supply and imbalance of blood. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can build and nourish blood in order to promote a healthy flow
of blood to the uterus.

Liver Organ System.

In order to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy, it is important to have a free flow of Qi and blood throughout the body. The liver is in charge of facilitating this function. When it is out of balance, areas of the body will not receive the required supply of Qi and blood. This imbalance can lead to depression, anxiety, stress and increased possibility of infertility.

Acupuncture and TCM provide a safe, effective, drug-free, and natural approach to treating infertility and enjoying a healthy pregnancy. Here are a few reasons to try acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine:

  • An acupuncturist does not treat just symptoms and signs, but instead activates the body’s natural healing potential by treating
    the root causes that have lead to the problem or disease.
  • Acupuncture and TCM are completely natural. No drugs are ever used. Invasive procedures and drug therapies that are used in the Western treatment of infertility can cause undesirable side effects and accumulated toxicity in the body.
  • Acupuncture and TCM can be used to strengthen, support, and balance overall health and well-being, therefore can increase the effectiveness of other procedures.

What is Next?

There are many choices when treating infertility.  I suggest sitting quietly, think about each option, and check in with your gut (not your brain) and feel what option speaks to you.  What option resonates with you.

If time and money were not considerations this is what I would recommend for maximum possibility of success.

  • Schedule an acupuncture appointment.  We will discuss your health history and your goals.  I will determine what your “diagnosis” is from a TCM perspective.  Based on this diagnosis, I will suggest functional medicine labs that will be most informative in helping me decide on a treatment plan.
  • Take the adrenal functional medicine test at home and mail to the lab.
  • Start the month long hormone functional medicine test on day two of your next menstrual cycle and mail to the lab when your cycle starts again next month.
  • Acupuncture visits are the most helpful if done 2 or 3 times per week.  The more variable and difficult your menstrual cycle, the more times you should come in for treatment.
  • Schedule a functional medicine follow-up appointment to review your adrenal labs.  An adrenal restoration program will be implemented while we wait for your month long panel to be completed.
  • Schedule a functional medicine follow-up appointment to review your month long panel and implement a complete treatment protocol.
  • Continue with the acupuncture on a regular basis.  We will also check in on the functional medicine protocols at this time.
  • Hopefully, get pregnant.  Now, ladies.  I have several fertility patients that don’t have very much intercourse, and I have to say, it is impossible to get pregnant if you are not intimate with your husband.  This part is up to you!

Fixing the adrenal system, sometimes is enough to fix the hormonal imbalances.  It may be tempting to skip the adrenal test, but this test is critical.  Only looking at the progesterone and estrogen levels, without addressing the adrenals will not be effective, ever!   The breakdown in the adrenal system is the initiator of almost all other disease in the body.  If we only address the body symptoms, we will not correct the underlying imbalance.

I applaud you in taking your health and fertility into your own hands.  There are many options available, but I believe that the combination of functional medicine and acupuncture has a lot to offer women, without side effects, embarrassing medical procedures and pharmaceuticals that make you feel crazy.

Take the first step.  Push the schedule online now button and setup up your first acupuncture treatment.  I look forward to walking this road to wellness together.

 

Resources:

  1. American Pregnancy Association. http://www.americanpregnancy.org/infertility/acupuncture.htm.
  2. Five ways acupuncture can boost fertility. Prevention.com. 2002.
  3. Alternative Therapies, May/June 2007, Vol. 13 No.3.
  4. Manheimer, E., et. al. Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilization: systematic review and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal. February 2008;336:545-549.
  5. World Health Organization. www.who.int/medicines.
  6. A Manual of Acupuncture. Deadman P. & Mazin Al-Khafaji. Eastland Press, 2007. Page 326.
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