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Traditional Chinese Medicine and Fertility

Katlyn Joy |27, August 2013

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More people are seeking beyond the realms of traditional Western medicine in order to achieve their goal of becoming parents. As a result, patients are trying some new methods for dealing with infertility using old medicine such as traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM.

According to one source, perhaps as many as 75% of infertile couples try a type of alternative therapy in addition to regular Western medicine.

However, TCM is not simply a hopeless shot in the dark for those desperate enough to try anything. Instead, as more studies are being conducted more reason for hope is given.

For instance, a study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that there was a two-fold increase in pregnancies among women who used traditional Chinese medicine compared to typical methods, over a four month period.

The study was funded by the Australian government and carried out by the University of Adelaide in Southern Australia. Researchers reviewed 8 clinical trials and 13 other studies and case reports including over 1800 women.

In reviewing the clinical trials, researchers noted a 3.5 percent increase in pregnancies in women using TCM compared to Western medicine. According to the data which looked at 616 women, 50 percent of women using traditional Chinese medicine got pregnant compared to only 30 percent who used IVF treatment.

"Our meta-analysis suggests traditional Chinese herbal medicine to be more effective in the treatment of female infertility - achieving on average a 60 per cent pregnancy rate over four months compared with 30 per cent achieved with standard western drug treatment", said the study authors.

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

TCM includes such practices as acupuncture and herbal remedies. A number of studies have been conducted regarding the practice of acupuncture in particular in dealing with reproductive problems including infertility and have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals. The growing evidence and the comparatively non-or less invasive processes make these therapies attractive to couples seeking a pregnancy. Often the costs are much less prohibitive as well, making them more accessible to a wider range of families.

TCM deals with such issues as:

Stress.
Stress can throw off body functions so TCM practices such as meditation, acupuncture, yoga and other therapies can relieve some of the stress so that your body can be strong and ready to produce and support a pregnancy. TCM practitioners often find problems in the liver function that they believe results from a build up of negative emotions like anger, frustration and desire.

Kidney deficiency.
Traditional Chinese medicine links kidney problems to irregular menstrual flow particularly a light flow. Other symptoms include back pain, sore knees, ringing in the ears, fatigue and dizziness.

Uterine problems.
TCM literature refers to a condition of "cold in the uterus." This means menstruation with dark red clots and accompanying symptoms such as coldness in the extremities, a cold pain in the lower abdomen which is relieved by heat, and heavy urination.

Dampness.
TCM refers to a dampness in the body, such as happens in overweight people who may have prolonged menstruation or no periods, sticky vaginal discharges and diets consisting of dairy foods and greasy foods.

Suggestions for TCM and Pregnancy

  • Eliminate alcohol and damp foods from your diet.
  • Try meditation and healthy practices such as yoga.
  • Seek a trained acupuncturist.
  • Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to get plenty of nutrients to build healthy blood.
  • Seek out a trained practitioner in Chinese herbal medicine.
  • Eat foods rich in Omega 3 fatty oils.
  • Get plenty of sleep and rest.
  • Exercise regularly but don't overdo trying to be thin and lean which TCM sees as unhealthy and against the ideals of fertility.
  • Chart and know your cycles. This has become a mainstay in Western fertility medicine as well.
  • Get a massage, or better yet, regular massages. This improves blood flow to the tissues of the body and helps you to relax.
  • Find ways to keep your stress levels low, whether it's engaging in a fun, healthy hobby or saying no to an overloaded schedule, or journaling.
  • Learn about TCM and the options for treatments.
  • Consider pursuing a combination of both Western and traditional Chinese medicine for your widest margin of success.

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