National Fertility Week: Treating Uexplained Infertility
This week is National Fertility Awarenss Week. Especially close to my heart, helping woman get pregnant naturally has been my specialty for many years. This week, I will review the many ways to help increase fertility in both woman and men.
Infertility is often defined when a couple has 1 year of regular intercourse without contraception and has been unable to conceive. Primary infertility is seen when a couple has never been able to conceive, where as secondary infertility is difficulty conceiving after already having conceived and carried a normal pregnancy. Technically, secondary infertility is not present if there
has been a change of partners. Infertility can be an issue for both men and women.
In women, having an abnormal menstrual period is a good place to start. A regular 28 to 30 day cycle with good quality fertile mucus right before ovulation, relatively no premenstrual symptoms and a pain free period with efficient bleeding indicate a balanced hormonal cycle.
A regular 28 to 30 day cycle with good quality fertile mucus right before ovulation, relatively no premenstrual symptoms and a pain free period with efficient bleeding indicate a balanced hormonal cycle. Fertile mucus appears several days prior to ovulation and is required to help nourish the sperm and guide it to the egg. An ovulation occurring on day 12 to 15 of a cycle indicates that the egg is being released at its optional developmental time. Ideally, a woman should experience menstrual bleeding for at least 3 to 5 days and this
blood flow should be red in color without any clotting or flooding.
Issues that effect fertility include:
1. Hormonal imbalances
2. Ovary disorders such as tumors, cysts and stress
3. Age: early 30's has a 22% chance to conceive, early 40's - an 8% chance and early 50's - a 1% chance.
4. Blockage: such as in the fallopian tubes (egg and sperm cannot meet), pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and STD's (HPV and Chlamydia)
5. Uterus disorders: such as fibroids and endometriosis
A Diagnosis of Unexplained Infertility
Unexplained infertility is a Western diagnosis which indicates the doctor cannot find any medical explanation for why there are fertility issues. When the issues listed above due not seem to exist, a diagnosis of unexplained infertility will often have a laboratory panel which shows hormonal level "within the normal range". Even though no medical explanation can be found, conception does not seem to occur. This does not mean that there is not a problem.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is the best way to treat this diagnosis. TCM gynecology looks at the subtle changes in the hormonal system based on signs and symptoms the body gives off as clues. The menstrual flow and menstrual cycle are the first areas that can revel a cause. If implantation appears to be the problem, then it is important to look at the menstrual blood and the consistency, color, and amount.
The main issue in TCM is stress! Stress is a fertility killer. When there is an issue of unexplained fertility, it is a good idea to look at your lifestyle. These problems can complicate infertility:
1. Finding Balance: in a modern society we tend to "burn the candle at both ends". There MUST be a proper balance in the amount of work that we do, in the amount of sleep we have in the foods that we enjoy and in the amount of "down time" we give ourselves.
2. Excessive Work: can drain the very core of our energy. Today, if you are not working for a company who is placing high demands on your time, health and relationships, then you have your own business, which often has no boundaries when it comes to building and maintaining your dream.
3. Improper Diet: can be a nutrition zapper that robs the body of proper vitamins, mineral and sufficient amino acids that are important for energy product. Improper use of caffeine, alcohol and saturated fats have been shown to decrease fertility and increase the chance of miscarriage. A balance of fresh vegetables, complexed carbs, whole grain, as well as, fruits, nuts, seeds and protein are very important for maintaining proper energy levels.
4. Lack of Exercise: decreases blood circulation. Regular exercise builds stamina that can help anyone battle stress. But even something as casual as a walk around the block can help you burn off some of the tension that you carrying around. Stretching is a great tension reducer.
5. Poor Sleep Habits: can drain you of a good day full of vital energy. Overthinking, anxiety and a racing mind are all issues that cause difficulty in falling asleep and/or difficulty staying asleep. Lack of sleep has long been recognized as influencing fertility. It leads to physiological disruptions including the inhibition of growth hormones.
6. Stress: is a hidden issue that is seldom addressed. Stress has been linked to irregularities in ovulation and abnormal sperm development. When you can lower your levels of physiological stress, you have increased your chances of conception.
7. Weight: Being too thin or too heavy can have an impact on how quickly you conceive. Excessive thinness is known to interfere with menstrual periods. Now, it is also believed that if both partners are overweight or obese, conception will take longer.
8. Smoking: Smokers have an increased rate of repeated miscarriage. Women smokers have been shown to have lower levels of estrogen which, may delay conception. Smoking is also thought to influence tubal factor infertility, and can cause early menopause. In men, smoking may damage sperm. When men stop smoking, their sperm count increases quickly.
Acupuncture, in conjunction with herbal treatments, is the best approach to getting pregnant in these circumstances. Infertility candidates for acupuncture are women or men who have a functional, rather than a structural reason. The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, finds it helps as many as 65-80 percent of these cases.
While acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine cannot guarantee 100% success, it can aim to improve your odds at achieving pregnancy either with TCM alone or in combination with acupuncture and IVF. Acupuncture and herbs can help by:
1. Regulating the hormones to produce a larger number of follicles.
2. Improve the function of the ovaries to produce better quality eggs.
3. Relax the patient and decrease stress.
4. Increase blood flow to the uterus.
5. Increase the thickness of the uterine lining.
6. Strengthen the immune system.
7. Lessen the side effects of drugs used in IVF.
8. Prevent the uterus from contracting.
9. Improve semen to create better quality and quantity of embryos.
10. Decrease chances of miscarriage
Acupuncture and herbal medicine can be an effective complement to your treatment. Acupuncture redirects your vital energy into a more balanced flow. It provides support to the underlying importance of better digestion and improved circulation. Acupuncture releases tension in the muscles. This allows increased flow of blood, lymph, and nerve impulses to affected areas, decreasing the stress experienced by you.
Andrew Pacholyk, MS, L.Ac
Therapies for healing
mind, body, spirit
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