It does not matter that there are 6 billion people in the world. Never mind that there are 18 million people in the New York metropolitan area. For the hopeful parents that visit my clinics, the conception of new life is truly miraculous. It would be wonderful if every child in the world could be valued the way these little embryos are valued. These are lucky parents and very lucky babies to be.
Therefore, it is a rewarding practice for me to work with fertility patients. Moreover, I am inclined to report that it has been a successful endeavor. Over the past few months, I have treated 17 patients for infertility (usually defined as the inability to get pregnant naturally after 12 months or more of sexual intercourse). Of those 17, 2 patients have discontinued treatment without known pregnancy, two patients are continuing treatment without known pregnancy, and 13 of those patients are now pregnant.
The cause of infertility for these patients varies widely. Eight of the patients have no known cause for infertility. These patients range in age from 28-40. Three of the patients have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), while four of the males carry a diagnosis of either low sperm counts or low sperm motility. In two of the cases, both the male and female parents have fertility complications. Of the 17, two of the women are above the age of 40, and two of the women have had previous children. Of the 17, 12 patients are using acupuncture singly as the only medical modality for the infertility, and five patients are using ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology). Of those five patients, four are using IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) along with the acupuncture.
The duration of treatment for infertility in my clinic varies. For female infertility, I usually suggest that a patient go through three full menstrual cycles with acupuncture treatment (and usually herbal therapy). This gives the body a good opportunity to make shifts that increase fertility. I will ask the patient to take their daily temperatures with a BBT (Basal Body Temperature) thermometer. Using the temperature readouts, we can tell where a patient is ovulating, which will direct treatment strategy and the timing of sexual intercourse. The temperature readings also give valuable information to me about possible imbalances that could increase or decrease the proper balances needed for fertility.
Breaking TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) theory into very simplistic terms, low temperatures indicate a lack of Yang (the heating component, similar to progesterone), while high temperatures either indicate a lack of Yin (cooling, similar to estrogen), or an increase of toxic heat. The consistency or fluctuations of the temperatures can indicate how smooth the blood and qi (loosely translated as energy) of the body are circulating. This often relates to stress levels but also the manner in which the blood is flowing in the uterus. While the biomedical diagnosis is important for guidance (i.e. Endometriosis), it is the TCM diagnosis that I will use to create my treatment strategy. The findings from the BBT chart will greatly influence this diagnosis.
For the treatment, I will choose from over 2,000 acupuncture points and from over 10,000 herbs or substances. Usually, I will insert anywhere from 2-12 needles. After I gently insert the needles, I often use Reiki therapy to help relax the patient and help smoothly circulate the qi and blood in the body. My herbal formulas usually consist of anywhere from 4-20 herbs. I will send the herbal formulas to a pharmacy in Chinatown where they will be prepared and precooked for the patient’s convenience.
Lifestyle changes will be an important part of the fertility treatment. This usually includes stress management, diet, and exercise. Depending on the receptivity of the patient, I will give simple meditations and breathing exercises that work to lower stress levels. Diet changes usually consist of finding problematic foods that may be hampering fertility. For instance, many patients who have the diagnosis of PCOS have diets that are rich in fats and/or dairy. Studies have shown that in nation where dairy consumption is very high (United States, Ireland, England, France, and Australia), female fertility at age 30-40 is much lower than non-dairy consuming nations (American Journal of Epidemiology, 1994, 139(3):282-289). So naturally, we will alter the suggested dairy intake for these patients.
The most common lifestyle suggestion I have for fertility couples is to remind them that conceiving a child should be pleasurable! Too often patients get lost in the medical aspect of conception and lose one of the most important parts-which is that conception should be born out of love. Even if a couple is using IVF, spending quality time making love or even just spending time together can be more important than any treatment. To create life, we must create health. To create health, we must create the conditions for happiness. A happy and well-rested couple has a much better chance to conceive than a stressed out and depleted set of parents. This also holds true for a single parent desiring to use acupuncture alongside ART.
If you have any questions about fertility or about the clinic, please call the office anytime.