Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) works well in combination with Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) employed by Western Fertility Medicine to facilitate pregnancy. It has been demonstrated that Eastern and Western medicines used together work better than either Eastern or Western medicines used alone in treating infertility.
These techniques include In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI), Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT), and Zygote Intra-Fallopian Transfer (ZIFT).
TCM prepares a woman’s reproductive system to be functioning optimally before, during, and following an ART procedure. This is done by correcting hormonal imbalances to improve reproductive function, by redirecting Qi (the energy of life according to TCM) and blood to the reproductive structures, by clearing blockages and reducing stress
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a process by which eggs obtained through retrieval are fertilized by specially prepared sperm within a laboratory setting. The process involves stimulating follicular development, retrieving eggs from the woman’s mature follicles and then fertilizing the eggs with paternal sperm outside of the body in a laboratory.
The fertilized eggs are then allowed to develop for three to six days to blastocysts before being transfered into the uterus, or frozen for later transfer into the uterus.
Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI) is the process of injecting selectively optimized sperm from the paternal donor into the uterus just prior to ovulation in order to achieve a more natural fertilization and implantation. Western medicines are often used to control follicle maturation, uterine development, and ovulation.
Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) introduces a single selected sperm into a retrieved egg for fertilization to take place, followed by transfer of the developing blastocyst into the uterus at around 3 to 6 days.
Zygote Intra-Fallopian Transfer (ZIFT) is the placement of a fertilized egg within the Fallopian tube, and Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT) is the same for the placement of a non-fertilized egg along with specially selected sperm cells into the Fallopian tube where fertilization will take place.
The specific ART procedure used will depend upon your infertility diagnosis and will be decided upon by your doctor and yourself.
TCM used for the treatment of infertility, optimally begins before implementing ART, so that imbalances can be corrected before these procedures to achieve a state of harmony and optimal reproductive health.
The time for this preparatory work is ideally one to three months, although as it works out, women come to TCM with less than the optimal advance treatment with good results. And since it is not unusual for success to require several cycles or more, wherever TCM treatment is begun is when positive change begins.
Below are listed the many ways in which patients undergoing ART can benefit from TCM:
- Increased blood flow to the uterus and ovaries.
- Enrichment and thickening of the lining of the uterus.
- Regulation of reproductive hormones to improve the quality and quantity of follicles and eggs.
- Minimization of the unwanted symptoms of IVF and the medications used.
- Reduction in the stress leading up to ART proceedures, and afterwards.
- Decrease in the chance of miscarriage and increase in the chance of a successful implantation and a healthy full-term birth.
- Prevention of post-transfer uterine contractions and miscarriage.
Scientific research on the supportive effects of TCM when used with ART continues to stack up. The cornerstone landmark German Study in April of 2002 by Wolfgang E. Paulus compared pregnancy rates of two groups of women undergoing IVF. The group receiving acupuncture 25 minutes before, and 25 minutes after embryo transfer had a pregnancy rate of 42.5% compared to 26.3% for the non-acupuncture group. Another study in May of 2006 in the research journal Fertility and Sterility noted that acupuncture administered during the luteal phase of patients undergoing intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection increased the incidence of clinical pregnancy from 15.6% to 33.6%, and ongoing pregnancy from 13.8% to 28.4%. A very good article from WebMD summarizes the case made for the efficacy of acupuncture used in conjunction with IVF, and an article published in January 2012 on research conducted at Tel Aviv University, states that women with an average age of about 38 years who had received acupuncture in conjunction with IUI had a clinical pregnancy rate of 65.5% compared to 39.4% for the control group who received no acupuncture. For a link to an OB-GYN’s experience using acupuncture to help her conceive, click here. Here is an excellent article published by WebMD describing the “Standard Protocol” for pre- and post-transfer acupuncture, the protocol that I incorporate with my patients on the day that they undergo their ART procedure. Most fertility facilities will allow Acupuncture treatment to be delivered within their offices prior to and following an ART procedure. Check with your fertility specialist.
For the statistics on local and National Fertility clinics, click here.