Infertility: A Deeper Understanding

The global fertility services market was valued at $21,138.2 Million in 2021 and is projected to reach $90,794.1 Million by 2031. Who thought making babies would be so expensive? It’s mind-blowing that such a simple process has become so complex, but why? Infertility has only risen in the past few years, so we don’t have to look far.

Although men can be equally affected by infertility, for this discussion, we’re going to focus mostly on women. Men’s issues are easily identifiable via sperm analysis and respond well to herbal treatment.

Many organs in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are related to fertility, most notably the kidney, liver, and uterus. In many cases of infertility, a person’s blood work looks normal with balanced hormones, but still can’t get pregnant. Reason being, the Qi, Yin, and Blood are most likely in disharmony and they won’t necessarily appear in bloodwork, but still have a pronounced effect on fertility. This is why treating infertility with TCM is often superior when compared to In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF). It takes a holistic approach to fix the problem without causing harm.

Someone you know, or maybe yourself, has achieved success with IVF, and it is true that it can yield positive results, but at what cost? Fertility treatments are extremely expensive and wearing on couples. It often leaves women feeling unnatural, like test subjects, rather than focusing on the beautiful process of motherhood.

The Liver Qi is very important when it comes to menstrual regularity, and the first step in promoting fertility is regulating the cycle. If the menstrual flow is irregular, there’s a good chance that hormones are imbalanced and the Liver Qi is stagnated.

Western doctors often use birth control pills to resolve this. But we all know that these pills are meant for contraception. You may be wondering how and why does the liver stagnate in the first place? The Liver Qi is very easily influenced by emotional constraints. If stress is abundant, energy will likely not flow well within the uterus and ovaries. This issue makes it more difficult to conceive. Practicing meditation, yoga, exercising, and receiving acupuncture are all great ways to keep the liver qi moving smoothly.

Another pattern that may cause infertility is Blood stasis. It is a gynecological complication and typically presents itself as fixed, stabbing abdominal pain. Women can have a regular cycle with blood stasis, but typically menses will be very painful with lots of clots. In this case, there’s a chance uterine fibroids or cysts may be present.

Patients would present with a dusky purple tongue with many red dots scattered around it. They will have a choppy pulse expressing the blood stasis within. Again, the western solution would be birth control pills. A TCM practitioner would use acupuncture points such as SP-10, LV-3, SP-6, and UB-17 to move the qi and blood gently. An herbal formula such as Tao Hong Si Wu Tang (Four Substance Decoction with Safflower and Peach Pit) could also be used in conjunction to move the blood and dispel stasis.

Fatigue can be a result of Qi deficiency, but also blood deficiency. Women who bleed heavily or spot in between cycles may be blood deficient. There’s a saying in Chinese Medicine, “Blood is the mother of Qi, while Qi is the commander of blood.” Without blood filling the uterus, it’s almost impossible to conceive. A blood-deficient woman would be pale in color, generally cold, and suffer from dizziness or fatigue. Their tongue would be on the lighter side with a thready weak pulse.

The solution would be to tonify Qi & Blood using an herbal formula such as Ba Zhen Tang (Eight Treasures Decoction) or Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (Tonify the Middle and Augment the Qi Decoction). An Acupuncturist would be wise during this time to limit the number of acupuncture needles used so it won’t deplete the Qi. Yet again, the western solution would be using birth control pills. As you can see, all of these underlying patterns are treated differently in TCM, fostering a healthier cycle rather than masking the symptoms. Moreover, birth control pills are known to cause harmful side effects. Ignoring the underlying problems for years have resulted in what’s known today as “infertility.”

Blood heat is less common as compared to the syndromes above, but it can be seen. Women who enjoy hot-natured foods such as jalapenos and hot spices are more prone to suffer from this. Blood heat would manifest as profuse menstrual bleeding, frequent nose bleeds, deep red tongue, and a rapid pulse. Acupuncture points such as LI-10 and bleeding the apex of the ear are methods to clear heat while using cool-natured herbs.

Kidney essence deficiency is the only syndrome with a poor prognosis. As we’ve alluded to in previous articles, the Kidney essence is inherited from your parents. A weak Kidney essence will affect overall fertility. Not much can be done in this situation, and it’s important to recognize early so as not to put undue pressure on the couple. Signs of Kidney essence deficiency include weak low back and knees, premature graying or balding, lack of libido, and being generally cold and achy.

Last but not least, a cold uterus. Arguably the most important to understand when it comes to infertility. The uterus is unique because it functions like a yin organ while also producing offspring, which mimics the function of a yang organ. The womb should be cozy and warm, like a Vermont lodge in the winter. However, if the uterus is cold, conceiving will be difficult. Symptoms of a cold uterus include but are not limited to, lower abdominal pain, clear vaginal discharge, and menstrual clots.

So how does your uterus get cold? Consuming an overabundance of cold-natured foods such as iced beverages, salads, and ice cream is a start. Exposing the navel or feet to cold conditions during menstruation also puts women at risk for a cold uterus. Spending too much time in air conditioning or cold conditions overall can also affect the uterus. Chinese herbs are almost always necessary in cases such as this to warm the uterus. Usually a base of Wen Jing Tang (Flow-Warming Decoction) is used and modified based on the prevailing symptoms. As the womb warms up, overall flow increases and less pain and discomfort is observed.

A woman should go through at least three normal menstrual cycles before trying to conceive. Once the menses are regular and peaceful, pregnancy should be easy to attain.

If you’re less than satisfied with your current fertility program or looking for an alternative approach, please give us a call.


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