Female Infertility

Many women have menstrual disorders that can make conceiving difficult.

At our clinic we use both acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine to treat menstrual disorders. Successful treatment of the primary disorder can then lead to conception and pregnancy.  

The following disorders commonly interfere with natural fertility and are discussed in more detail below:

Ovulatory dysfunction

Common symptoms of ovulatory dysfunction can be seen in an irregular menstrual cycle, a scanty lite bleed, spotting between cycles, or no bleeding at all and in women with severe premenstrual symptoms PMS.

Ovulatory dysfunction can cause subfertility and recurrent miscarriages.

Ovulatory dysfunction can also occur due to a gynaecological disorder. It frequently occurs in women with;

  • Polycystic ovaries (PCO)
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Premature ovarian failure
  • Advanced maternal age
  • Luteal phase defect (LPD)
  • Lutenized unruptured follicle syndrome (LUFS)

For most of the above mentioned pathologies we use both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to correct the underlying cause. If we don’t see significant improvement or a pregnancy in a certain amount of time Western treatments such as clomiphene or IVF can be added by a gynaecologist or reproductive specialist.

We generally ask our female patients for values of their reproductive blood test and ultrasound scans if available to assess their situation appropriately. We can arrange for a full range of blood tests to be carried out when necessary.

We may also ask them to monitor their ovulation by recording their basal body temperature (BBT).  An increase of the basal body temperature of about 0.5˚suggests ovulation has occured and a maintained higher temperature characterises the post-ovulatory period.  The BBT chart helps us to understand the activity of the hormones that regulate the female cycle, and also guide the selection of acupuncture points and herbs. Improvement of the BBT curve during treatment is a way of monitoring the treatments progress and is greatly appreciated by patients and the practitioner alike.  

Research shows that Chinese medicine can be equally effective in treating ovulatory dysfunction as biomedicine.  Extensive reserach studies from around the world show that:

  • Acupuncture can be equally effective as clomiphene citrate in the treatment of ovulatory dysfunction without causing any side effects.  Studies suggest that acupuncture adjusts FSH and LH and normalizes oestrogen and progesterone levels, thus regulating ovulation. 
  • Chinese herbal medicine restores ovarian function effectively and promptly.  It offers a valuable option for treating infertility in patients with premature ovarian failure and/ or raised FSH and LH levels, as well as treating patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome.  Correct treatment can restore a regular cycle with a good biphasic basal body temperature and an efficient luteal phase.
 
For the latest research please see research, case studies and testimonials.
 

Tubal dysfunction 

The fallopian tubes play an essential role in fertility.  They catch the egg as it is released by the ovary, then hold and nourish it whilst it fuses with the sperm.  The embryo is then transported along the tube within 2-3 days, until the raised progesterone prepared a thick uterine lining for the embryo to implant into. 

The fallopian tubes can become physically damaged by certain disorders or can simply loose its functional integrity, impairing natural fertility.

Physical defects of the fallopian tubes may be associated with a history of pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, use of intrauterine device, ruptured appendix, with lower abdominal surgery, or an ectopic pregnancy.  Scarring occurs along the inner walls of the tubes, disrupting the natural function of the cells lining the tubes, or obstructing the passage completely. 

Functional defects of the tubes may be due to either muscle tension of the tubes or due to mucus accumulation. Progesterone should clear the secretions within the tube and should also relax its muscles to allow easy passage of the pre-embryo into the uterus. 

Chinese medicine alone works best in functionaldisorders of the tube: 

  • Spasms and tension in the tubes can cause a functional blockage.  A functional blockage can prevent the sperm reaching the egg or stop the fertilised egg reaching the uterus at the right time.  
  • Excessive secretions can block the tubes.  Secretions are designed to lubricate the tube and nourish egg and embryo.  In a pathological situation, fluids are either over-produced or cannot drain efficiently due to an obstruction of the tube itself or due to a deficient rise of progesterone.

The treatment with Chinese medicine may incorporate acupuncture treatment on the lower abdomen to relax the fallopian tubes, and/ or an herbal prescription to clear away any excessive fluid, or to raise the body’s own progesterone levels. If the tubes are not damaged too much along their length, microsurgery is a good treatment option, especially if combined with Chinese herbal medicine.   A study in China examining best treatments for damaged and obstructed tubes found that combining Chinese medicine to surgical procedures enhances the clinical outcome and thus the chances of pregnancy.  If there is extensive damage to the tubes, IVF becomes the only option.

For the latest research please see research, case studies and testimonials.


Endometriosis 

Endometriosis is a common menstrual disorder manifesting with

  • Painful periods, dysmenorrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Spotting before periods
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Infertility

The disease is defined by the presence of endometrial tissue outside the uterus, which can respond to the cyclic hormones involved in the menstrual cycle to cause bleeding and pain.

How endometriosis impairs fertility

Endometriosis impairs natural fertility for a variety of reasons.  

  • It can physically obstruct ovulation and the transportation along the tube.
  • The presence of endometrial tissue also activates immune cells (macrophages) which attack sperm cells and release substances (cytokines) that are toxic to sperm and embryo.
  • Endometriosis is also associated with a higher incidence of ovulatory disturbance, leading to unruptured follicles and/ or low progesterone levels in the luteal phase, the latter leading to a non-receptive uterine endometrium. 

Western treatment of endometriosis in women who try to become pregnant is limited.  Surgical removal of the endometrial tissue is used to debulk severe endometriosis.  The chances of conception after surgical interference are about 50% after 2-3 years. It is however difficult to remove all the tissue, and some small unpigmented lesions may be left that still produce secretions that interfere with normal fertility.  Hormonal medication is often used to suppress the menstrual cycle for 3 to 9 months to ‘starve’ the endometrial tissue into disappearing.   Artificial fertilisation is often advised to circumnavigate the damaged areas.

Chinese medicine approaches this multifactorial disorder in a different way.  Apart from treating the outmost manifestation (the congealed blood at places other than the uterus), we try to establish the underlying reason for why this disorder develops.  This is different in each patient.

Studies in China confirm that the treatment of endometriosis with Chinese herbal medicine diminishes pain as well as the size of ectopic mass or cysts. Research into the mechanism shows that Chinese herbal medicine improves the microcirculation of the lower abdomen as well as modulating the immunologic disturbances associated with endometriosis.

Reproductive function is preserved and even increased with Chinese herbal medicine. 

For the latest research please see research, case studies and testimonials.

 

Unexplained or Functional infertility

About 25% of couples experience infertility and no clear biomedical cause can be established.  To enhance ovulation, women are frequently given clomiphene citrate for 3-4 menstrual cycles, coupled with gonadotrophins to trigger ovulation.  If that approach fails, intrauterine insemination is often performed. The monthly probability of pregnancy is 10-15%, slightly lower than the probability of pregnancy in fertile couples (20-25%).  If no pregnancy occurs after 3-4 cycles, IVF is often recommended.

When we do a Chinese medicine diagnosis on a woman or man with unexplained infertility, we very often find a physiological (Chinese medical) reason for this subfertility, such as what we call ‘deficient blood’ leading to a thin endometrial lining that could not sustain a pregnancy, or, ‘blood stasis’ in the uterus that interferes with the pelvic circulation, or a low body temperature.  Treatment of such mild disharmonies with acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine can often lead to the desired outcome of achieving a pregnancy.  Sometimes women are clearly run-down and did not realise so, and treatment is aimed at re-building her strength so that her body can then maintain a pregnancy.

Acupuncture can greatly reduce stress and enhance the patients wellbeing which is often a major cause of subfertility.

 

For the latest research please see research, case studies and testimonials.

 

 

 




Wimpole Street Clinic

Gatefield Clinic

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