Deciding to start a family is an exciting and life-changing decision that should be available to all those who are ready to take this amazing step. Nevertheless, infertility is on the rise in the United States and the attempts to become pregnant can be less easy and simple than hoped.
Infertility is generally defined as not being able to get pregnant after one year of trying, or six months if one is over 35 years old. Many perceive their family and friend groups as easily having children and giving birth, and that issues of infertility are far and few in their communities. They may deal with feelings of loneliness, depression, grief or even shame. The truth is that ten percent of women (millions!) from ages 15-44, along with many nonbinary people, transgender men, and non-cis gender folks have difficulties with getting and staying pregnant. Total infertility rates as well as miscarriages are increasing by 1 percent each year, along with overall declines in sperm motility, sperm count, and lower testosterone levels. This may be due to many factors, including increasing stress levels, endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in food packaging, electronic devices, cleaning supplies and beyond, as well as lack of proper nutrition, quality of sleep, and exercise. Inflammation, thyroid imbalances, autoimmune disease, diabetes, PCOS, fibroids, endometriosis, and many other illnesses or physical abnormalities can also play a role. Genetic factors, hormonal imbalances, smoking and alcohol use and certain medications can also contribute to fertility issues.
After trying for months or longer and potentially going through a barrage of testing, procedures, and medications that lead to little results, many are hoping for answers. Chinese Medicine, including acupuncture, herbs, and dietary and lifestyle advice, is an effective way of working with the body to increase fertility and hold pregnancies to term. This is accomplished through in-depth diagnosis by the practitioner (through pulse, looking at the tongue, and asking many questions about your medical history) to come to an understanding of the root cause of the imbalance that is creating difficulties. This underlying pattern is unique to each individual and thus the treatment and ongoing treatment plan will also be unique. The main diagnosis for infertility will come from a few main imbalance types:
Deficiencies that are disrupting natural reproductive function
Stagnancy of qi, blood, or dampness that blocks the proper flow of vital energy to the tissues and organ systems
Heat or cold syndromes that lead to inflammation or abnormal cycles
Chinese Medicine also offers assistance with those who choose IVF. Acupuncture helps to address issues of hormone imbalance and increases the chances of success throughout the process.
Before you come to the acupuncture clinic, you may be wondering about the ways you can support your fertility at home. Everyone and every body is different, but following these guidelines is a great start to optimal fertility:
Eat foods rich in antioxidants. This means at least half of your plate should be veggies! Greens are especially important, as well as a variety of whole grains, fruits, legumes, seeds, and nuts. Lightly cooked vegetables are ideal, as they will be easier to digest and the nutrients more readily absorbed (especially for those who would be deemed more deficient).
Reduce common inflammatory foods such as added sugar, dairy, gluten, fried foods, processed meats, and alcohol. Avoid processed foods and focus on a whole-food, plant-heavy diet overall.
Prioritize sleep. Getting at least 8 hours per night is key to giving your body the rest and time it needs to repair. Research has found that women getting less than 7 hours of sleep are 15% less likely to get pregnant than those who had 7 or more hours of sleep per night.
Stay active and aim for a healthy weight. Those who are underweight or obese are at more risk of fertility complications.
De-stress, slow down, and relax. Partake in activities you enjoy. Qi gong, yoga, and meditation are wonderful ways to reduce sympathetic nervous system activity that leads to inflammation and disease. If it is possible to reduce stress in some areas of your life, take the steps to do so, while infusing more mindfulness into your daily routine.
All specific recommendations are based solely on the individual and must be determined by the Chinese Medicine practitioner. Chinese Medicine is a holistic, safe, and effective option to not only optimize fertility but to become a version of yourself that is healthier and happier than before.