One of the most rewarding experiences we have as acupuncturists is helping couples become parents. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM – this includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, and other treatment modalities) is extremely helpful for anyone trying to get, and stay, pregnant. TCM promotes health for mother, father, and baby. Below is a list of questions we are most often asked about what, and how, we treat parents and parents-to-be.
Q: How does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treat fertility?
A: TCM treats infertility in both sexes by bringing the body into balance and improving health to the degree that the body is able to create and support pregnancy. Patients of either sex are evaluated and treated according to their pattern of disease, which can vary wildly from person to person. In other words, there are many different reasons why pregnancy is not occurring (or maintained) according to Chinese medical theory. Treatments are tailored to the individual’s symptoms and root cause.
In women, most commonly we are strengthening and promoting blood flow to the uterus, improving egg quality, promoting a regular, healthy menstrual cycle, regulating hormones, and decreasing the stress that creates an inhospitable environment in the body.
In men, we work to improve sperm quality and amount, improve erectile dysfunction, regulate hormones, and decrease stress.
Q: Are there some fertility issues that respond better to TCM than others?
A: Most patients respond well, especially those who are told by western medicine that there is “nothing wrong” with them. Also, TCM is a key therapy for couples using ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology – this includes IVF and IUI, amongst other techniques); chances of starting and maintaining pregnancy are improved by 50%. Generally, TCM is not as successful in women whose ovaries are not producing eggs, or who have scarred fallopian tubes, though there are exceptions. We do a thorough consultation with each patient to determine whether or not acupuncture will be helpful in these cases.
Q: Are there any risks of using acupuncture to treat fertility?
A: Appropriately administered acupuncture treatment does not pose any risks to health or fertility. The risks of using acupuncture for any condition are rare and few, and are greatly reduced by seeking treatment from an experienced practitioner. At Chinese Acupuncture & Herb Center, all of the practitioners are highly trained in safety procedures.
Q: Does TCM improve sperm and egg quality, or help older adults?
A: Many couples now are choosing to become parents at an older age than in previous generations. Most of the patients we see for fertility are in their 30s or 40s, and most are able to have healthy pregnancies – and most importantly: healthy babies! For these prospective parents, a holistic approach is especially important to remove as many barriers as possible.
Generally, older adults are relatively deficient in what TCM calls Kidney Yin (women) and Kidney Yang (men). These are the basis for producing eggs and sperm, respectively. TCM works by maximizing the patient’s yin/yang, and healing any illness or correcting imbalances that interfere with egg and sperm production. In these cases, dietary changes and herbal medicine are often also prescribed.
Q: How does TCM assist with maintaining a healthy pregnancy?
A: TCM helps by keeping the mother in optimal health, resolving any illnesses as quickly as possible, and without pharmaceutical intervention. Also by improving digestive health, which allows for greater nutrient absorption for both baby and mother. TCM reduces chance of miscarriage, as well as managing morning sickness, back pain, ankle swelling, etc. One of the most valuable benefits we provide is to reduce the anxiety that often accompanies the stress of going through pregnancy and ART.
Q: What benefits are there to continuing acupuncture during pregnancy?
A: Some people assume that they cannot continue acupuncture during their pregnancy. Not true! Acupuncture is extremely beneficial during pregnancy, most notably because it does not involve the use of any external substances or medications that may pose a risk to mother or baby. Receiving acupuncture during pregnancy reduces risk of miscarriage, improves blood flow, improves nutrient absorption, decreases stress/anxiety, improves sleep, and reduces joint pain as the body prepares for delivery. Additionally, acupuncture reduces the risk of and/or aids in management of high blood pressure and gestational diabetes.
Q: Are there any risks of using acupuncture during pregnancy?
A: Theoretically, inappropriately administered acupuncture may increase risk of miscarriage (use of “forbidden points”), especially in more fragile or older moms. However, this is extremely rare. Seeking treatment from a highly trained and experienced practitioner, such as those at our clinic, greatly reduces this risk.
Q: How do you treat older mothers or for those carrying twins or multiples?
A: Supporting the mother by boosting Kidney qi, which is responsible for holding the baby in mother’s body, becomes a key part of treating older moms and multiples. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are effective in preventing miscarriage by bringing the body in to balance, and reducing any stressors on the body that may lead to miscarriage.
Q: How does acupuncture work to prepare for delivery and alleviate labor pain?
A: By opening the channels where the pain is being experienced, and moving qi and blood therein. In TCM, pain is primarily due to qi and/or blood becoming stuck or stagnant in the channels. Additionally, anytime acupuncture is performed, the body releases endorphins, which can work as a natural pain reliever. We help mothers prepare for delivery by loosening the hip muscles and ligaments, reducing anxiety, and managing pain. The more relaxed mom is, the better the delivery experience.
Q: Are there any risks to the baby?
A: It would be extremely difficult to damage a baby in utero. Only by needling directly into the uterus, which is prohibited during pregnancy, and difficult to accomplish even if attempted, would that even be possible.
Q: Are there benefits are there to continuing TCM treatment after the baby is born?
A: Absolutely! Most commonly, we treat mothers for post-partum depression and lactation issues. TCM aids in replenishing the mother’s blood lost during delivery, facilitating healing of the uterus and vagina, reducing pain, easing constipation, and promoting sleep. Preventing or reducing the stress and depression that sometimes occurs after childbirth is an important priority for treatment after delivery.
Q: How does TCM treat postpartum depression and stress?
A: TCM treats this according to the pattern presented by the mother. This may vary from person to person – different symptoms, etiology, and treatment. Acupuncture and herbal medicines are very effective in treating post-partum depression, and pose no risks for the nursing infant.
Q: How can TCM assist a mother with breastfeeding issues?
A: Again, by treating the pattern according to TCM. A mother may present with pain, insufficient milk, or difficulty getting the milk to descend. Treatment is administered according to the disease pattern with tremendous success. Promoting the mother’s health, especially in regard to her digestion and emotional well-being, are usually an aspect of treating insufficient lactation.
Please contact us if you have questions regarding Traditional Chinese Medicine that we have not answered here. We look forward to supporting the creation of your family!