Today I am going to discuss both recurrent miscarriage and IVF and how Chinese medicine can help. The two are not necessarily related and the reason they are both discussed in the same post is that they are probably too small to fill a post by themselves.
I will start with the heart-breaking condition of recurrent miscarriage. It is defined as having more than two miscarriages without the presence of a medical condition to explain them. In some cases, when the miscarriages are late in the pregnancy, the doctor can help with a procedure that tightens up the cervix. In cases where Auto Immune factors are suspected the doctor will prescribe steroids to calm down the over-active immune system. In the cases where blood clotting problems are thought to be the cause, the doctor’s treatment will be with blood thinners like Aspirin or Clexane. Those treatments can be helpful at times but often they can not. Another problem is that often the lady won’t be suffering from any of the above but still won’t be able to keep a healthy pregnancy. For a woman it is an extremely frustrating and upsetting situation. In Chinese medicine, as it is in the case of infertility, we have a much more subtle understanding of recurrent miscarriages. Practically all of the women I have seen over the years with this problem did not have any medical diagnosis to explain their predicament and therefore weren’t offered any treatment from the doctor. Most of them were able to have a healthy pregnancy and birth after a course of treatment with Chinese medicine! How come? Again, as is the case in the treatment of infertility, we first try and identify the reason for the recurrent miscarriages from a Chinese medicine point of view. The most common cause for “unexplained” recurrent miscarriages is weakness of the kidney energy (Qi). This energy is crucial in our ability to nourish the foetus and in maintaining pregnancy. Women with low kidney Qi will often feel very tired when pregnant with a tendency to low back pain and to feeling cold. However, sometimes there will be no symptoms except the miscarriage. Another problem with recurrent miscarriage due to weak kidney Qi is that every miscarriage by itself drains a lot of the kidney energy. This causes a vicious circle in a way in that the more you try the worse it gets. Since after every miscarriage it gets worse then, in these situations, our only choice is to stop trying for at least 6 months. During this time the patient will take a course of Chinese herbs and acupuncture specifically to strengthen her kidneys’ energy. This situation can be a bit tricky. Understandably it is often hard for the patient to stop trying to conceive for 6 months. The biological clock is ticking and time is so precious but, in this situation, it is the only way to allow the kidney Qi to recover with the help of Chinese medicine. There can be other causes of recurrent miscarriage such as circulation problems, overheating or weakness of the blood. In each of these cases accurate diagnosis and choosing the correct treatment is crucial. This treatment is often successful.
IVF and Chinese medicine:
The effectiveness of Acupuncture in increasing the success rate of IVF is well established. A comprehensive review study has concluded that Acupuncture Treatment increases the chances of successful IVF by nearly 70%. The scientists who conducted the study remarked that they didn’t really understand in what way the Acupuncture helps but they made a guess that it is probably through improving the blood circulation to the womb. They weren’t that far off.
So, how is it that Acupuncture helps IVF? When treating an IVF patient, the body’s regulation of hormones, which is so important for fertility, becomes insignificant. The reason for this is that during the month leading up to the IVF the doctor will completely take over the control of the hormones. The body has nothing to do with it anymore. In the case of IVF the best thing we can do to help is to help with the quality of the Endometrium, which is the covering of the Uterus. It tends to be extremely rich in blood vessels. If we can improve the supply and the movement of blood in the Uterus we will improve the endometrium quality and that will allow a much better chance for successful implantation of the fertilised egg which has been put back in the womb. So, blood is the focus. There are, however, other areas which can improve-such as the temperature of the womb, the movement of the energy (Qi) and the kidney energy which is so important in conceiving and the development of the baby in the uterus. With an IVF patient we are going to work on and improve all of these factors in the run-up to the IVF. The results are a near 70% rise in IVF success.
This is the last post in the series about fertility. I would just like to add that there is nothing that gives me more joy, during work at the clinic, than hearing a fertility patient telling me that they are pregnant. There is something very special about helping to bring new life into this world. I remember when I used to work as a doctor in the hospital-most hospital wards were places full of misery and suffering. There was just one ward that had a lot of joy and happiness on a regular basis: it was, of course, the Obstetrics ward. In my clinic I treat couples for fertility problems on a regular basis but I always feel I would like to help more. I am concerned about ladies who have not received any help and would recommend for any couples experiencing problems with fertility to have a course of Chinese medicine. You do, however, have to be a bit careful with your choice of Practitioner. It is a fairly specialised subject so you want to make sure that your TCM practitioner is qualified and experienced in treating infertility.
Good luck with it,