Infertility is a common condition impacting millions of couples. Western medicine has made great strides in infertility therapy, particularly through the development of assisted reproductive technology (ART), including in vitro fertilization. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) offers a holistic view of infertility that complements the Western approach.

While Western medicine focuses on measuring and using hormones to achieve pregnancy, TCM looks at the health of the whole body. Infertility is a sign of underlying imbalance. TCM teaches that the Liver is the organ system responsible for the menstrual cycle. Signs of a Liver function disorder include heavy menstrual bleeding and clotting, headaches during the menstrual cycle, PMS, tendon problems, hair problems, and nail problems. A Liver function disorder can exist even when all lab tests, including hormones, are normal.

TCM acknowledges the impact of hormonal contraception on fertility. Birth control suppresses Liver function, so the longer a woman has been on birth control, the harder it will be to become pregnant. Clearly, the process of trying to conceive is stressful and taxing—both physically and emotionally. Ironically, the Liver is the organ system that balances emotions and stress. Too much stress can further lead to Liver dysfunction.

So what is the answer? Acupuncture, herbs, and Qigong can help restore Liver function and whole-body balance. These treatments can be used in tandem with Western approaches to fertility. The first step is to begin with a TCM approach to build the body’s energy, or Qi. Then, the ART can begin, if needed. TCM practices can be used to support ART, decrease side effects of hormonal therapy, and increase the chance of pregnancy. These techniques do not interfere with the efficacy of ART.

TCM has an impact beyond achieving pregnancy alone. If a parent is not healthy, the child will not receive the best energy for development. Healthy pregnancies begin from a state of balance. By healing your body before pregnancy, you have the opportunity to pass healing wisdom along to your child. This level of healing is the greatest gift you can give yourself and your growing child!

-Dr. Melissa Laborsky

Pregnancy, Women's Health

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