TCM can greatly increase the chances of conceiving, experiencing a healthy full-term pregnancy, and birthing a happy, healthy baby. By virtue of their influence on the endocrine and reproductive systems, acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas can help address a wide range of women's health concerns which may hinder fertility, including PMS, dysmennorhea, amenorrhea, fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts and PCOS. Acupuncture and herbal medicine can improve these gynecological conditions, as well as promote optimal emotional and physical well-being necessary for nurturing a new life.
Chinese medicine can have the following benefits for those seeking to promote their fertility naturally or with the help of assisted reproductive therapies (ART) such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF) or intra-uterine insertion (IUI):
- regulate hormones
- improve ovarian functions and quantity and quality of follicles
- increase blood flow to the uterus and thicken lining for implantation
- increase sperm count, mobility and quality
- reduce chances of miscarriages
- strengthen and regulate the immune system
- decrease stress and anxiety
- relax the uterus
It is recommended to begin acupuncture treatments for both the female and male 3-6 months prior to beginning the IVF process, although Stephanie is happy to begin working with you at any stage of your preparations for conception.
The effectiveness of acupuncture and herbal medicine in increasing the success rate of fertility treatments has been widely backed by research studies. For example, here is a report on a recent study showing a 25% higher success rate in women receiving acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatments in conjunction with IUI. Here is summary of research on the ways in which acupuncture can boost pregnancy rates.
Stephanie enjoys working in collaboration with the family's primary birth professional, be that obstetrician or midwife, and helping birthing families access a comprehensive network of pregnancy and childbirth resources.
Stephanie sees her role as being among the many supporters, be they family, friends or birth professionals, who help guide a woman into the profound state of reproduction that embraces her strength and spirit, and produces a healthy mother and healthy child.
Obstetrical Issues Commonly Treated With TCM:
colds and sinus congestion
hypertensive disorders of pregnancy
low back pain
urinary tract infections
labor augmentation and induction
care of the newborn
Some Examples of the Use of Acupuncture in Pregnancy Support:
Acupuncture for Labor Induction:
In Chinese medicine, acupuncture is used to help a woman prepare for labor or induce labor when her birthing time is getting close or past due. Naturally, labor begins when the baby releases a small amount of the hormone, oxytocin, which signals the maternal hormones to initiate labor. By increasing blood circulation to the uterus, relaxing the pelvic floor muscles, lowering the baby and assisting in softening and ripening the cervix, acupuncture can help create a comfortable and conducive environment to encourage the baby to release oxytocin. Acupuncture can also aid in the calming of anxiety and relief of pain symptoms to ensure a more comfortable birth. While a post-term baby is the most common reason to seek acupuncture for labor induction, it is also sought in cases of a prematurely broken membrane or in cases where maternal or fetal health is compromised.
Acupuncture for Breech Presentation:
In one out of every six pregnancies, the baby turns into the breech, or upright, position. Acupuncture and moxibustion can successfully turn the baby back into cephalad (head-down) position. In some cases, as little as a single treatment can turn the baby. A mother should always consult with her midwife or doctor to ensure whether that the baby should be turned.
Acupuncture for Sciatica:
During the last few months of pregnancy, as the baby grows more rapidly and the pelvic joints begin to relax to accomodate birth, expectant mothers may experience back pain and sciatica that can range from a minor dicomfort to an exhausting, crippling condition. The pain is often worse at night and there is little western medicine can offer for relief aside from back exercieses and advice about proper posture to deal with altered weight-bearing. Acupuncture is one of the few safe and effective treatments for pregnancy sciatica by increasing the flow of Qi and blood in meridians that have been blocked due to changes in the body's shape and posture.
Postpartum care is often neglected in our modern western culture. Traditional cultures and traditional systems of medicine, however, have always recognized that a new mother loses much of her vital energy during childbirth. The postpartum period is traditionally regarded as a critical time during which extra care needs to be given to ensure that the mother regain her energy and strength so that she can continue to care for herself and her newborn. Hence, many cultures have a 30 or 40 day "lying in" period in which the new mother rests, bonds with her new baby, is cared for, and does not leave the home.
Traditional Chinese Medicine offers many tools for supporting a new mother's postpartum recovery, including:
- herbal sitz baths and poultices
- herbal teas to restore energy and support lactation
- nutritional therapy
"Mother Roasting" and Postpartum Care:
One of my teachers, homebirth midwife and acupuncturist Dr. Raven Lang, has written about the concept of "mother roasting" as part of essential postpartum care. Mother roasting refers to the almost universal practice, in traditional cultures, of keeping mothers warm immediately after birth and in the weeks to follow. It is believed to seal the gateways which have been opened by the birth and to keep wind and cold from entering a vulnerable new mother's body, thus facilitating recovery of vital energies after childbirth.
Mother-roasting takes various forms in different cultures. In Malaysia, a massage is traditionally given with a special stone that is heated on the fire, wrapped in a cloth and placed on the abdomen. In Thailand, a fire was kept at the new mother's bedside, and she would rotate her body every half hour to be warmed throughout day and night. In Hopi culture in Arizona, the mother was rested on top of a heated bed of sand and a sheepskin and covered well.
Moxa (burning mugwort herb) is one of the tools used in Chinese Medicine to warm the new mother, close the gateways that have been opened and rebuild her energy. Moxa softens lumps or tumors, increases circulation, tonifies and strengthens the constitution and immune system, builds Qi and Blood and incresaes whole body energy. It also feels warm and cozy, enhancing relaxation and a sense of well-being. (Please see the "What Is Moxibustion?" section on my "What Is TCM?" page.)
Moxa treatment can begin around day five post vaginal birth and a little longer after a C-section.
Making Babies: A Proven Three-month Program for Maximum Fertility, by Jill Blakeway, L.Ac. & Sami S. David, M.D.
The Infertility Cure: The Ancient Chinese Wellness Program for Getting Pregnant & Having Healthy Babies, by Randine Lewis, Ph.D.
Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, & Reproductive Health, by Toni Wechsler, MPH.
Birth Book, by Raven Lang, L.Ac., OMD.