Trying to conceive? A TCM expert shares tips and treatments to help you get pregnant more easily.
Whether you’re having difficulty conceiving or planning to get pregnant, the holistic approach that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) takes to improve your fertility may work for you. Unlike other approaches that typically focus on just one aspect of your health, TCM takes into consideration the patient’s physical and emotional state, seeking to improve her overall body and mind to optimise fertility. Think of it as “cultivating the soil before planting the seed,” says senior physician Zhong Xi Ming of Eu Yan Sang Premier TCM Centre. Once you’re sleeping well and vitalised, and you have good digestion and a healthy sense of self, your body systems, including the reproductive system, can then work more efficiently, she elaborates.
What causes infertility?
Irregular or absent menstrual periods, age, endometriosis, abnormal cervical mucus, uterine abnormalities and an unhealthy body weight all contribute to fertility problems, says senior physician Zhong. To counter these conditions, patients are advised to go for weekly follow-up TCM treatments for at least three months to regulate ovulation and balance their hormonal activity. Four to six months after their initial treatment, patients can expect an improvement in their egg quality.
TCM treatments for fertility
“If you want to avoid taking fertility drugs, are not eligible for IVF, or want to improve the success rate of IVF, consider acupuncture and herbal medicine,” advises senior physician Zhong on the two most common TCM treatments for fertility.
She explains that herbal prescriptions treat infertility due to Qi and Yin and Yang problems affecting your blood, liver, kidney, spleen and water circulation, while acupuncture uses hair-thin disposable and sterilised needles inserted into acupoints on your body to get Qi flowing into affected areas, thus triggering a healing response. In some cases, electric currents may be used and you may feel a tingling sensation, achiness or soreness.
There’s also science backing up the benefits of acupuncture. Research from Weill Cornell Medical Center in the US has found that acupuncture does help balance hormones to regulate ovulation, aids blood circulation to increase the changes of a fertilised egg implanting in the womb, and also boosts rates of success for women undergoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
(Also read: What to Expect When You Detox the TCM Way)
TCM tips to improve fertility
Besides the aforementioned treatments, senior physician Zhong shares that there are many things women can do on their own to improve their chances of conceiving. These include eating well and having a healthy lifestyle.
Exercising regularly in moderation is helpful, as both lack of exercise and extreme exercises can cause infertility, she cautions. Stress can also cause Qi and blood stagnation, disrupting ovulation, embryo implantation and increasing risk of miscarriage. “Try acupuncture, yoga, meditation, breathing and other mind body therapies to relax,” she advises. “Massages can help too.” One big no-no is alcohol, she cautions, as alcohol can impact fertility in both sexes, affecting conception and implantation. “There is no safe dose of alcohol.”
You may also want to take a closer look at your diet. Senior physician Zhong recommends a fertility meal plan consisting of lean meat, eggs, seafood, liver, beans, and fresh vegetables and fruits. According to her, dark leafy greens help improve ovulation and improves your partner’s sperm. However, be cautious with soya beans as they may improve female fertility but lower your spouse’s sperm count. It’d be good to reduce your intake of processed foods, and you’d want to cut down on carbs and sugar, as high blood sugar levels supposedly reduce chances of conception. Don’t rely on health supplements and nourishment products as well.
When you’re ready to conceive, you should regulate your body fat by consuming healthy fats like olive oil or supplementing with DHA. “These good fats are beneficial to the development and nervous system of the foetus,” she explains. Avoid trans fats as they’re associated with a high risk of fertility, and if you’re having dairy, go for the full-fat versions to lower your risk of ovarian dysfunction and improve ovulation. Avoid low-fat dairy as they have been linked to ovulatory dysfunction.