The one simple reason and it’s almost always overlooked
The concept is simple and foundational, but there’s one thing so often overlooked that makes the difference between having a healthy baby or continuing to struggle to try.
Individuals and couples coming to my clinic bring with them various test results and history of symptoms in the desperate hope that my treatment can give them the solution where western medicine has failed. They may have gynaecological diseases (PCOS, or endometriosis) or andrological issues (such as poor semen parameters). Perhaps they had their first child with ease and now are struggling to conceive a second, or worse, have been given the dreaded diagnosis of “unexplained infertility” or recurrent miscarriage where Doctor’s cannot understand they’re not conceiving or managing to stay pregnant and have no treatment solution to offer. Whatever the reason for attending my clinic, the frustration and upset in their quest for a baby for over a year, sometimes several years, is raw and deep for all of them. But there is one problem that I’ve found almost every patient has in common. It’s the one thing that stops them from moving forward, and it’s the one thing that I make my absolute priority in treating from the very beginning. Ironically, it is the most fundamental, simple and foundational concept that should form the basis of any fertility treatment approach. The one thing stopping you is that the underlying cause is not being identified.
Many patients assume that a Western medical diagnosis (if you have been given one) is the reason why they are not conceiving or staying pregnant. Perhaps you have had your hormones tested, which has flagged a reproductive disorder. With something being identified comes the inevitable and seeming conclusion that this is the issue as to why it’s not happening, but is this the underlying cause? Let’s take the gynaecological disorder of endometriosis as an example, a disease where endometrial tissue grows in other areas or the reproductive system such as the ovaries or fallopian tubes, blocking their normal function. Of course, this is likely to be a contributing factor, and in many cases, patients undergo surgery to remove the residual tissue. Still, the problem remains as we see when the endometriosis redevelops over time and causes the problem all over again. So surgery, although a treatment, is still only a temporary solution. The other thing to consider, is what else does this mean in its additional effects on the whole fertility picture? What makes the body behave like this? In other words, it’s not the disease we should be treating but the root causes of why things are manifesting this way. TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) perceives the body as multiple systems of energies and interrelated functions; by looking closely at these complexities, we can diagnose the causes rather than just focus on the resulting disease. Specifically, we assess the individual patient at a much deeper level of systemic processes incorporating the functions (and dysfunctions) of the major organ systems (collectively known as the Zang-fu) because the organ systems are the root of the entire holistic body system and therefore where disease and dysfunction stem from. Once a proper diagnosis is identified, treatment via acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine will use this same approach to specifically target and treat the causes. This, I believe, is where TCM excels in treating fertility disorders and dysfunction: as a real underlying diagnosis can be determined, a more permanent solution to the problem can be found. Moreover, any related body functions that rely on these underlying factors can also function more effectively, bringing about an entire optimal fertility health picture.
Case: Hayley, aged 36, trying to conceive a second child
Hayley came to see me after 13 months of trying to conceive her second child. She and her husband had no problems conceiving her first, three years earlier with a healthy pregnancy though a traumatic birth. After over a year of trying she decided to have her blood tested which all returned normal; in fact, her Doctor had told her they were promising, showing she was very fertile for her age. Her cycle was regular, and her hormones seemed balanced as she experienced very little PMS. Her husband’s semen parameters were equally as good. As nothing was showing up in their tests, their doctor told them to “just keep trying”, but this was frustrating for her as she knew there was something wrong and felt like something had changed since having her daughter three years earlier. She was seriously considering IVF treatment as there was nothing Western medicine could do for her. In our thorough assessment, Hayley told me she had been a sufferer of IBS since her teens. She doesn’t medicate but watches what she eats very closely as she knows what foods aggravate the condition. It had gotten worse since the birth of her daughter, and her diet was now very strict to manage the condition. Hayley always felt the cold, and a closer look at the actual hormone figures showed that her progesterone level, although within the normal range, was on the lower side. With further assessment of the quality of her menses, her periods, although considered “normal”, lasted only 2-3 days. The flow was sometimes stop-start; it was much fuller in quantity and more fluent before having her daughter. Her TCM diagnosis was a deficiency of her Spleen Qi and Kidney Yang*
I told her to stop eating raw and cold foods and advised foods to build the vital energy of these organ systems by adding chicken, lamb, bone-broth, salmon, prawns, walnuts, chestnuts and quinoa to her diet; and to eliminate cow’s milk which builds up Damp in the system further attacking the Spleen energy. She had acupuncture once per week. After three acupuncture sessions, she reported that her IBS symptoms had begun to calm considerably and she felt stronger, less fatigued. Her IBS became less and less apparent and she noticed that by her third menstrual cycle her period was fuller and more fluent and she reported not feeling cold so much. By the 4th month, she was pregnant and went on to have a baby boy. She has further since had her 3rd child, a healthy baby girl, completing her dream family.
*In TCM, the Spleen controls the transformation of food into vital nutrients and is responsible for transporting them to the rest of the body systems; one of the essential nutrients it produces is Blood. When the Spleen is weak combined with Kidney weakness, patients feel the Cold very easily and find it hard to get warm as the internal thermal Fire produced and controlled by the Kidney system dysfunctions. This further affects the body’s ability to produce sufficient progesterone. Signs of digestive disorders such as loose stools and digestive sensitivity to certain foods similar to allergic sensitivities that attack the digestion and bowels. Many women struggle to conceive their second child due to the stress of pregnancy and birth, particularly if there is an underlying Spleen deficiency that prevents the body from replenishing the blood and vital energy sufficiently after birth. The weakness of the Spleen becomes more apparent as the body struggles to recuperate after pregnancy and childbirth.
Like so many others I have treated, Hayley’s case is a testament to how TCM can successfully treat fertility issues because of its holistic and detailed assessments of the body’s systems and functions as a whole. Once we closely assess every aspect of the body and its varying health issues, we can identify the real underlying causes and which organ systems are dysfunctioning. Follow this with Acupuncture treatment that can balance function and performance instead of just focusing on the resulting disease, and a long-term treatment solution is found. I believe so many patients could avoid IVF and have their condition treated naturally with TCM. Finding the underlying root causes and being able to treat them is the absolute key to allow couples to have a child without the need for medical or synthetic intervention, the long term solution being that as their underlying fertile health has been addressed, they can go on and have more naturally-conceived children if they wish to do so.