A Personal Note from Roxy Han L.Ac.
Of all of the things that I have, one of the most precious, is a collection of thank you cards and baby photos from couples that I’ve helped conceive.
It never gets old. Every time I get a picture of a chubby cheeked new baby in the mail I get a big goofy smile on my face.
I love that I get to help people with this amazing system of medicine. The more I learn about it, the more in awe I become with its intelligence, and harmony. By themselves, or in conjunction with Western medicine, acupuncture and herbal medicine powerfully facilitate the path to pregnancy. I’ve seen it happen time and time again.
My patients, as all couples seeking help with fertility, represent a wide range of clinical issues. Among them, there are no two identical stories. All my patients are different people, and as such, have different lifestyles, different bodies, different health histories, etc. Isn’t it strange then, that so much of western medicine applies a “cookie cutter” approach to treatment?
I believe that the particular strength of acupuncture and herbal medicine with infertility, as with other pathologies, is in its customized approach. From a traditional Chinese medical standpoint, there are several different reasons why a couple may not be able to conceive. It is my job as an acupuncture fertility specialist to find out which reason it is, and treat accordingly.
As I said before, each person is very different from the next, so it is crucial to get an absolutely accurate diagnosis. That is why I gather evidence for diagnosis from several sources. I start with the standard health history questionnaire, and a separate fertility history questionnaire. Using those as a launching pad, I ask my patient more specific questions that get me additional information I need.
From there, I look for physical evidence of certain pathologies in my patient’s skin, eyes, pulse quality, and tongue. Finally, when I am satisfied that I have enough information I distill what I’ve gathered into a precise, patient specific diagnosis.
In the realm of Chinese medical infertility, there are several different possible diagnoses, too many to highlight here. But I will give you two examples so that you can see the contrast between them.
In the first case, just a few months ago I had a patient, let’s call her Mrs. A, who came to see me 2 weeks before a scheduled In Vitro procedure. She wrote down in her history that over the past year she had been having extremely light periods that only lasted 2 or 3 days. Her skin was pale and her tongue was pale.
For a practitioner of Chinese medicine, those are all signs of what we call “blood deficiency.” It does not always mean anemia. In fact, there is no English term that is an exact translation. It basically means that the body does not have enough circulating blood, doesn’t have good quality of blood, or that the tissues are not receiving nourishment.
A woman with this type of clinical picture may get pregnant, but would have a very difficult time maintaining the pregnancy. For this type of patient, the uterine lining, which is made of blood, may be too thin to properly anchor and nourish the implanting egg.
The odds of this woman having a successful IVF were slim. I gave her my honest assessment, but she decided to do the IVF anyway. Unfortunately, she did not get pregnant.
However, she came to see me for the next 3 months to prepare her body for the next IVF attempt. I gave her acupuncture to circulate blood to her uterus, and herbal medicine to cultivate healthier blood and tissues. Happily, a few weeks before her 2nd scheduled IVF Mrs. A became pregnant naturally!
Many women who are having difficulty with fertility have blood deficiency, like Mrs. A, however, as I said before, there are several other types of imbalances, which can also impair fertility. To give you an example of another type of infertility take the case of a patient whom I’ll call Mrs. C.
Mrs. C came to see me last year for fertility help. All of her western diagnostic tests came back normal. She was only in her early thirties, yet, she had been trying to get pregnant for 2 years with no success. To her doctors she was a mystery. They told her that she could try fertility drugs, but she decided to give acupuncture a chance instead.
During her consultation I asked her my usual thousand questions, and learned that she usually feels cold before other people do, she often craves hot drinks, and when she has menstrual cramps she likes to put a hot water bottle on her abdomen.
When I went to feel her pulse I was not surprised to find she had cold hands. Among other signs and symptoms, these were all clear indications that this woman had a condition that we call “cold womb” in Chinese Medicine. It is one outcome of a deficiency of warming energy that is known as “yang.”
In the world of Chinese medical fertility, we define progesterone as a warm hormone, and therefore the “yang” hormone. When a woman is deficient in yang, this means that she is either not producing, or responding to progesterone. The blood vessels in the uterus are cold, they constrict. The implanting egg then cannot be nourished.
This woman’s condition was also complicated by another imbalance, one we call cold-damp. This means, basically, that a person is harboring excess mucous in their body. The signs that clued me into the discovery that this woman’s cold-damp imbalance, were that she had a thicker tongue coating, she often had a runny nose, and liked eating a lot of dairy foods, which easily engender mucous.
This can be a problem with fertility because mucous, or what we call “cold-damp,” is usually systemic. It’s inside the whole body, not just where it’s visible, such as when it’s coming out of the nose. Excess phlegm and mucous can also reside inside the fallopian tubes where they can hinder an egg’s journey to the uterus.
With those two imbalances in mind I created a custom made herbal formula with warming and mucous clearing ingredients for this woman. She had regular acupuncture, and she was also very open to the dietary changes I suggested for her. She cut out the dairy foods, and raw cold type foods, which helped her considerably.
Within a little over 5 months, Mrs. C (who was no longer cold) called me extremely excited to be pregnant. Now she has a healthy baby girl, who is adorable and looks just like her!
I love getting outcomes like this for people. Of course, it doesn’t happen 100% of the time. Just like with IVF, or IUI, Chinese medicine is not infallible. However, I can safely say that the majority of my fertility clients do become pregnant.
If you have read this far, what I’d really like for you to take away from this is that Traditional Chinese Medical practitioners, such as myself, look at infertility in a completely different way than western practitioners.
Sometimes we see something they don’t see. Sometimes you are not as far away from fertility as you might think. Sometimes correcting an imbalance is all it takes to tip the scales. So don’t give up. Give acupuncture a try, and you might just be sending me a picture of your beautiful bouncing baby sometime soon.