“All I want is two pink lines.” It has probably been your wish for many months or even years. Month after month your hopes rise, only to fall again when your menses start.
Since 2009, Thomson Chinese Medicine has been supporting women’s fertility. With acupuncture, herbal medication, and other traditional therapies, our physicians offer alternative treatments for women (and men) who have been walking the long road of infertility.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) sees the body as a whole – mind, body, and spirit one ecosystem. Anything that is affecting the natural conception is seen as a malfunction or disturbance of this ecosystem. Of course, physical issues of the reproductive system, organs and hormones need to be considered. However, each of these elements is not isolated. They need to orchestrate seamlessly to create the right conditions for pregnancy to occur.
Our experienced TCM physicians at Thomson Chinese Medicine are committed to helping you restore your fertility. With acupuncture and herbal medicine, we can work together to increase your chances of conceiving, keeping your body healthy while your baby is in your tummy, up until it is time for you to give birth.
What you will find in this article is how TCM’s holistic approach can provide solutions using acupuncture, herbal medicine, and nutrition to increase fertility.
Part I: How Can Traditional Chinese Medicine Improve Your Chances of Getting Pregnant?
Infertility affects 1 in 6 couples. For that one couple, being diagnosed with infertility can be very difficult, especially for women. In TCM, the energy balance in the meridians (energy highways) to the reproductive organs is important. For fertility, the three key organ systems involved are Kidney, Liver, and Spleen. By seeking TCM fertility treatments in Singapore to support these organs and balance the energy, your natural production of hormones will improve. Hence, it will increase your chances of getting pregnant.
At the hands of fertility practitioners from TCM clinics, fertility problems are combatted to its roots. Treatment plans have one objective: to enhance your chances to have a natural conception. However, to accomplish this, addressing the causes of infertility is the first step to take.
What causes infertility, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Fertility issues have been treated with TCM for thousands of years. Not only in Singapore, but in many countries all over the world are using it to treat fertility issues. The causes of fertility are wide-ranging. It can be due to ovarian, fallopian tubes or uterine factors, such as endometriosis or endocrine problems such as PCOS, various autoimmune issues, or sperm defects. Sometimes, there is no clear explanation and couples are thrown into a spiral of more tests, more diagnosis, and sometimes more disappointments.
In terms of women’s infertility, the four main organ systems of Kidney, Liver, Spleen, and Heart together with Yin, Yang, Qi, and Blood are mostly likely to be imbalanced. These can be caused by an excess or lack of energy, and TCM for fertility aims to nurse them back to its natural function of distributing vital energies throughout the body, and eventually restore their natural fertility. Here are some of the causes of infertility believed in TCM philosophy:
Staying calm and stress-free is not easy, especially when you are trying to conceive amidst busy work schedules and fast-paced lifestyle. The pressure among females who are already in their 30s to 40s does not help as well. In TCM, stress is closely related to Liver Qi stagnation and presents itself as being irritable, sighing often, tight chest or PMS. It is a biological response to a threat or an inability to respond appropriately to the environment, and it can put the body in a “fight or flight” survival mode. Over-worrying, burn out, over-exercising or lack of sleep is often the source of stress and inhibits the utilisation of progesterone that affects fertility. It increases cortisol hormones which redirect the blood flow to the brains and muscles and away from the reproductive organ.
Ovulation may be affected by your diet. Irregular or absent ovulation is one of the common causes of infertility since this is the natural body process that is responsible for the hormonal function, which makes a woman’s egg available for fertilisation every month. With a neglected diet, you will increase your risk for irregular ovulation. To help you get a better understanding of your nutritional needs, TCM nutritional therapy will be part of our practitioners’ fertility plan to address the lack of food that should be distributed to your body. It may include warming your foods more often and chewing them thoroughly to aid in preserving your Spleen’s energy.
Effects from our environment
TCM promotes the harmony of mind and body to achieve the optimal condition for natural conception. However, living in an industrialised environment where different types of toxic chemicals are present in the air, it can have detrimental effects on your body and affect your fertility. These chemicals are called endocrine disruptors which can enter your body and mimic hormones. It muddles your natural hormonal pattern, which prevents or completely halting your fertility process. As much as possible, ensure that you are avoiding chemicals in cosmetics and perfumes and plastic food containers to block these endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Practitioners in Singapore will use TCM herbal medicines to support your Liver detoxification process and advise you on foods that can support your fertility.
Improving your overall health involves the process of evaluating your lifestyle choices. It means that you have to stop your vice of drinking or smoking and replacing it with more movement in your everyday life. A bit of Ba Duan Jin or Yoga exercises could be a step to changing the energy of your body. Listening to your body’s needs will not take a lifetime to practice, and TCM practitioners believe that your hormonal imbalances are due to your restless shen (the spirit in your heart) and being under or overly-active. To restore this imbalance, your TCM practitioner will recommend the correct dietary practices and exercise routines to raise your fertility quotient.
How does acupuncture work in helping you get pregnant?
After your TCM practitioner diagnosed your current condition, they will lay down a plan on how to realign your body back to its balanced state with acupuncture. Performing acupuncture for fertility involves inserting needles into your body’s acupoints to release blocked energy that is preventing your body to restore its natural balance. Following this, it will eventually boost the fertility process.
It clears block energies and restores balance
A human body is composed of meridians which are also known as energy highways. Each meridian is connected to an organ and lined with acupuncture points, each with their own specific functions. These points play the role of tonifying your bodily systems, including your reproductive system. TCM believes that the imbalance of these energies disrupts your body’s capability to ovulate and stabilise hormonal fluctuations. The gentle insertion of thin and disposable sterile needles that practitioners in TCM clinics in Singapore do to stimulate the 14 major pathways of your body will help restore that balance and improve your fertility.
It complements Western fertility treatments
Herbal remedies and prescriptions are often partnered with repeated acupuncture sessions in TCM clinics. When these natural approaches are harmonised, it strengthens and regulates the hormonal systems of your body. When a needle is inserted, the pressure causes a micro electric current, which causes a release of prostaglandins into the bloodstream. It stimulates the brain that controls hormonal activity. Hence, acupuncture can help stimulate the hormonal system and assist in both women’s and men’s fertility. Thus, engaging with regular acupuncture treatment during natural conception or ART can support your chance of conceiving.
It boosts the efficiency of reproductive organs
TCM fertility treatment is like prepping the garden soil. The more nourished and irrigated it is, the higher the chance for the seed to grow. Acupuncture can help to improve the flow of energy and bring the much-needed nutrients to boost the efficiency of reproductive organs. Acupuncture points are mainly located on the lower abdomen, legs, and arms which are closely related to the three main organ systems: Kidney, Liver, and Spleen which play a key role in fertility.
Beyond conceiving: The benefits of TCM for pregnant mums
A baby underway requires constant care and attention until birth. In the meantime, your body serves as a vessel to support the growth of the baby. TCM treatments do not stop as soon as you fall pregnant. Instead, it continues to improve the condition of your body as a mum.
The goal of an infertility treatment from a TCM perspective is not only about increasing the chance of pregnancy, but also ensuring a healthy body while you are carrying the baby. The benefits of getting TCM acupuncture during your pregnancy are:
Helps prevent miscarriages
Especially for women going through IUI or IVF, acupuncture is safe and recommended to do until the end of the first trimester to stabilise the pregnancy.
Cope with morning sickness
Many mums-to-be experience morning sickness, which is an unpleasant side effect of pregnancy. Contrary to what its name suggests, morning sickness can happen at any time of the day. Symptoms may vary, but common symptoms include loss of appetite, bouts of nausea, and vomiting. You can trust that consistent acupuncture can help to alleviate the symptoms.
Alleviates body aches
Acupuncture can help with aches and pain. Treatment will be given with care to avoid any acupuncture points that are contraindicated for pregnancy.
Support pregnancy fatigue
Fatigue is a common symptom amongst pregnant mums. It is because your body is adjusting to a load of extra energy dedicated to nourishing your baby, developing the placenta, and adapting to hormonal changes.
Part II: How TCM can work in tandem during IVF or IUI treatments
In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) are two prominent methods of Assisted Reproductive Therapy (ART) that help couples with their fertility problems. Both of these procedures are effective and have had numerous successful cases from couples all over the world. In IUI treatment, it aims in giving the sperm a strong chance to reach the fallopian tubes to increase the odds of fertilisation whereas, in IVF, sperm and eggs are fertilised under the hands of an embryologist before being transferred into the uterus. Both have the same end goal, and both can be supported by TCM treatments.
TCM has been widely used to support IVF since 2002 when a team of German researchers first reported an increase in clinical pregnancy rates when acupuncture was done during IVF. Results showed that pregnancies assisted with acupuncture were up at 42.5%, versus 26.3% in the control group who were not. Thus, having the same goal as western medicine, they can go hand in hand to achieve improved women’s health and energy flow to increase fertility.
TCM to Support IVF
One cycle of an IVF procedure can take a few weeks to a few months, depending on your case. It involves ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, sperm retrieval, fertilisation, and embryo transfer. When it comes to IVF, we recommend you to start prepping the body at least three months before. It is because it takes 90 days for egg recruitment, and it gives ample time to get your body ready for IVF. However, if you have already started on drug stimulations, your TCM practitioner will schedule your acupuncture treatments in line with your IVF procedure schedule. Regular acupuncture of twice a week is recommended. The last session usually ends 10 to 12 days after the embryo transfer is completed.
TCM to Support IUI
Sperm quality is improved by IUI’s washing method of separating the semen from the seminal fluid. It is done when a man’s sperm count is low or has decreased sperm motility or morphology. It is also an option for unexplained infertility, a hostile cervical condition, a past cervical scar tissue that prevents sperm from entering the uterus, and ejaculation dysfunction. It has a success rate of 10-20% per cycle, but it can go up depending on the sperm and egg quality. With TCM’s acupuncture and herbs, it may increase the chance for successful implantation. Similar to IVF, it is recommended to start TCM treatments three months before priming the body and ensure optimal condition before IUI. Take this time to nourish your body by following a clean diet with organic fruits, nuts, vegetables, probiotic supplements, and high-fibre foods.
A woman’s reproductive health should be in harmony so that there is a higher chance for them to be fertile and bear a child. However, this harmony is disrupted by stress and anxiety that can contribute to infertility and risk of miscarriage. To counter it, TCM appeals that getting acupuncture from Singapore clinics can boost a woman’s health to achieve this harmony.
What are the effects of the acupuncture sessions at different stages of my IVF/IUI treatment?
BEFORE IVF/IUI treatment:
- Calms the patient and relaxes the uterus.
- Primes the body to ensure optimal condition during IUI/IVF treatment.
DURING IVF/IUI treatment: (during follicle stimulation phase)
- Strengthens the Spleen and Kidney to enhance their response to the Follicle Stimulation Hormones (FSH).
- Supports the Liver to improve blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, thereby improving the quality of follicles and thickening the endometrial lining.
AFTER IUI cycle or IVF embryo transfer:
- Improves circulation and reduces stress.
- Improves blood circulation to the uterus, thereby maintaining implantation and nourishment of embryos for a healthy and successful pregnancy.
Foods to Prioritise for fertility
Chinese tradition recognises food as our main source of energy and each food has different energetic qualities. For example, hot and spicy foods are heaty and more Yang whereas bitter and raw food is cooling and more Yin. For fertility, TCM generally advocates cooked and warming food. It is to ensure that the digestive fire in our Spleen and Stomach is strong and can digest the food efficiently. In this way, nutrients can be absorbed to nourish the whole body.
It is also important to nourish the body with whole meals that have plenty of vegetables and fruits. Eat organic and hormone-free meats whenever possible. Supplement with a high bioavailability multivitamin and mineral complex to support fertility. Specific food such as Chinese red dates, walnuts, and maca is also known to nourish the Qi and Blood.
Here are the foods that you should prioritise to supplement the lack of nourishment in your body and aid the optimal performance of your organs:
TCM practitioners will also recommend that you avoid these habits:
Work with a TCM Practitioner
In TCM clinics in Singapore, practitioners recognise your concern about eating the right types of food to boost your fertility. They are equipped with knowledge of nutrition that impacts your reproductive health to further your fertility process. Thus, working together with them can help you create an internal environment where your Qi and blood can flow through your reproductive organs without hindrances.
Part III: How Can a Traditional Chinese Medicine Help with Male fertility?
When trying to conceive, it takes two to tango. As we age, both men and women’s reproductive systems start to decline. Number and quality of the eggs and sperms decrease with our natural ageing process. According to an article published last year, Singapore has a 72% increase in male fertility cases from 2015 to 2017. Thus, the long time perception that the woman is usually the infertile partner when couples fail to conceive has shifted.
Your relationship with a TCM practitioner begins in an in-depth consultation. Here, they will carefully study your medical history, lifestyle habits, and diet. Expect that they will take their time getting to know you and your partner, and closely create a bond around your goals on making a baby. TCM practitioners are also trained in giving emotional support. Thus, you are open to ask for their therapeutic advice to ease your emotional disturbances. In your treatment plan, which may comprise acupuncture sessions and/or Chinese herbal medicine prescriptions, you will see it tailored according to your health history and current condition.
Although success rates are not set in stone, some research has shown that acupuncture, in conjunction with other fertility treatments like Chinese herbal medication, increases success rates by 60%.
TCM for Fertility by Thomson Chinese Medicine
Thomson Chinese Medicine was first established in 2009 within Thomson Medical Centre to support fertility patients undergoing IVF. For over a decade, we have been supporting men and women with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicines to treat infertility here in Singapore. We offer tailored and holistic approaches to address the root causes of your infertility by carefully understanding you and your body’s needs. By booking an in-depth consultation with us, our practitioners will lay down a treatment plan that considers your prior health examinations, current lifestyle, and TCM diagnosis.
Our team of practitioners upholds the TCM philosophy that healing goes beyond diminishing pain. Improve your overall health with our acupuncture and herbs to restore fertility and increase the chances of conceiving naturally or support your procedure of any Western ART!
Get the key to fertility with our TCM treatments. Book a consultation with our TCM practitioners today.