Infertility

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The Importance of Getting Educated On the Birth Control Pill

I treat many women who are trying to get pregnant after being on the birth control pill for many years. It always amazes me that there is not enough information that is given to women in regards to the pill. Many females are prescribed the birth control pill for a variety of reasons-birth control, PMS, reduction of painful menstruation, hormonal acne, as well as to help regulate their cycle. In many cases, women start the pill at an early age and continue it throughout their 20’s.  While many women may experience the return of the menstrual cycle without any issues after stopping the pill, others have issues with irregular menstruation as well as amenorrhea (absence of their menstrual cycle). I often see these types of cases in my office, my patients who are trying to get pregnant after being on the pill for some time. In certain cases, there are underlying issues such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome that can cause irregular menstruation.  In other cases, there was no cause to amenorrhea or the absence of their period. Let’s take a look first in how the pill works.

The pill is a blend of estrogen and progestin and in some pills only progestin. The combination of hormones work to inhibit ovulation, as well as increase cervical mucus, which makes it harder for sperm to pass through.  That is how it works to inhibit pregnancy. A period takes place after stopping progestin. It signals to the body to shed the uterine lining.  Therefore, although you are getting a period, it is not your natural period taking place.  There are many benefits to taking the pill because of that–the natural hormonal activity is not taking place and many symptoms related to menstruation can cease. However, the issue lies in just that–exogenous hormones are being put in one’s system–the natural hormonal activity of the menstrual cycle is not taking place. Therefore, it does not really act to regulate menstruation. Furthermore, if there are issues that occur, it can go undetected for years until a woman finally goes off the pill.  That is normally the time when I see these cases.  It is important to be educated on the birth control pill particularly if you would like to get pregnant.

On The BCP and Thinking of Getting Pregnant

If you are trying to get pregnant or have been on the birth control pill for many years, going off the pill for a year before wanting to actually try to get pregnant will allow one to address any issues that may be present.   It also allows one cycle to return. It can take time for a female’s period to resume after being on the pill for many years so it is important to have time on one’s side and seek treatment if there are issues after stopping the pill.

Timing

I often recommend to my patients who have been on the birth control pill for many years to stop it and let their period resume.  They can go on the pill at a later point but it is good to let the body’s natural hormones and cycle take place.  It also can give one indication if there are underlying reproductive issues going on. Of course, if you decide to stop the pill, you must have other types of contraception.

Resolution of Symptoms

If you are on the pill for painful menstruation, acne, irregular menstruation as well as other types of health issues, there are other options that you can seek out.  Many of my patients have told me that they wish they knew of other options to treat their health issues. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine are successful natural treatments for many women’s menstrual disorders such as hormonal acne, PCOS, painful menstruation, irregular menstruation and PMS.

I hope you enjoyed this article; if you have any questions, please feel free to contact deb@sage-wellness.com.

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When you are going through IVF it is not only an emotional roller coaster ride but also can be financially draining.  You are looking for everything to help boost your chances of getting pregnant. Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to treat infertility and now it used as an integrative approach for women undergoing assisted fertility treatments such as IUI and IVF.

One study done showed 42.5% of women who were undergoing acupuncture and IVF get pregnant compared to the control group of 21.3% pregnancy rate who did not receive acupuncture pre and post transfer.1

How Does Acupuncture Work With IVF?

Acupuncture helps to correct imbalances in the reproductive system that may be impeding a woman’s chances of getting pregnant.  Therefore, the most optimal time to start acupuncture is 2-3 months before undergoing IVF to help correct those imbalances and support the reproductive system thus enabling a healthier uterine environment for IVF. Once a woman is undergoing IVF, acupuncture helps to:

  • Increase blood flow to the uterus which is important for implantation
  • Stimulate follicle growth
  • Reduce Stress
  • Build A Healthy Uterine Lining

Acupuncture During Follicular-Stimulating Stage

Ideally, I see patients twice during their stimulation phase.  This is when follicle stimulating drugs are administered to enhance follicle growth.  The main goal is to produce a good amount of eggs and good quality eggs.  Acupuncture during this time helps to support the reproductive system and stimulates follicular growth.

Acupuncture During Retrieval Stage

During the retrieval, when the eggs are retrieved from the ovaries to be fertilized, I like to see patients before their retrieval for acupuncture. This helps to bring blood flow to the ovaries and remove any obstructions such as dampness or blood stasis to help fertilization take place.

Acupuncture During Transfer Stage

This is normally the time of anxiety.  It is finally here to transfer the fertilized eggs.  I see patients before their transfer and then 24 to 48 hours after their transfer.  Acupuncture given before transfer enables blood flow to the uterus, helps to relax the patient thus relaxing muscles and priming the uterine environment for implantation.

A post transfer treatment helps to reduce uterine spasms, thus supporting implantation.

If you want more information or have specific questions, please call our office at 917.763.8560 to schedule a complimentary 20 minute phone consultation.

References:

Paulus WE, Zhang M, Strehler E, El-Danasouri I, Sterzik K. Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Fertil Steril 2002; 77: 721-4.

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Moxibustion is a “warming”technique using the herb mugwort or ai ya in Chinese Medicine.  Mugwort has been used in many different cultures for its medicinal properties. Moxibustion helps to increase blood circulation, tonify energy and stimulate digestive system function as well as boost the immune system. Moxibustion comes in different forms including direct and indirect moxibustion.

Indirect moxa can be either pole moxa, like in the picture to the right, or when moxa is placed at the end of an acupuncture needle and lit. Direct moxibustion is when a cone shaped moxa is placed directly on the skin or is placed on a barrier such as ginger and then placed on the skin.  This form of moxibustion is not as commonly used since it can burn the skin.

Moxibustion is used for a variety of health conditions. Since moxibustion is warm and dry it is used in certain health issues where there are deficiencies of energy such as chronic fatigue syndrome as well as certain types of IBS disorders and diarrhea.  Moxibustion is very beneficial in treating arthritic conditions as well as joint pain when the pain is predominantly worse in cold or damp weather.  Moxibustion is also used in woman’s health disorders such as infertility, ovarian cysts and menstrual cramps.  It is also beneficial in improving poor sperm motility and impotence.

Moxibustion is also a popular technique used for breech presentations.  A moxa stick is normally used and placed about an inch away from a point on the little toe.

Moxibustion is safe to use but it is warm and drying so people that tend to be warm or experience night sweats should avoid using moxibustion.

References:

Dharmananda, Subhuti Moxibustion, Practical Considerations for Modern Use of An Ancient Technique, retrieved March 9, 2011 http://www.itmonline.org/arts/moxibustion.htm.

In addition to what’s going on in your body, environmental factors play a large role in your ability to become pregnant. That’s one reason why yoga might be a good activity to look into if you are trying to conceive.

According to this article, yoga is effective in promoting fertility due to its focus on removing stress from your body, as well as tension being placed on the reproductive organs. Yoga class is also a great time to put aside other worries in your life and focus on your intentions, one of which just might be to soon see a baby on its way!

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Health issues, stress and age are all major factors that influence the ability to conceive. With nearly three million women facing fertility challenges in America each year, its important to realize that you are not alone and that there a number of treatments that can help you.

In Chinese Herbal Medicine, there is the belief that you must “prepare the soil” before getting pregnant. So, three or four months before you plan to get pregnant, its important to add in some key natural foods that will help your body accept the pregnancy. These include:

  • Miso: Filled with healthy salts, miso balances the kidney, one of
    kale
    Fresh Kale

    the most important organs in the body according to TCM.

  • Kale/Chard/Collards: These dark leafy greens are abundantwith vitamins and minerals, especially folic acid, which hasbeen shown to improve your chances of conception.
  • Seaweed: Seaweed helps balance your “water essence” and offers a number of minerals and natural salts that help nourish the kidneys.
  • Beans: Take a look at the shape of the beans you are eating. Those shaped like the ovaries, kidneys, etc. are beneficial to the respective organs and provide good natural protein.

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If you are trying to get pregnant, it is important to understand your body’s natural fertility signs because there is a certain window of opportunity in a women’s monthly cycle that allows her the ability to get pregnant. In my experience, a lot of couples are not educated on small changes that can really enhance their fertility.

One of the ways that you can check for your highest fertility time is through observation of your cervical discharge. The body has an amazing ability to try and get pregnant and cervical mucus is an important factor.

Cervical mucus

After your period, your cervix is dry and you do not notice any cervical discharge. Prior to ovulation, you will begin to notice cervical discharge that may be thick, white and creamy.  As you get closer to ovulation, your cervical mucus becomes thinner until it is egg white, slippery and stretchy. The most abundant of the egg white, stretchy cervical discharge is your “peak” fertility time and this is the most optimal time to conceive. Egg white, slippery, stretchy discharge seen around ovulation is very important because it:

  • Protects Sperm against the otherwise acidic environment.
  • Helps Sperm Swim- This type of cervical discharge nourishes sperm and helps sperm swim up the cervical canal into the fallopian tubes where conception takes place.
  • Filters Abnormal Sperm- This type of cervical discharge slows down abnormal sperm so it enhances the body’s ability for natural selection to take place.

After ovulation you will notice that your cervical discharge dries up. The best way to check for your fertile cervical discharge is to wash your hands and insert your index finger up into your cervix. This should be done around day 11 of your cycle or two  to three days before ovulation. You should be able to get cervical mucus onto your fingers and then when you pull out try to stretch this cervical discharge between your index finger and thumb. Observe if the mucus is egg white, slippery and stretchy. Optimal mucus should be egg white and stretch at least 1 cm.

Enhancing Fertile Cervical Discharge

Some women may experience scanty cervical discharge or may not notice any cervical discharge at all. In Chinese Medicine, scanty cervical discharge signifies a “dry” environment which is not optimal for conception to take place. Think of planting a seed in soil in dry soil.  Because cervical mucus is critical to getting pregnant, there are ways that you can enhance fertile cervical discharge.

Water
Increase Water Intake To Promote Cervical Health

Chinese Herbal Medicine is extremely effective in helping increase fertile cervical mucus.

A common formula that I base many of my follicular herbal treatments is called Liu Wei Di Huang Wan. Liu Wei Di Huang Wan is a very nourishing formula that helps to boost estradiole levels and increase fertility.  Within a certain amount of cycles, you should be able to begin to clearly see fertile mucus. This is a great indicator of fertility enhancement.

Another way to enhance cervical health is to make sure to have at least 8 ounces of water per day. Robittussin or mucinex can also enhance cervical discharge. Both these types of medication, which are commonly used for head colds, are helpful because they work to descend cervical mucus.

Pre-seed is a lubricant that is sperm friendly. All other types of lubricants can kill off sperm.

You also want to avoid anything that can tend to dry cervical discharge. Decrease caffeine intake to one cup of coffee per day. Alcohol should be limited to one drink 2 x per week.  Antihistamines, anti-depressants and other types of medications should also be avoided since they tend to  dry cervical mucus.

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The other day I received a beautiful bouquet of flowers from a patient of mine
who just had her baby boy a couple of weeks ago. Welcome Julian! Not only were the flowers a wonderful gift, but they signified a celebration of a hard journey that my patient took to get pregnant.

Michelle came into my office about 11 months ago. She was 38 years old and she was desperately trying to get pregnant.  Her doctor suggested an IUI with clomid, a commonly used fertility drug. She had three IUI’s and unfortunately the side effects of clomid were migraines, night sweats, hot flashes and anxiety.  Although clomid works to help many women ovulate, it is warming and drying. Therefore, if a woman already has fluid insufficiency, this can accentuate her symptoms.  In December of 2009, Michelle did not ovulate. Further testing from her doctor showed that her estradiole levels were very low and her FSH went up to 30! Her doctor said she should look into IVF immediately and if it did not work in one round to seriously consider using donor eggs.

Michelle called my office incredibly upset and crying her whole visit.  I explained that I did not believe that what her doctor told her was her true hormone levels. Because she was already warm and dry, clomid was actually damaging her fluids. In Chinese Medicine, estradiole is known as a yin substance. As her estradiole was depleted, her FSH levels rose.  As I calmed her down, I told her not to give up but it was essential to start to “rescue” her depleted estrogen. I prescribed her a heavy dosage of herbal medicine to help replenish her low estradiole levels.

Lo and behold, when Michelle came back in February she was pregnant! This is a great case of how Chinese Herbal Medicine can really help nourish hormones and boost fertility. Michelle now has a beautiful baby boy, Julian, and he was well worth her fertility journey.

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Recurrent miscarriage is when three or more consecutive miscarriages take place. With recurrent miscarriages, there is a consistent factor that is not enabling the pregnancy to go full-term. A full medical diagnostic review is needed in order to diagnose the cause of recurrent miscarriages. These may include:

  • Thyroid Disorder
  • Thrombophilia
  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome
  • Chromosomal Abnormalities
  • Infections
  • Uterine Anamolies including polyps, uterine fibroids and a malformed uterine septum
  • Unexplained Conditions

Those cases in which western medicine is unsuccessful at treating recurrent miscarriages are an area where Chinese Medicine can help. There are different diagnoses in Chinese Medicine that cause recurrent miscarriages.

Kidneys Yin and Yang Deficiency

In Chinese Medicine, the kidneys hold the body’s essence. The kidney energy is what makes up our body’s constitution. These organs are responsible for development and reproduction and therefore the health of the kidney qi, or energy, is vital for a healthy pregnancy to ensue. If the kidney’s yin or yang is deficient, the body is unable to hold a pregnancy.

Qi and Blood Deficiency

The spleen qi, or energy of the spleen, enables the closing of the cervix and helps create blood to nourish the fetus. If the cervix does not properly close, repeated miscarriages may take place. In this case, it’s necessary to help increase the spleen’s energy. A lack of energy may cause a blood deficiency, which leads to small babies and a lack of malnourishment to the embryo. Blood deficiency can show up as a scanty menstrual flow and a thin uterine lining.

Heat in the Blood

This can be due to an insufficiency of kidney yin, or stress, which creates heat. Heat can also be due to infection. A female’s Basal Body Temperature (BBT) chart will often be in the high 98’s even in the 99’s. Because heat causes agitation, too much of it does not create an optimal environment for pregnancy.

Blood Stasis

For a pregnancy to take, the uterine lining needs to be fresh and have ample blood flow to the embryo. A sure sign of blood stasis is cramps during a female’s period. Endometriosis also falls into the blood stasis category. Women who are diagnosed under this category show up with blood clotting disorders and are given heparin or aspirin during pregnancy. In Chinese Medicine, blood stasis can also mean actual obstructions in the uterine lining that can lead to miscarriage. Herbal medicine is helpful to encourage blood flow and remove stasis.

Herbal Medicine and Recurrent Miscarriages

In treating recurrent miscarriages, it is important to help strengthen the body’s reproductive health by treating pathological symptoms. Treatment is most commonly given in the form of herbal prescriptions. Herbal medicine is comprised of different herbs that have a certain therapeutic effect on the body. Each formula is specifically tailored to the individual patient and targets the pathology in the reproductive tract that is causing pregnancy loss to take place.

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More and more couples these days are having a harder time trying to conceive. Chinese Medicine has long treated infertility and is effective as a natural approach as well as in conjunction with Artificial Insemination and IVF.

Whole Body Approach

In treating infertility, Chinese Medicine takes a whole body approach when identifying imbalances in the reproductive system that can make getting pregnant difficult. There are many factors to why a woman cannot conceive so understanding the root cause and then treating that issue increases fertility and chances of getting pregnant.

One of the key elements in boosting fertility is to balance the reproductive system and optimize whole body health. A female’s overall health can be seen in the menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle is a window into what types of imbalances are present. This is because digestive system issues, diet, stress etc. can all affect the reproductive system and fertility.

In treating infertility, I take a thorough look at my patient’s menstrual cycle. What is considered normal in western medicine can be considered abnormal in Chinese Medicine. That is why Chinese Medicine can often diagnose cases of “unexplained infertility”. Identifying when a woman ovulates, how many days her period lasts, is it a light flow or heavy flow, does she experience PMS, cramping, or have night sweats, insomnia or migraines around her period can indicate certain imbalances that can be impeding her from conceiving. Treatment is then formed to adequately treat these imbalances and boost fertility in order to get pregnant.

Treatments

In treating infertility, acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine are two of the main treatments in Chinese Medicine. Both help to nourish and balance the menstrual cycle, increase whole body health, decrease stress and boost fertility. This enables a healthier environment that is more optimal for pregnancy to take place.

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicines both help:

  • Decrease FSH
  • Increase the uterine lining
  • Increase cervical mucus
  • Decrease stress
  • Increase blood flow to the uterus
  • Increase progesterone levels
  • Decrease PMS
  • Optimize Whole Body Health
  • Balance Hormones

Along with acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine, I also understand a woman’s overall diet, sleep and stress levels. Because the reproductive health is a reflection of one’s whole body health, nourishing the inner body with a good diet, rest and relaxation is essential in trying to get pregnant.

I normally tell a patient to allow three months with treatment in order to balance her reproductive system as well as optimizing general health. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine are great options for women who are trying to naturally conceive or increase their chances of getting pregnant through intrauterine insemination or IVF.

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