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The Yin, Yang, and Qi of Fertility

How Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can Assist Your Fertility Journey

Paige was 37 and had been trying to conceive for over 6 months. She had tried timed intercourse, ovulation predictor kits, and basal body temperature. She had been to see a fertility specialist but was leery of jumping into treatment.  Her lab tests were all normal and her uterine lining looked ready for implantation. Unsure of what to do next, Paige decided to try a friend’s recommendation and meet with an acupuncturist. But what are the benefits of acupuncture when trying to conceive?

Over 3,000 years old, the field of acupuncture approaches a woman’s menstrual cycle as following natural rhythms of Yin, Yang, and Qi.  Yin represents the more cooling, fluid aspects of our well-being. Meanwhile, Yang constitutes the more warming, drying aspects of our body. Finally, the term “Qi” expresses the aspects of the human form that address movement and action.

In recent years, acupuncture has re-surfaced as a beneficial treatment to improve fertility.  Western medical journals such as Fertility & Sterility have published multiple studies describing the method by which acupuncture improves fertility outcomes. First, acupuncture is thought to stimulate the release of hormones that influence menstrual cycles, ovulation, and fertility. Acupuncture also stimulates blood flow to the uterus. Furthermore, certain acupuncture techniques are thought to inhibit the stress response. Finally, acupuncture can augment the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process by boosting fertility during the treatment cycle.

Acupuncture for Fertility During the Menstrual Cycle

In the first part of a woman’s natural menstrual cycle (the follicular phase), Yin is thought to be involved with the ovaries’ response to the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).  Acupuncture treatments for fertility are directed toward increasing blood flow to the uterine and ovarian arteries to nourish the growing follicles and support growth of the uterine lining. There are also foods that complement this phase of the menstrual cycle because of their fertility-boosting qualities.

One such example is royal jelly, the part of a honeycomb that is sequestered for the Queen bee.  Rich in essential amino acids, vitamins, and antioxidants, royal jelly is produced by nursing bees in the hive to enable the Queen bee to lay more eggs and increase their population. Fatty fish is also thought to be beneficial but because of concerns about methyl-mercury contamination, patients may elect to take triple-washed fish oil instead.

Chinese Medicine for Fertility During Ovulation

According to Chinese Medicine, successful ovulation (release of the mature egg) requires heat and movement to encourage the egg to “burst” from its follicle. At this point, the warming properties of Yang and active essence of Qi are necessary to support circulation to the region of the ovaries and uterus. Acupuncture treatments may incorporate moxibustion. Moxibustion is a heating therapy using the herb Artemesia (commonly known as mugwort) that warms the deeper tissues of the body before the skin becomes too warm.  This is the time to add foods that are more warming in quality such as meats (preferably organic and pasture-fed), walnuts, and warm-sweet spices including cinnamon, fennel, and curry.
The Essence of “Qi” During the Luteal Phase

The luteal phase refers to the part of the menstrual cycle after ovulation.  During this time, the ovary produces the hormone progesterone, which provides critical support for the implanting embryo.  From five days after ovulation through the first day of a new menstrual cycle, the focus of acupuncture is to “Raise Qi”.  This is done to encourage the upward movement of active energies and support an implanting embryo with gentle microcirculation to the uterus.  Chinese herbs are used during this phase are intended to strengthen the immune and vascular systems. In Chinese Medicine. this is known as the spleen system. Foods recommended during this phase include fibrous root vegetables, meats, nuts, and seeds.  

The days leading up to a new menstrual cycle (days 21-28), are termed the premenstrual phase.  During this time, a woman’s body is filled with hormones that must be broken down. Supporting a healthy premenstrual phase is achieved by encouraging the movement of Qi throughout the entire body. This improves symptoms such as breast tenderness, abdominal bloating, and mood swings.  However, since this is potentially a time of early pregnancy, acupuncture points must be considered carefully.  

Women often report that acupuncture for fertility allows them to relax during an otherwise stressful time in their lives. Symptoms associated with stress including anxiety, depression, insomnia, digestive issues and immune deficiencies may be ameliorated with acupuncture. Finally, many women and couples have found acupuncture and Chinese Medicine to be very beneficial to their quality of life throughout their fertile years when trying to conceive.

Interested in increasing your chances of achieving pregnancy or seeking professional fertility treatment from a top-class clinic with unparalleled success rates? Contact the experienced team at Lane Fertility Institute today.

This is an updated article based on the work of Susan Fox, ABORM in her article “Finding Your Qi” in the 2011 Summer Issue of Lane Fertility Magazine.

Dr. Danielle Lane Danielle E Lane, MD, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Specialist

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