Infertility is the inability of a woman and man to conceive children. At any given time, approximately one in six couples is infertile. Infertile couples may become fertile later; the condition of sterility, however, has more finality.
Traditional Chinese Medicine for Infertility
In traditional Chinese medicine, the kidney system controls the reproductive system. Therefore, infertility is treated by rebalancing the flow of the body's energizing life force, or qi, through the kidney meridian. For example, a treatment for men with abnormal semen is ju jing powder, which combines nine herbs and other substances including radix rehmanniae, fructus lycii, and radix polygoni multiflori. The mixture, made into a decoction to drink, is formulated depending on the exact problem with the semen. So, if the sperm swim slower than normal, the therapy includes more ingredients that warm and supplement qi. Typically, acupuncture, moxibustion, and dietary changes are also part of the treatment.
Regulations on who can practice acupuncture and other forms of traditional Chinese medicine vary from state to state. In addition to traditional Chinese physicians, some naturopathic physicians and medical doctors are trained in acupuncture. A practitioner can also instruct you on acupressure points you can use yourself and home exercises that can help.
Mind/Body Medicine for Infertility
Emotional stress can lower the level of fertility. For example, stress in a woman can affect the hormones being released from the brain's pituitary gland, interrupting ovulation (the release of mature eggs). If the stress is combined with another "fertility-lowering" condition, such as low sperm count or partially blocked fallopian tubes, then it can lead to infertility.
Several therapies can reduce stress and encourage relaxation, including:
- guided imagery
- creative visualization
- support groups
One proof that mind/body medicine is an effective part of infertility treatment is a University of Massachusetts study that showed that infertile couples who joined support groups were more than twice as likely to conceive children as couples who didn't participate in any groups.
Several times a day, set aside 15 to 30 minutes for relaxation exercises, followed by guided imagery exercises related to the reproductive system. Have someone else read an imagery script to you, or have it on tape nearby so you can play it right after finishing the exercises. Here's an excerpt of an imagery script:
On the stalk, imagine delicate buds swelling with color and energy and warmth, slowly opening, unfolding under nature's direction. Focus on the gentle wind carrying grains of pollen. Some grains float to the blossoming flower. Watch the blossom welcome the pollen, holding it and closing on it.
Other Infertility Therapies
- Aromatherapy for Infertility -- Essential oils of rose maroc or rose otto may be prescribed.
- Environmental Medicine for Infertility -- Certain chemicals (from pesticides to hair sprays), molds, stress, infections -- almost anything in the environment -- may trigger infertility. Treatment involves removing these substances or lessening exposure to them.
- Herbal Medicine for Infertility -- Helpful herbs for women include blue cohosh and false unicorn root. For men, saw palmetto and damiana may be effective.
- Homeopathy for Infertility -- Remedies are personalized to the man or woman's state of health and may include natrum muriaticum and sepia.
- Hydrotherapy for Infertility -- Cold sitz baths may help men increase their sperm counts. Alternating hot and cold sitz baths can improve pelvic circulation in both sexes.
- Nutritional Therapy for Infertility -- Supplements (such as zinc, vitamin C, and essential fatty acids) and special diets (such as one without the wheat protein, gluten) can be effective in treating male and female infertility.
- Mind/Body Medicine for Infertility -- Emotional counseling and meditative therapies play a major role in the treatment of infertility.