Traditional Chinese Medicine
According to the World Health Organisation, infertility is defined as the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.
Traditionally women are usually blamed for problems in conceiving, however, research over the years has shown that both men and women have equal chances of being infertile. In fact, about 47% of infertility has a male origin.
Affecting approximately 1 out of 7 couples, Singapore has one of the lowest total fertility rates in the world at 1.2 per female . Early intervention and professional help can improve the success rate of natural conception as well as artificial reproductive medical procedures such as Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). The key is to seek help early!
A woman’s chances of conceiving decline as she ages. Most fertile in their 20s and early 30s, fertility starts to drop at the age of 35 and drastically after 40 due to the diminishing number of eggs (oocytes) and their deteriorating quality. Other than the quality of eggs, structural problems such as endometriosis, fibroids and blocked fallopian tubes are also more common in older women even though these conditions could occur at any age.
For males, sperm motility (movement of sperm), morphology (size and shape of sperm) and quantity(sperm concentration) also decrease with age. Premature ejaculation or structural problems such as varicocele or blockages from a post-traumatic injury, an unhealthy diet, bad lifestyle habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, as well as environmental exposure to toxic chemicals or pesticides can contribute to infertility in males.
To top it off, the stresses of everyday life further impact a couple’s ability to conceive. In men, mental, physical and emotional stresses can impact the quality of sperm and in women, it can affect ovulation and egg quality. It does not help that many couples are now choosing to start their own families at older ages, wanting to establish their careers or have some form of financial stability before having a baby.
Fortunately, with the advancement of medical technology and the fact that the new-gen couples are now more tech-savvy and knowledgeable, couples are now aware of the various types of medical interventions as well as the different TCM treatments and therapies they can do to increase their chances of getting pregnant.
As with all conditions, TCM works by helping to restore balance to the internal elements of the body to help all of its organs function optimally. Adopting an inside-out (从内到外）approach, TCM treats the body as a whole while targeting the symptoms of the condition.
For a start, couples who are planning to start a family can look into priming the body to boost their chances of conceiving. According to Physician Lim from Oriental Remedies Group, many women suffer from Cold Womb Syndrome (CWS) which is known as GongHan (宫寒), without knowing about it. CWS is a type of body constitution where Kidney deficiency and Blood stagnation affects your chances of conception.
When diagnosed with CWS, physicians use a combination of TCM modalities such as herbal medication, acupuncture and moxibustion to help warm the womb. Females with warm wombs have better chances of conceiving due to better Blood circulation which allows an optimal supply of nutrients to the womb, thereby improving implantation chances and lowering the risk of miscarriages.
For men, the Kidney and Five Organs play a huge role in sperm health and the ability to conceive. Herbal medications and acupuncture are commonly prescribed to boost your general body constitution in an effort to balance the body and strengthen the sperm’s ability to play its part.
Physician Lim says, “most couples do not think of conditioning their body in advance to prepare for family planning but it can be advantageous for both males and females to do so to experience a smoother journey with conception down the road.”
Senior Physician Lim from Oriental Remedies Group
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) and In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) are the two common Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) treatments used by couples to improve their chances of pregnancy. For both medical procedures, TCM is able to work in tandem with modern medicine to improve your body constitution and increase your success rates.
Using TCM, physicians are able to help patients achieve improved Blood and nutrient circulation which can have a positive effect on the couple’s ability to conceive. In men, this translates to healthier testosterone circulation and improved immunity, leading to stronger sperm health. In women, patients can expect better womb health and stability, regular ovulation which can help improve the success rate for egg retrieval during IVF, and more nutrients delivered to the uterus for any potential embryo implantation . A 2002 study found that women undergoing IVF with acupuncture treatments before and after egg transfers had a pregnancy rate of 42.5% compared to 26.3%, of the non-acupuncture group .
For patients undergoing IUI/IVF with pre-existing conditions such as painful menstrual cramps, irregular cycles, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and weak uterine lining which stands against successful embryonic implantation and pregnancy, TCM helps by regulating the flow of Qi, Blood and hormones to provide some levels of regulation to these conditions and strengthen the womb, optimising it for pregnancy.