Infertility affects up to 15% of couples in the United States. It is frequently a trying and emotional draining condition. Please know that you are not alone. Infertility is defined by the inability of a couple to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse. There can be many and some unidentified reasons surrounding the cause of infertility. Incidence of infertility increases with advancing age. In fact, age is one of the most important predictors of one’s fertility, but there may be a combination of causes. It is important to have the right medical professionals help to navigate you through the diagnosis of your infertility. Investigations and treatments should be done in a timely manner and we at Tao of Wellness would be happy to help you.
I was happy with my life, working hard and thinking that one day I will marry and have children. I liked my life. I thought when I am ready I would get pregnant easily and quickly. I did not know how the time had passed. By the time I got married, I was already 35. After two years of trying, I did not realize how difficult it is to conceive. I am emotionally exhausted.
Causes and Symptoms of Infertility
It is an amazing process for our body to conceive and it encompasses many different events. In woman, ovulation occurs on a regular monthly basis. The egg then travels into the fallopian tube and is usually fertilized here with the sperm. The fertilized egg then travels down the tube into the uterus for implantation. In men, sperm are produced and created in the testes. The testes are hard working glands producing over 12 billion sperm per month. Once the sperm is near mature, it is sent to the epididymis to be stored. During intercourse, the erect penis combined with ejaculation allows pulsatile delivery of semen into the vaginal cavity. The sperm has to travel through the male’s vas deferens and ejaculatory ducts, and is mixed with seminal and prostatic fluids to form semen, which has fructose and alkaline bases to give energy to the sperm, and counterbalance the acidity of the vagina. Finally about 1 teaspoon of semen is ejaculated and can survive 48 to 72 hours in a woman’s reproductive system, depending on the health of her cervical mucus.
There are many possible reasons for infertility. Sometimes there is a single reason and sometimes it’s due to multiple causes and may involve both partners. Sperm issues including defects in sperm production and the sperm delivery system account for 35% of infertile couples. With increasing paternal age, the male partner can potentially contribute more genetic mutations leading to failed conception. Decreased ovarian reserve or ovulatory dysfunction accounts for another 20% of infertile couples. There is a growing trend for women in the developed countries to delay having children. This is one of the biggest causes of infertility for women who are of advanced maternal age (AMA), which is defined as beginning at 35 years old. AMA is associated with several adverse pregnancy outcomes including preterm birth, low birth weight, still birth, chromosomal defects, labor complications, and cesarean section. Therefore, women who are pregnant after age 35 are considered as having a “high-risk” pregnancy.
Tubal dysfunction and pelvic diseases account for 30% of infertile couples. Pelvic inflammatory diseases like endometriosis, infections such as appendicitis, and abdominal surgeries can all initiate scar tissue formation. These adhesions can cause distortion and blockage of the abdominal organs including the fallopian tubes. Adhesions can also weaken the quality of the eggs or slow down the ovulation process. Uterine shape abnormalities or uterine fibroids may also interfere with implantation of the fertilized egg. Abnormal cervical mucus can account for up to 5% of infertile couples. Cervical opening or cervical mucus dysfunctions can also cause blockage to fertilization and poor activation of the sperm. Unexplained reasons account for up to 10% of infertile couples, many of which are due to advanced maternal age and are otherwise healthy individuals.
There are other reasons for infertility such as damage from cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Overexposure to certain environmental toxins such as pesticides, steroids, and medications can also diminish fertility. Marijuana and exposure to heat can have detrimental effects to the sperm. Other health conditions such as Cushing’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, and diabetes can all contribute to infertility as well.
There may or may not be symptoms that are attributable to infertility. Some obvious symptoms should be investigated such as painful menstruation, painful ovulation, irregular menstrual cycles, excessive menstrual flow, nipple discharge, pain during sexual intercourse, excessive clotting during menstruation, prolonged bleeding or spotting during menstruation, sexual dysfunction, testicular pain, and pelvic pain. Other symptoms such as anemia, arthritis, and chronic fatigue can also arise during infertility.
How We Successfully Treat Infertility
Since inability to conceive frequently leads to feelings of frustration, anger, guilt, resentment, and inadequacy, our approach would be to first meet with both partners and take their feelings into consideration before any treatments are recommended. At Tao of Wellness, we have been taking care of infertility patients for over 30 years. We have seen thousands of patients and have many successful stories. We usually start the process by meeting with the couple and finding out personal family building goals. We realize that every couple and every person has vastly different fertility goals. It is important for us to understand them well, and from there, we can begin to guide you through the process. There are also increasing segments of the population such as single women or those from the LGBT community seeking fertility treatments. We have experience and sensitivity in working with all types of people seeking to build a family.
The next step would be to investigate the causes of infertility. This may include blood tests or procedures that might involve other health care professionals such as your OBGYN, urologist, andrologist, and reproductive endocrinologist. The preliminary workup in a man can include a comprehensive semen analysis where the count, motility (speed), morphology (shape) and other criteria are analyzed. Frequently, two semen analyses one month apart are recommended since there are fluctuations in semen with time. Assessment of sexual functions and reproductive history will also be taken. The preliminary workup in a woman is more involved which can include a pelvic examination to assess vaginal and cervical health, a hysterosalpingogram (x-ray with contrast) to assess tubal health, or a hydrosonogram to assess the shape and cavity of the uterus. Hormone blood tests such as thyroid and sex hormones, combined with ovulation predictor tests, are also performed to evaluate the strength and regularity of the ovulation process. Some other tests such as anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) are used to get a sense of the woman’s ovarian reserve. Women with recurrent miscarriages may also require an assessment of their immune system to investigate any related causes.
With all the pertinent medical information available, we can then properly guide you through your treatment regimen, which will consist of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and nutritional therapy. As an integrative clinic, we also work with many other health care professionals and are able to create a team to personalize our treatment approach to your condition, especially when assisted reproductive technologies like insemination and in-vitro fertilization (IVF) are needed.
Detailed below are the therapies that encompass our fertility enhancement program. But you may wish to know even more about how acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine improve fertility, in addition to our long history working with this medicine and with fertility. As well, we’ve created individualized fertility enhancement retreats for you and your partner. Learn more about our fertility enhancement program.
Acupuncture treatments have been used for both female and male infertility for many centuries. Since acupuncture can solicit hormone responses, it can help restore optimal function to your reproductive system. Acupuncture is very soothing and patients often enjoy a wonderfully relaxing state. It can help to balance blood pressure, reduce stress, and improve many bodily functions. Many research studies have shown improvement in blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, as well as reduction and balancing of FSH levels during an assisted reproductive technology cycle like IVF. Learn more about acupuncture.
An integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chinese herbal medicine has been used frequently in combination with acupuncture to treat infertility. There are at least 5700 different herbal ingredients that are used for many different disorders with a few hundred of those used for infertility conditions. Chinese herbal medicine addresses infertility typically with a combination of 7 to 15 ingredients carefully selected for your particular condition. They can be prescribed in raw, powder, and capsule formats. There are thousands of ancient and contemporary formulations for infertility conditions. Learn more about Chinese herbal medicine.
Fertility tuina is a form of bodywork that emphasizes specific techniques to improve blood flow and reproductive functions. It is particularly helpful in people who have poor ovulation, body aches, or joint problems. The treatment usually lasts 30-60 minutes and can be performed throughout the menstrual cycle. Cupping is one tuina technique that uses suction cups to create forced blood flow and healing to specific areas, including the reproductive system. As well, it can ease the release of toxins from the body. Learn more about tuina.
Mind Body Exercise
Fertility qi gong involves using your own energy for healing. Gentle visualization exercises and guided meditation help your body and mind focus your energy and nutrient-rich body fluids into the specific areas for healing. Qi gong is well known to increase vitality and regain youthfulness. Clinical research has shown benefits in lowering blood pressure and reducing stress. Learn more about tai chi and qi gong.
Far-Infrared Sauna Therapy
Far-infrared sauna uses an invisible light source for heat-based healing. Infrared therapy has been shown to improve wound healing, relieve pain and stiffness, and increase endorphin levels. Some infrared models have been cleared by the FDA for increasing circulation and reducing pain, stiffness and muscle spasm. This therapy can be used in many types of infertility. Learn more about far-infrared sauna.
Nutritional guidance is given to every single patient but having a nutrition-specific consultation is something more. We will utilize the many types of foods that assist fertility specifics such as egg quality, uterine lining, or sperm production. Then we create a weekly menu from the ground up, complete with meals and snacks. Having well-rounded nutrition and regular, healthy eating habits improves fertility. Our book Tao of Fertility contains more detailed information on nutrition as well as recipes for further exploration.
In different conditions, vitamin and other nutritional supplements will be advised to enhance one’s fertility potential. Most women will be recommended a prenatal vitamin and fish oil. From there, the varying conditions will determine the specific recommendations such as DHEA for hormone support, ovarian and uterine glandular supplements for support of ovulatory functions, niacin for improved circulation, B12 for vegan patients, or our own Adrenal Support for fatigue or reduced stress management ability. Learn more about nutritional therapy.
Infertility Patient Success Stories
I Got Pregnant Right Away
“I was so surprised at how knowledgeable my doctor is at Tao of Wellness. She suspected that I might have a thyroid problem. She told me to get a blood test with my OBGYN and she was right. I have a hypothyroid condition. With a combination of Chinese medicine treatment and taking thyroid medication, I got pregnant right away.”
— Carlie J.
I Know I’m in the Right Place
“He held my hands on my first visit with tears swelling up and running down my cheeks. I was desperate, emotionally tired, and hopeless with years of trying to get pregnant. But I was treated like a whole person. I felt cared and I felt loved. I know I am in the right place.”
— Felicity N.
My Fibroid Shrank
“My uterine fibroid was 6cm large. My OBGYN told me that the most likely reason I was not able to get pregnant is due to the size and the position of my fibroid. I worked with Tao of Wellness for six months and my fibroid shrank down to 4 cm. I was able to get pregnant after that!”
— Trista L.
My Periods Came Regularly
“My periods were coming earlier as I got older. I was told that I would get pregnant once my periods lengthen. I listened and avoided sweets, alcohol, caffeine and icy cold drinks. Miraculously my periods became more regular coming 26 days instead of 24 days. I got pregnant after the period turned to a 26 day cycle!”
— Marie R.
Natural Healthcare for Infertility
Tao of Wellness was established in 1976 as a resource to address infertility. We strive to support you in mind and body, and invite you to make an appointment for your health and wellbeing. It would be our pleasure to serve you.