|Posted by Tanya on March 11, 2013 at 7:30 PM|
"Let (her) who seeks, not cease seeking until (s)he finds." ~ The Gospel accoding to Saint Thomas
Unexplained infertility affects one of every four couples, who will both end up undergoing an extensive array of tests. "We don't know why you aren't getting pregnant," some of the most frustrating words a woman can hear from her doctor. According to RESOLVE, a national infertility network, up to 30 percent of all cases of infertility in women and 25 percent in men are the result of idiopathic (unknown) causes.
"Unexplained infertility" means there is no medical reason within the realm of modern science to explain why conception is not occurring. All to common women with abnormal menstrual cycles are sent to the lab for a series of hormone blood tests that result within the "normal" range. Couples with this diagnosis are told to go home and keep trying. Often these couples are pointed towards ART procedures, the theory being that putting sperm directly into the uterus (IUI), or fertilizing her eggs outside the body and then providing a chemically enhanced environment for their implantation, might bypass their mysterious fertility problems.
Western medicine is very good at measuring differences when they reach critical levels; but what of subclinical - i.e., too small to be measured - problems that may still be significant enough to keep a woman from getting pregnant?
Luckily, TCM is particularly effective in treating women (and men) with this frustrating diagnosis. In Eastern medicine, "unexplained infertility" translates simply to "impaired reproductive functioning," and reproductive functioning can be healed and supported by bringing the entire body back into balance.
The first step is to address the manifestation of the problem and determine the underlying pattern. Imbalances such as cold or hot, lethargy or nervousness, menstrual cycle symptoms and so on, can idicate where the problem lies. In TCM all subjective and objective symptoms are taken into account: tongue and pulse examinations will unveil the true pattern, and when the imbalances are addressed the reproductive system can begin to function normally.
The Western approach is like trying to return a lake to purity once it's been contaminated by toxic waste. You could try to treat the lake by finding the contaminants, then use different chemicals to neutralize their effects - but all you'd end up with is water with even more chemicals in it. The Eastern way to purify the water isn't to add more chemicals but to put more clean water into the lake. You can do this by making sure the streams feeding the lake are clean, healthy, and flowing as freely as possible, and that the old, toxic water can flow out as new water flows in. Once the ecological balance is restored, the lake will return to health, and all life will thrive. That's what TCM does for a woman's body: it allows clean, pure, healthy energy to flow in while allowing old, toxic energy to be eliminated. With balanced energy, the body will restore to its natural condition.
Menstrual flow is one of the first places we can look to diagnose a woman with unexplained infertility: If the Blood is unusual in amount, color, and consistency, this usually indicates a problem within the uterine lining.
1. If the Blood flow is scanty you can eat red raspberries for they will help the body produce Blood. Once the Blood flow increases, the endometrial lining will thicken.
2. If the mentrual Blood is scant, black or very dark, and accompanied by stabbing pain this would indicate a Blood stagnation. You should supplement your diet with seaweed, evening primrose oil, and safflower. Application of warm castor oil packs may also resolve the toxic residue. The allows the uterine lining to respond with fresh, healthy endometrial tissue.
3. If the failure of the uterine lining to respond appropriately to the warming hormone (progesterone), this this known as cold Uterus, or cold Womb. Symptoms related to this diagnosis are lower back pain, cramps that respond to heating pads, and clotty menstrual blood. You should supplement with fish oil, and pycnogenol, as well as peach kernel (Tao Ren). Warming the lower abdomen with heat packs or a warm water bottle before ovulation will invigorate the Blood.
One of the most underdiagnosed contributing factors to unexplained infertility is stress. The body knows we should not be pregnant when we are under tremendous stress: after all, the body's first priority is keeping us out of danger, and taking care of a fetus when we are experiencing tense situations is an overwhelming strain. Indeed, our hormonal response to stress is actually antagonistic to our fertility. Adrenaline is released during conditions of stress. Although adrenaline helps us to escape from danger, it may also inhibit our ability to utilize progesterone, thus impeding our fertility.
If certain people are causing you stress you may want to avoid them for a while. If you're one of those women who do too much and are stressed about it, figure out ways to cut back on the number of demands being placed on you. Then turn your attention to yourself. The following are simple suggestions for reducing the amount of stress in your life:
- Employ meditative breathing techniques whenever possible.
- Sit down whenever you eat.
- Eat frequent, small meals to keep the blood sugar levels more stable and to inhibit the release of adrenaline.
- Chew your food sufficiently, mixing enough saliva with the food to make digestion easier.
- Drink a lot of water, but not during a meal.
- Do not drink alcohol or caffeine, or smoke cigarettes.
- Use herbs that move Qi, like peppermint, rosemary, spearmint, turmeric, and thyme.
- Supplement with herbs that resolve Liver Qi Stagnation (see your local acupuncturist).
- If your prolactin levels are high, take malt barley sprout (Mai Ya).
Stress is not the only factor causing unexplained infertility. Many are subtle endocrine and hormonal factors also affecting our ability to conceive. But finding and treating the underlying pattern will resolve the hormonal imbalance, no matter how slight. Subclinical infertility often responds to small changes in the body's overall functioning. Of course, nothing is certain, but with a greater level of health it's likely you will stand a great chance of conceiving. The hope in TCM is to provide an elegant and simple solution, giving you healthy, happy children.
Please join me next week as we discuss part 4 of this series:
Immunologic Reaction and Recurrent Miscarriage: Bring your Body into Harmony with Itself