Chinese medicine believes that our body is interconnected and every part is integral to the healthy functionality of the whole. With this belief, TCM fertility diagnosis and treatments are personalized and depend more on an individual’s body constitution and health status.
TCM looks at three main organs and two meridian systems when diagnosing and treating people who are having fertility challenges. These are the kidney, liver, spleen, chong meridian and ren meridian.
Kidney – Of all the body organs, the kidney is the main one that governs the reproductive system. It greatly affects conception and pregnancy. Its health status affects the quality and number of eggs or sperms produced by the person.
Liver – The meridian of this organ circulates around our external genitalia, hence affecting our sexual activities. It primarily affects the menstrual cycle since it regulates Qi movement and stores blood.
Spleen – Its role is crucial to having a healthy reproductive system since it transports the nutrients to the different parts of the body.
Chong meridian – important to menstruation regulation
Ren meridian – governs women’s reproductive organs affecting the natural conception
Infertility Causes From TCM’s Perspective
Depleted kidney qi and age are among the top causes of infertility from the lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine. According to the TCM theory, the rise and fall of qi in the kidney as well as the abundance of innate kidney essence govern natural fertility. The best reproductive years of women are in their 20s as it is the time when the kidney qi is balanced and abundant. It is also these years when the body is strong. As the body ages the chances of conception declines. The kidney qi starts to decline at the age of 28 and a sharp decrease in natural conception odds is expected at the age of 40-42 as the woman’s egg reserve rapidly reduces.
Endometriosis and other health problems that could cause infertility ro increase when women reach their late 30s or early 40s. Menopausal age in today’s world is around 50, but a lot of women are having difficulties in conception and/or carrying pregnancy to terms around 5-10 years before menopause.
Deficiency syndrome is another factor to look at when assessing one’s fertility. From the TCM perspective, deficiency syndrome is a condition relating to weakness in a certain visceral system. The weakness could be seen in one’s qi, blood, yin and yang. In the case of fertility, the weakness could be seen in the visceral system involving the kidney, liver and spleen.
Kidney yin plays a significant role in the development of the egg before ovulation. If a woman has a weak kidney yin, it could cause low estrogen, night sweats, shorter follicular phase and others that could affect conception. On the other hand, the kidney yang helps with progesterone production which is important to maintain a healthy body temperature after ovulation. Deficiency in kidney yang could lead to menstrual cramps, cold feet or hands and other coldness symptoms.
Spleen qi also supports progesterone production and endometrial lining buildup. Weakness in spleen qi can result in fatigue during periods, menstrual cramps and spotting before the menstrual period. Lastly, liver yin deficiency may lead to poor blood profile that could cause emotional fluctuation, irregular menstruation as well as dream-disturbed sleep.
Besides the deficiency of the kidney and spleen system, accumulated coldness in the womb could also hinder pregnancy. It could slow down qi and blood flow, blood vessel contraction as well as qi stagnation that could result in the presence of dark clotty menstrual blood that could obstruct endometrial lining buildup, creating an unfavorable environment for implantation. Causes of body coldness could be bad lifestyle or habits such as excessive raw food consumption, drinking icy cold water and walking barefoot on damp or cold surfaces.
Last but not the least, liver qi stagnation can also affect pregnancy. Excessive emotional imbalance and stress are the main causes of this condition that could lead to menstruation and ovulation imbalance symptoms like breast tenderness, pain, irritability and bloating. Women who have liver qi stagnation might have troubles with egg development in the ovaries and blocked fallopian tubes.
Lifestyle Change and Proper Nutrition to Boost Fertility
For couples who are interested in boosting their odds of conceiving naturally or increasing their successful rate of IVF, proper consultation with an experienced TCM doctor is a necessary 1st step. Shared below is some information on nutrition and lifestyle that may be helpful for the couples who are preparing to have a baby. The best diet combination, however, is heavily related to the individual’s body constitution and needs to be properly assessed.
One of the ways that Chinese medicine practitioners can help boost fertility is to ensure that women have the best diet and nutrition suited for their body constitution and health status. TCM recommends to consume more in the food list below to prepare to have a baby.
- nut and seeds to boost reproductive energy
- fruit and vegetable in black or dark purple color like figs and blueberry for kidney energy boost
- fruit and vegetable in color red like beetroot and pomegranate for blood flow enhancement
They are also encouraged to consume the superfoods salmon, avocado and asparagus as well as avoid raw food, cold drinks. For those who always feel cold,it is advised that they spice up their meals with ginger, cinnamon and other warming spices to keep the body temperature in a healthy state. Above all, exposure to antibiotics, heavy metals and chemicals should be limited as these could affect hormone balance.
As to lifestyle change, stress management and healthy weight management are important as these could inhibit ovulation and affect liver qi natural flow. Sexually transmitted infections are also causes of women infertility so prevent from having these infections. Having enough sleep and a good circadian rhythm also help with ensuring the hormones affecting fertility are in balance.
Above all, limiting exposure to toxic chemicals from the environment is a must. Quitting tobacco and limiting caffeine and alcohol intake are important to prepare for pregnancy, Women should also watch out and avoid exposure from environmental toxins like lead, dry cleaning solvents and pesticides. Early consultation with TCM practitioners is important as they can help detect and reverse any menstrual cycle irregularity that could show signs of any infertility issue.