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Specializing in Fertility, Gynaecology and Obstetrics

Infertility and Chinese Medicine,
Infertility is commonly defined as an inability to conceive after 1-2 years of trying. In approximately 60% of cases the difficulty is with the woman and 40%, the man. Infertility also refers to repeated miscarriages.

In order for a woman to conceive, she must ovulate. The egg must travel through the fallopian tube towards the uterus and a man's sperm must fertilise the egg along the way. Finally the fertilised egg must implant into the wall of the uterus. Some of the main causes of infertility in women are; endometriosis (where parts of the uterine wall are deposited in the abdomen outside the uterus itself), ovulation problems, poor egg quality, polycystic ovary syndrome, and fallopian tube blockages. In men problems may be caused by low sperm count or sperm abnormalities. However, in many cases the infertility is unexplained, with no underlying problems that can be identified.

CHINESE MEDICINE AND INFERTILITY: In a recent study, Chinese herbal medicine has been shown to result in a high success rate of pregnancy in infertile couples (Journal of Chinese Medicine 2006; 80; 20-8). It has shown improvements in the size and number of eggs and in the thickness of the uterine wall, all of which could help to explain its success. Chinese medicine may be used on its own or in combination with IVF or other forms of assisted reproduction.

Chinese medicine treatment is tailored to you as an individual. The practitioner will take note of your medical history, the characteristics of your menstrual cycle and your general health. This information will be used to assess the nature of the underlying imbalance, and to choose a herbal formula (a combination of herbs), which will then be modified during the course of treatment.

The aim of treatment will be, where appropriate, to regulate the cycle and support ovulation or implantation. The medicine may be prescribed as a tea or in pill form. In addition your practitioner may recommend lifestyle and dietary changes. A minimum of three months' treatment can be expected in the case of unexplained infertility. Although with underlying problems such as endometriosis treatment tends to be longer, improvement may be seen in other changes, such as a reduction in the severity of peiod pain.

"Infertility" leaflets (above information) made by the RCHM are available in the clinic. For further information, please visit www.rchm.co.uk

The different approaches of IVF and TCM
Jane Lyttleton (2004) on "Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine" says that "IVF is essentially a numbers game - it increases the odds of success by increasing the numbers of eggs produced. The technique does not aim to affect the quality of the egg: rather it aims to increase the quantity of eggs. In the hope that in a large number at least one will have what it takes. The thickness of the lining of the uterus is the only other parameter measured. The general health of the couple, in the absence of major pathology, is of minor concern. Whether the male partner has enough motile sperm is even becoming less important now in the days of ICSI.

In contrast, Chinese medicine considers the overall health of the person (with special emphasis on Kidney Qi) who is making the gametes, based on the supposition that this will translate into healthier gametes. We know that the greatest determinant of a viable pregnancy is a viable embryo, which in turn depends largely on the fusion of healthy and compatible gametes. Unlike IVF, TCM treatment is not a numbers game. Treatment with Chinese medicine on its own does not usually increase the number of eggs ovulated. While it cannot change the genetic make-up of the egg, TCM is thought to influence how well the eggs are nourished and stimulated to grow and the facility with which they are released and travel down the fallopian tubes. In addition, TCM treatment improves endometrium thickness and quality. Chinese medicine can also influence the number, motility and genetic quality of sperm.

Unlike the IVF treatment regimen, TCM has an endless number of variations - as numerous as the patients themselves. The skill of the TCM infertility specialist is in the correct diagnosis of subtle patterns of dysfunction, the correct prescription of herbs and their doses, the correct timing of the medicine and the technical skill involved in applying acupuncture.

Where TCM treatment of infertility is holistic, time tested and generally slow acting with few side effects and little risk, IVF is specialised, experimental and quick to get results but not without risks to mother and baby" (Lyttleton 2004).

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Pregnancy rate double with Chinese Medicine

Women receiving Chinese herbal medicine are twice as likely to get pregnant than those receiving Western medical fertility treatment, according to new research.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide reviewed a range of studies which in total had involved 1,851 women aged from 18 to 45 years who had received treatment for infertility. They found Chinese herbal medicine achieved on average a 60% fertility rate, compared with 30% for standard Western medical drug treatment or IVF. The reasons for infertility in the women included endometriosis, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), amenorrhea and advanced maternal age. The results are published in the December issue of the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine.

The researchers reviewed seven RCTs, one non-randomised controlled trial, 13 cohort studies, three cases series and six case studies. In these studies, women received either Chinese herbal medicine alone, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture, or Chinese herbal medicine in conjunction with Western drugs or surgery.

In the cases of Chinese herbal medicine being used alone the researchers concluded that pregnancy rates were significantly higher than with the sole use of Western medical fertility treatment. The same improvement in pregnancy rates was true when Chinese herbal medicine was used in conjunction with Western drugs or surgery. It was also noted in some trials that Chinese herbal medicine had fewer side effects than Western medical treatments.

Emma Farrant, chief executive officer of the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine says, "Clinical experience has shown that Chinese medicine is very effective at treating infertility in women. While there are some weaknesses to this review overall the results are very encouraging and we hope it will lead to further well-designed and rigorous trials."

Efficacy of Traditional CHM in the Mangement of Female Infertility: A Systematic Review. K Ried, K Stuart.
Complementary Therapies in Medicine Vol 19 issue 6, 319-31, Dec. 2011

Abstract from US National Library of Medicine
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IVF support with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs

"With both Chinese herbs and acupuncture in preparation for and support throughout the IVF procedure, increases IVF pregnancy success rate to 60%" (Lifang Liang 2003)

Lifang Liang (2003) states that "A recent German study found that using acupuncture with IVF achieved a 42% clinical pregnancy rate in the test group, compared to 26% in the control group that did not receive acupuncture. This study involved giving acupuncture for just one day, shortly before and after the trasfer of embryos. My clinical experience is that this rate increases to at least 60% with broader support of both Chinese herbs and acupuncture in preparation for and support throughout the IVF procedure. As well, both of these modalities can significantly reduce the risk of miscarriage by supporting the female during her entire pregnancy.

A large number of patients who have tried IVF several times and were unsuccessful have soon become pregnant after Chinese medicine treatments. In clinical observation, the ultrasound shows that, after acupuncture, the color of women's ovaries change from cloudy to bright and clear. The follicles usually double in number, the lining of the uterus becomes thicker, and the number of embryos increases significantly. Patients experience less side effects from the Western drugs and feel more at ease and happy. For male patients, it is my experience that the semen quality significantly improves and the sperm number greatly increases. In brief, Chinese medicine can help to improve the success rate of IVF in a number of ways:

1. Improve the function of the ovaries to produce better quality eggs

2. Regulate the hormones to produce a larger number of follicles

3. Increase blood flow to the uterus and increase the thickness of the uterine

4. Relax the patient and decrease their stress

5. Prevent the uterus from contracting

6. Lessen the side effects of drugs used in IVF

7. Strengthen the immune system

8. Improve semen to create better quality and quantity of embryos

9. Decrease chances of miscarriage"

I am listed as one of the preferred providers of Acupuncture services of Herts & Essex Fertility Centre.

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Research paper

Measuring the effectiveness of Chinese Herbal Medicine in improving female fertility

By Trevor A. Wing & Elke S. Sedlmeier

Aim: to determine the relationship between female fertility indicators and the administration of Chinese herbal medicine (CHM)

Results: Significant differences were observed between the two time points for the majority of factors measured. Pregnancies in the sample group recorded 6 months after commencement of the last treatment were 28, with 11 live births and 7 miscarriages.

Conclusion: The study outcome demonstrates that using Chinese herbal medicine results in higher success rates of pregnancy, with no patient side-effects and a reduction in the category of patients conventionally classified as having unexplained infertility.

The RCHM listed the above research as the most robust research into Chinese medicine in research section.

Conditions treated with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine

Conditions treated with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine

The new Advertising Standards Association rules for media and websites no longer allow us to list which conditions we treat. Please contact me about your condition by phone on 07914 251190 and I will be happy to help.

Please refer Health Fact Sheets for general information for a variety of conditions, written by Dr Trevor Wing of the Women's Natural Health Practice (I am an associate), such as:-

Ageing and Fertility, Cystitis, Endometriosis, Fibroids, Increased IUI, IVF and ICSI success with acupuncture, menopause, natural infertility treatment, painful menstrual periods, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), preparing yourself for pregnancy.

Useful websites:

Health Fact Sheets written by Dr Trevor Wing of The Women's Natural Health Practice
(I am an associate of The Women's Natural Health Clinic)

Acupuncture related research recently published in Medical Journals


Lyttleton, J. (2004). Treatment of infertility with Chinese medicine. London: Churchill Livingston.

Lifang Liang (2003). Acupuncture and IVF. Boulder, USA: Blue Poppy Press

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