I Am Experiencing Infertility Problems – Where Do I Start?

As a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine who focuses on fertility treatment, I have noticed that the majority of my patients seek treatment with Chinese medicine after they have gone through the treatments with assisted reproductive technology. Many times, the reason for their treatment choices is simply lack of good quality and consolidated information about natural treatment options that are available to them. The initial treatments that most of my patients are exposed to are invasive, emotionally and financially draining and with significant side effects. Needles to say, Western medical treatments have their place and are sometimes the only real possibility for a number of couples wanting to conceive. However, I believe that a large number of patients could benefit from trying less invasive, more affordable and natural treatments before they embark on a more complex journey with Western medicine. Every patient is unique and has different needs at different points in her/his life. Every patient should make their own choice on what kind of treatment is appropriate for her/him. However, having enough information is crucial in making an educated choice. Many times couples spend a lot of money and take drastic measures when simple natural methods could have been just as effective for them. On the other hand, some couples spend too much time pursuing natural methods of treatment when their only possibility for conception would have been the use of assisted reproductive technology.

When Should I Seek Treatment?

Statistics indicate that without using birth control, 25% of couples conceive in 1 month, 60% within 6 months, 80% after a year and 90% by 18-24 months. A woman’s peak fertility occurs between ages of 20 to 25, it becomes less optimal after 30 and tends to be the lowest after 40. Similarly in men, male fertility is optimal in mid 20s, less optimal in his 30s and starts declining in his 40s even though it never terminates completely.

If you are a couple in your early 30s who has been trying to conceive for over a year you should probably start seeking medical help. If you are a couple over 35 years old who has been trying to conceive for 6 months with no results it is time for you to get evaluated.

Where should I seek medical help?

My recommendation for a couple facing fertility problems is that they should first take advantage of the Western medicine diagnostic techniques. Semen analysis, blood tests, ultra sounds and X-rays are a good way to determine if there is a major impediment to fertility like blocked fallopian tubes or very low sperm count. Consulting a doctor who specializes in fertility problems like reproductive endocrinologist may save you lots of time and energy is obtaining the right diagnosis.

Once I have my diagnosis, what kind of treatment is the best for me?

Once you have a clearer diagnostic picture about your condition (I say “clearer” because about 10% of couples facing fertility problems are labeled as “unexplained” infertility) here are the guidelines on how to proceed with your treatment options:

If there is a major impediment to your fertility e.g. blocked fallopian tubes or very low sperm count, ART (assisted reproductive technology e.g. IVF or in vitro fertilization) is probably your best option. Using Chinese medicine in conjunction with ART will make the whole process less stressful, you will suffer less side effects and you can increase your success rate by as much as 40%. Starting a treatment with Chinese medicine at least 3 months prior to your IVF cycle should give you enough time to prepare your body for such a procedure.

If there is a minor impediment to your fertility (e.g. irregular ovulation, mild endometriosis, vague hormonal imbalances, slightly low sperm count) and the woman is less then 35 years old, Traditional Chinese medicine is the best place to start. Three months is the minimum amount of time that you should consider for treatment. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the environment where follicles are developing needs to be enhanced for three months before the egg release. Depending on the severity of the condition, some patients may require treatment for longer periods of time.

If there is an unexplained infertility and the couple has been trying to conceive for a long period of time it is most probable that a combination of minor factors in either or both partners is present and is impeding fertility. Statistical analysis tells us that two minor factors in combination can reduce fertility so dramatically that it can take on average 7 years to get pregnant. Couples who have no detectable abnormality can feel even more frustrated since they are being told that there is nothing wrong but they still can’t get pregnant. Since Chinese medicine views the body as whole, it is able to detect subtle imbalances they may not be measured by standard medical testing. Thorough a detailed patient interview, pulse and tongue diagnosis, Chinese medical practitioner is able to arrive to diagnosis and treat the subtle imbalances that can impede fertility but are not necessarily detectable by standard medical testing.

Which ever route you decide to take in your fertility journey know that you are not alone and that you have more control than you think you have. Find a support group (if there isn’t one in you area start one! Every community has people who face fertility challenges). Work on improving your emotional and physical health. Talk to a counselor who specializes in fertility counseling. Educate yourself about your choices and pick the options that feel the most comfortable to you.

I wish you all the best in your journey!

1. Jansen R 1997 Getting pregnant. Allen and Unwin, Sydney
2. Lyttleton J. 2004 Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh
3. Sloane E. 1993 Biology of Women. Delmar Publishers, Albany, New York

Leave a Reply