The Diagnosis of Infertility with TCM
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views health as a state of balance between all of the systems of the body. In terms of fertility there are four organ systems – Kidney, Spleen, Heart and Liver that, when unbalanced, can lead to infertility.
In addition to the organ systems, there are four vital substances – Yin, Yang, Qi and Blood that can become deficient, excessive or stagnant and create a state of unbalance that may manifest as infertility.
All TCM treatments for fertility are founded upon restoring balance and health to these organ systems and vital substances.
Common TCM Diagnoses for Infertility
Liver Qi Stagnation
The movement of Qi through the Liver is necessary for both ovulation and menstruation to occur.
Women with Liver Qi stagnation often experience symptoms of imbalance both at ovulation (bloating, irritability, breast tenderness) and at menstruation (premenstrual breast tenderness, irritability, anger, painful periods).
This pattern is often seen in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and in women with long menstrual cycles.
Spleen Qi Deficiency
In TCM Spleen Qi manages the second half of the menstrual cycle (the luteal phase). Together with the Kidney Yang, the Spleen Qi allows for build-up of the endometrial lining and supports progesterone production.
Women with Spleen Qi deficiency typically have low energy, cravings for sugar or breads, poor circulation and may experience spotting before their periods, menstrual cramps and fatigue during their periods.
A Spleen Qi deficiency pattern is common in women with luteal phase defect.
Kidney Yang Deficiency
Kidney Yang works together with the Spleen Qi to control the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Kidney Yang supports the production of progesterone and maintains an elevated body temperature after ovulation.
Women with Kidney Yang deficiency experience symptoms of coldness – cold feet or hands or an intolerance to cold. They may have menstrual cramps that feel better with use of a heating pad.
Kidney Yang deficiency often occurs with a Spleen Qi deficiency and is common in women with a luteal phase defect and in women with a prolonged follicular phase or long menstrual cycle (greater than 30 days).
Kidney Yin Deficiency
While Kidney Yang and Spleen Qi control the luteal phase, Kidney Yin controls the follicular phase (the first half of the menstrual cycle, while the egg is developing prior to ovulation). Kidney Yin also controls production of cervical mucus and opening of the cervix during ovulation.
Women with Kidney Yin deficiency may experience night sweats, hot flashes and have little or no midcycle cervical mucus. They may not experience any significant symptoms around their period.
Kidney Yin deficiency often occurs with shortened follicular phases, prolonged follicular phases and in elevated FSH and low oestrogen states. Amenorrhea (absence of menses) is also often indicative of a Kidney Yin deficiency.
There are many other TCM imbalances that can contribute to infertility. The ones listed above are by far the most common but other imbalances may include:
- Blood stasis
- Blood deficiency
- Heart deficiency
- Excess Heat
Treating a TCM Imbalance
Once you have received a TCM you can begin making changes to balance your systems and improve your chances of pregnancy.
Four-step program to help women rebalance their bodies and support their fertility.
Step One: Appropriate diagnosis of imbalances and develop a plan for harmonizing your systems and balancing your energy
Step Two: Lifestyle and dietary changes to support balance in your systems. In TCM certain foods and activities have specific properties. You can use food, exercise, relaxation techniques, yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong and more to increase energy to your Kidneys, boost your Spleen Qi or clear Liver stagnation.
Step Three: Balance the energetic meridians through acupuncture. A series of acupuncture sessions can balance the organ systems and support smooth flow of Blood and Qi to the reproductive organs and throughout the body.
Step Four: Correct imbalances and increase chances of pregnancy through herbs. Herbs are natural energetic substances that can gently and effectively correct imbalances and optimize fertility.
If you have been struggling with infertility and are interested in another approach, a Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis may be a good place for you to start. Bring balance back to your body and book an appointment with one of our practitioners who is knowledgeable about TCM in fertility today.
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The West Wimbledon Physiotherapy Clinic aims to provide a selection of services to maintain and enhance health and wellbeing. Although primarily a physiotherapy clinic, a range of other treatments are available.