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Chinese meds boosts fertility

Cavalee Freeman

Sunday, August 03, 2014    

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COUPLES struggling with infertility issues have at least one widely unknown treatment option that has been found to enhance the success of pregnancy. Traditional Chinese medicine, a 3,000-year-old form of medicine, is often used to treat infertility in women and men through acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas.

"Infertility is the inability to get pregnant after one year of frequent, unprotected sexual intercourse," said Dr Tracey-Ann Brown, Chinese medicine practitioner who specialises in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. "In women, it may be caused by ovulation disorders, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, damage to or blockage of the fallopian tube, uterine or cervical abnormalities, among other causes.

"In men, it may be caused by abnormal sperm production and function," Dr Brown continued.

Considered a non-invasive and relatively safe treatment option, acupuncture is increasingly being used in conjunction with assisted reproduction methods such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

"When acupuncture is complemented with IUI or IVF, it has been found that there is a greater chance of success with as much as a 10-15 per cent increase in live births," Dr Brown told the Jamaica Observer.

Acupuncture treatments involve the insertion of thin needles at acupuncture points, which are located along meridians or pathways of the body used to address reproductive issues in what is typically a comfortable experience for the patient. "There are close to 1,000 acupuncture points on the body," explained Dr Brown. "...Meridians directly affect different organs and systems in the body, such as the lungs, stomach, spleen, etc."

"As it relates to infertility, the Ren Mai and Chong Mai meridians, which run largely along the centre line of the front of the body, are the primary meridians used to treat infertility problems," she added.

According to Dr Brown, patients utilising acupuncture to complement IVF or IUI treatments, should begin treatments at least six weeks before the start of these procedures. In cases where acupuncture and herbal formulas are being used solely, patients should anticipate treatment for six to 12 months, as under normal circumstances the chances of pregnancy is about 20 to 30 per cent with each menstrual cycle, and time has to be allowed for the treatment to take effect. "Several hundred herbs are used in Chinese medicine, many of which are used to nourish and strengthen the body as well as regulate a variety of hormonal imbalances," Dr Brown told the Sunday Observer. "As it relates to treating infertility in both women and men, there are several herbs that are used to strengthen the uterus and increase sperm count."

These herbs, according to the Chinese medicine practitioner, include Dang Gui, which is also known as Angelica Root, and Yin Yang Huo, also known as Licentious Goat Wort. She explained that if there are obstructions, such as cysts or endometriosis, herbs such as Mu Li (Oyster Shell) or Chi Shao (Red Peony Root) are used.

Couples troubled with infertility are sometimes affected psychologically and may even experience feelings of depression, anger and frustration. Other effects of infertility in couples could result in marital conflict, sexual dysfunction in relationships or even just a heightened level of stress and anxiety. However, Dr Brown says there have been several cases where couples affected by infertility have had success through the use of Chinese medicine.

"There was one couple that had tried to get pregnant without success for several years, and after undergoing blood tests, ultrasounds and semen analyses the cause of the difficulty could not be determined. They just didn't know what was preventing them from becoming pregnant," Dr Brown shared. "After hearing about Chinese medicine as an option, the wife began a regime of acupuncture and herbal formulas and within three months of starting the treatment she became pregnant.

"I was pleasantly surprised!" Dr Brown shared.

"There was another couple that had undergone two unsuccessful IVF procedures. It was found that the husband had a slightly low sperm count and the wife had several cysts," Dr Brown explained. "After introducing acupuncture for several months leading up to the third IVF procedure, they were successful and the couple went on to have a healthy baby."

Outside of addressing fertility issues, Dr Brown uses Chinese medicine in the management of pain arising from muscular injury, degenerative bone disease such as arthritis, which affects different joints in the body, sciatica, migraine, and menstrual pain. Additionally, it is used in smoking cessation, insomnia, anxiety, constipation, menopause-related problems, and diabetes management.

"Typically, I do an evaluation of lifestyle and diet and make any necessary recommendations to complement acupuncture and/or herbal treatments," she said. "Foods have a therapeutic value and so recommendations are made regarding foods which should be eliminated from the diet as well as those foods which can be introduced to increase the chances of success."

"Pumpkin, for example, relieves damp conditions such as edema, promotes the discharge of mucus from the lungs and throat and helps to regulate the blood sugar, and so it is a good food for persons with diabetes," Dr Brown continued. "Watermelon is a diuretic and assists with urinary difficulty and urinary tract inflammation."

Although Dr Brown specialises in oriental medicine, which is a modality of alternative medicine, she does not discourage patients from also exploring conventional medicine. Dr Brown, who has been practising since 2005, has received licensure as a Doctor of Acupuncture from the Department of Health in the State of Rhode Island and is also registered locally with the Ministry of Health to practise Chinese medicine, and also undertakes continuing education courses to maintain her licence and certifications. She is also an adjunct lecturer at the University of Technology in Oriental/Chinese medicine and writes a regular health feature.

"Acupuncture is administered by a highly trained professional who is knowledgeable on where to insert the needles, how to needle, as well as the depth to which a needle can be inserted, and in fact children can also receive acupuncture," Dr Brown stated.

Cavalee Freeman is the coordinator for Workplace Wellness 2014, a corporate educational wellness initiative that impacts employees' mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Contact her at info@clubelitelifestyle.com.

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