I haven’t posted a Fertility Awareness article since August because I have been so busy writing a new research study and finishing my clinical Doctorate in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM) capstone project.
New Fertility Study
I will be doing another acupuncture and fertility study (in addition to the acupuncture + IVF study) in conjunction with the Fertility Physicians of Northern California. We expect to start enrolling women diagnosed with unexplained infertility in this study by December. I will post details of the study and contact information when be begin the enrollment process.
DAOM Capstone Presentation and Defense
I was one of the first five Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM) candidates to present a capstone paper on Sunday, October 26 at Five Branches University in San Jose, CA. Topics ranged from the etiology of Parkinson’s disease to treating breast cancer with chemotherapy plus herbal formulas. My paper was on treating unexplained infertility with acupuncture. This paper was the basis for the upcoming study I authored (see above). My colleague, John Neiters submitted his soon to be published book on children’s health, More Precious than Gold. John and I can now concentrate on finishing our book on Chinese medicine and fertility enhancement.
I really enjoyed writing my capstone paper because it allowed me an opportunity to delve into the classic Chinese Medicine texts. Here is an excerpt from my capstone project:
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is the longest continuous recorded medical system and has a rich history of treating gynecological diseases and promoting fertility. TCM is a complete medical model with its own medical theories and several modalities such as acupuncture, bleeding, cupping, herbal formulas, massage and moxabustion. One of these modalities in particular, acupuncture is the subject of widespread international research for fertility enhancement.
The Yellow Emperor’s Cannon of Internal Medicine (Ling Shu, SuWen) is one of the oldest surviving Chinese medical texts. This book dates back to 2600 BCE. It sets forth the foundations of modern day Chinese medical theory. There are extensive passages on the physiology and pathophysiology of menstruation, fertility and pregnancy. The concept that fertility requires optimal functioning of the kidneys, liver and spleen organ systems plus the Ren, Du and Chong meridians comes from this book. Additionally, the intimate relationships expressed through channel networks between both the uterus and the heart and the uterus and the kidneys are first set forth in this text. Thus, to influence fertility, treatment must be aimed at regulating these channels and strengthening these organ systems.
The liver is the organ responsible for the free flow of qi, emotions and blood through out the body’s organs and channel networks. Obstruction of the liver and impedance of its duties often results from overwhelming or repressed emotions, which in turn adds to feeling of anger, resentment, irritability and psychological instability. Because of the liver’s relationship blood, suboptimal liver functioning can result in irregular periods, which can indicate failure to ovulate or irregular ovulation.
The spleen is the source of “post heaven qi” and as such is responsible for assimilating nutrients from food and transforming them into qi, blood and body fluids. The body needs an appropriate balance of and high quality blood, qi and body fluids to ovulate, form an endometrium and sustain pregnancy. The spleen also has the ability to uphold blood thus a deficiency in the spleen can result in miscarriage. Disorders of the spleen can also cause midcycle bleeding which can reflect inadequate progesterone production from the corpus lutium. Additionally, the phlegm and dampness that can occur from faulty body fluid metabolism can block the fallopian tubes or inhibit ovulation as seen in polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Infertility almost always involves some pathology of the kidneys. The kidneys are the root of “pre heaven qi”. In other words, the strength of the kidneys is determined by genetics. Aside from constitutional weakness, other causes of kidney deficiency can include: unrestrained sexual activity, excessive manual labor for an extended period of time or deep exhaustion due to lack of sleep and prolonged stress. In chapter one, the Suwen clearly outlines the rising and falling power of the kidneys through out a woman’s lifetime. This has been linked by modern day writers to the hormonal fluctuations from menarche to menopause. Additionally, since a woman is born with all of her ovarian follicles which have the potential to become ootocytes, the quality of these follicles is dependent on the strength of the kidneys.
The act of ovulation requires a shift in the energetics of a woman’s menstrual cycle from yin to yang. The Ren and Du meridians govern all of the yin and yang energy of the body and thus their health is essential to the process of ovulation. The Chong meridian not only links the spleen and kidneys, pre heaven and post heaven potential, but it has a branch that runs up the back with the Du meridian and connects with the Ren meridian in the lower abdomen in the region of the reproductive organs. Therefore, it is also instrumental in conception.
Lastly, the health of the uterus and reproductive organs themselves are essential to conception. According to the Suwen, the uterus is an extraordinary organ. It is hollow like a fu organ, yet functions like a zang organ. In other words, it has space to be filled, but holds blood and rhythmically fills and empties with this essence each month. The Suwen in chapters 33 and 47 also tells us that the uterus and reproductive organs are connected to the heart and the kidneys by special channel networks. Through this connection the kidneys give the uterus a source of original power to create and hold on to life. In her book, The Essential Woman, Elisabeth Rochat De La Vallée describes the connection between the heart and uterus, “From the heart the network also includes connections from the innermost part of the person to the other zang fu and parts of the organism, enabling the distribution of the radiance of the spirits via the blood.” (p. 19).