A Acupuncture & Chinese Herbal Medicine Clinic
TCM Solutions for Infertility
Infertility and TCM: Mechanisms of Action
A study done at Harvard showed that stress reduces the hypothalamic-anterior pituitary-ovarian axis function,
and should thus be considered in the infertility workup. Acupuncture releases endorphins that mitigate one’s
response to stressful stimuli, thus enhancing the possibility of conception.
Biologically, since the hypothalamus regulates both stress responses as well as the sex hormones, it’s easy to
see how stress could cause infertility in some women. Excessive stress may even lead to complete suppression
of the menstrual cycle, and this is often seen in female marathon runners, who develop “runner’s amenorrhea.”
In less severe cases, it could cause anovulation or irregular menstrual cycles.
When activated by stress, the pituitary gland also produces increased amounts of prolactin, and elevated
levels of prolactin could cause irregular ovulation. The female reproductive tract contains stress-hormone
receptors, stress can affect fertility. However, more complex mechanisms may be at play, and researchers still
don’t completely understand how stress interacts with the reproductive system. Research has shown that the
brain produces special molecules called neuropeptides in response to emotions, and that these peptides can
interact with every cell of the body, including those of the immune system. In this view, the mind and the body
are not only connected, but inseparable, so that it is not surprising that stress can have a negative influence
on fertility. Similarly stress can reduce sperm counts as well.
The stress factors that acupuncture addresses stems from both psychological and emotional factors as well
as physical ones. For example, extremely painful premenstrual or mid-cycle pain can be debilitating. This type
of physical stress no doubt produces emotional stress as a result of missed work, interference in activities,
and the pain itself, which in turn can compromise the function of the reproductive system.
The hormone ACTH, which is released as a response to acupuncture needle stimuli, has an anti-inflammatory
effect that may improve fertility (for example, by improving with tube factor–based infertility as a response to
pelvic inflammatory disease). In addition, the insertion of acupuncture needles has been shown to effectively
increase blood circulation. Enhanced blood flow to the uterine lining undoubtedly contributes to a healthier
and more growth-oriented endometrium.
East Meets West
It is becoming more and more prevalent that research conducted by Western scientists and physicians are
highlighting the effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine.
In an article published in the December 2002 issue of the medical journal Fertility and Sterility, the authors
reviewed existing evidence regarding the role of acupuncture in the treatment of infertility, and identified a
number of studies indicating that acupuncture can increase the success rates of infertility treatments, including
IVF. In a study conducted by Dr. Wolfgang Paulus (Christian-Lauritzen-Institut, Ulm, Germany) and colleagues,
half of a group of 160 women who were about to undergo IVF were randomly assigned to receive acupuncture
therapy before and after embryo transfer. In the women who received acupuncture, the needles were placed
at points believed to influence reproductive factors (for example, by improving blood flow to the uterus). The
acupuncture group had a higher rate of pregnancy compared with those not given acupuncture (43% versus
26%), suggesting that acupuncture can be used to improve pregnancy rates during IVF.
One TCM diagnosis that exists which may be help to explain male or female infertility is called Liver qi
stagnation. Key identifiers of an individual with this condition are anger, rage, frustration, depression, and
anxiety. Dr. Secondo Fassino (University School of Medicine, Turin, Italy) and colleagues recorded the
personal characteristics of 156 infertile and 80 fertile couples, and measured their degree of psychopathology.
When the researchers divided the couples according to the nature of the infertility—organic, functional, or
undetermined—they found that anxiety, depression, and a tendency toward anger suppression could predict
the diagnosis of organic or functional infertility in women with 97% accuracy. For infertile men, anxiety was also
an important independent predictor of functional infertility, increasing the likelihood of having this form of
infertility five-fold, while depression was more predictive of organic infertility.
Chinese Medicine seeks to restore balance to the body. Therefore, the practitioner begins by doing a
Chinese medical diagnosis to determine the patient's individualized pattern of disharmony even with the same
condition - infertility. Based on the individualized pattern diagnosis, the practitioner will then craft a
personalized treatment plan encompassing all aspects of the patient's life. No matter whether your practitioner
primarily uses acupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine or some combination of both, their focus will be on
eliminating the root imbalance that is causing your infertility.
Patients seeking fertility & IVF/IUI enhancement, relief from endometriosis, recurrent pregnancy loss, PCOS,
aging eggs, thin endometrial lining, elevated FSH level, luteal phase defects, menstrual disorder, ovulatory
defects, ovarian insufficiency and menopause syndrome make up most of our current workload.