Fertility Center: Can You Conceive?

Photo by Alicia Petresc on Unsplash

In health, a woman is a ‘fertility center’! 

This page shows you what Chinese medicine says about trying to conceive – your fertility center – and your chance of getting pregnant.

Remember, Chinese medicine has been thinking about this for 3000 years, rather longer than modern Western medicine. They lacked scientific instruments as we know them. Instead, Chinese doctors used their powers of observation and sensitivity. They applied this to the monthly cycle and a woman’s periods, her menses, to diagnose and treat women trying to conceive.

They realised the importance of regular, healthy menses on a woman’s chance for:

  • getting pregnant and
  • a healthy pregnancy

 

They worked out how to help and monitor them.

You might think that when modern Western medicine arrived, doctors of traditional Chinese gynaecology might give up and do something else! In fact, modern life imposes major problems on women’s bodies which Chinese medicine is very good at helping.

The result? More than ever, Traditional Chinese medicine is being used to diagnose and advise women who are trying to conceive.

In fact many acupuncturists specialise in fertility centers, for example.

Trying to Conceive?

‘So what are the basic ideas for promoting a healthy fertility center in a woman? For healthy menses what do you need?

 

Fertility Center in Chinese Medicine
Fertility Center workings in Chinese medicine
 

Blood and Qi

For her womb, her uterus, to work properly there must be Blood and Qi, moving and functioning smoothly.

Blood comes from the food you eat and from your body’s ability to transform it into blood. Blood, (capital B) can then nourish the womb and life inside it.

So your Stomach Energy needs to get you to choose, acquire and prepare, cook and chew the food, then send it on to the Intestines.

Here the Spleen energy transforms it into the red stuff but, at least in Chinese medicine, it doesn’t become Blood (capital B) until it has received Qi from the Lungs and Life from the Heart. Click here for more about this process.

 

Burning Firewood: a symbol for the readiness of a woman's fertility center.
Photo by Luke Porter on Unsplash

 

However, that’s still not quite the end of it. For a healthy uterus, you need also ‘Essence‘ or ‘Jing’. This is roughly equivalent to inherited ‘knowhow’ or genes. although that would suggest it’s just information when, in addition, it is a hugely important source of energy.

You also need Yang. Yang comes in the form of what is called Minister Fire: ‘spark‘, if you like: something like libido but as we all know, pregnancy can occur without there being desire.

Both Jing and Yang are dispensed by the Kidney energy.

So now we’ve got Blood, Jing and Yang. What else do we need?

Two important influences take the process forward. One is the Heart energy organ, which governs Blood (after all, if the Heart doesn’t pump, we can all go home). This ‘governing Blood’ idea may seem a bit arcane but the Heart provides the Mental and Emotional balance for a woman’s ‘fertility center’ to know what it’s doing.

Your Heart and your Fertility Center

The Heart is so important here that there is even a special ‘secret’ stairway or channel between the Heart and the Uterus. (Which may help to explain why some women have palpitations when their uterus is removed – but that will be the subject of another page.)

Also, she needs a healthy Liver Energy organ to move the Blood when it needs to be moved. This balances the Spleen function which likes to hold things in place.

For healthy periods, you can see that the Spleen energy builds up Blood and holds it in place, the Liver makes sure it can flow out at the end of the cycle, ready for the next one.

If your Blood flows at the wrong time, it may be because the Spleen can’t hold it in place. This could be because of tiredness or heat or a range of other things. If your period is very late, it might be because your Liver Qi is stagnating, or because you are so weary that your Spleen (and Stomach and the others) can’t get the energy together to make enough Blood to be worth a period.

Acupuncture Channels and your Fertility Center

You’ve heard of acupuncture points! Probably you’ve also heard of acupuncture channels or ‘meridians’?

On the surface of your abdomen run the Conception vessel points, Kidney channel points, Stomach, Spleen and Gallbladder channel points. Even more run up inside, making your lower abdomen, where you womb resides, one of your most richly permeated areas for acupuncture channels. These include, importantly, your Liver channel: vital for timing and healthy flow of Blood.

Your body invests a huge amount of its resources on your womb. Keep yourself healthy and your chances increase for a healthy pregnancy and birth!

Sperm – another necessary ingredient for a healthy Fertility Center!

This page is more for women, though I hope men will be interested too. However, both will want to check out sexual impotence, which is more for men.

It may help to ensure that the man is in good health and condition!

The Fertility Center Cookpot

 

 
Cooking pot symbol for the womb, the fertility center.
Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Unsplash

So, if we take the analogy of the cooking pot:

  • the Cook (the Heart) needs to know she wants to get pregnant and she’s happy about it, 
  • the Spleen and Stomach can produce the ingredients and start preparing them, 
  • the Kidney knows the recipe and supplies vital know-how and special ingredients … 
  • … one of which is Jing-Essence 
  • the Liver decides on quantities and timing.

 

Then, with all these ingredients to hand, an egg can be produced and the nest prepared (to switch analogies!).

All your fertility center needs then is another bit of Yang, to bring the egg (Yin) to life. It’s called sperm!

What Can Go Wrong at your Fertility Center?

What could possibly go wrong when trying to conceive? After all, we’ve been evolving for a million years: you’d think our genes might have sorted it all out by now!

Well, obviously, if you’re reading this, things may not be going just as you had hoped.

Here are some possibilities in Chinese medicine:

 

Stomach and Spleen

  • Irregular or inadequate nutrition
  • Inability to turn food into Blood
  • Insufficient Qi to hold the menses, or the baby, in place

 

Kidney

 

Heart

  • Big emotional upsets
  • Shock
  • Accident
  • Heart sends Energy down too much: tendency to lowered Spirits, lack of hope or direction in life
  • Confusion in the Heart energy

 

Liver

 

Also, if you have had a miscarriage, read our page on it here.

(Technical Stuff)

If you know a bit about acupuncture theory, you’ll realize I haven’t mentioned Chong Mai or Mo the Penetrating Channel, Ren Mai or Mo the Conception Vessel or Du Mo the Governor channel, to mention but three omissions.

In treating women with infertility, knowing about and diagnosing problems with these issues and knowing how to use these extra-ordinary channels can be essential for success. But in trying to explain this overall picture simply, I have omitted them.

 

Infertility at your Fertility Center

There are six main causes in Chinese medicine:

  1. Overwork – this is important in the West where many women work without adequate time to rest, and it goes on for years. This affects mainly Kidney (long-term deep-seated weariness, often Kidney Yin exhaustion) or Liver Yin deficiency, with tinnitus, headaches, irritability, painful periods etc. (It’s unfair, but even if you enjoy your work, you may still be working too hard for your body to get pregnant.)
  2. Genetic weakness. This covers inherited conditions but it’s more than that. It includes the health, or lack of health, of the woman at her time of conception, constitutional weakness of the woman’s parents when she was conceived, especially of her mother, and of course, the inability of the sperm to fertilize the woman’s egg. This can cover, too, the inability to ovulate, or poor egg quality, low hormone levels and thinness of the wall of the womb (its endometrium), although other factors like Blood deficiency and Qi deficiency are also involved.
  3. Nutrition: if for too long a woman doesn’t eat enough, or doesn’t eat enough of the right foods and for too long she eats the wrong foods (or drinks) then her Spleen and Stomach can’t make the Blood and Qi she needs. Whether it is that she hasn’t eaten enough for her needs, or she eats a particular diet that either doesn’t suit her or doesn’t supply what her body needs, if the Blood isn’t thick enough, she can’t make babies. In addition, eating foods that are too cold for her can snuff out the Yang energy needed by her fertility center, her womb, and if she habitually eats damp-forming foods, these can block the progress of her egg down the fallopian tubes. A condition called Damp-Heat is characterized by vaginal, fallopian tube or pelvic infection, for example, and this condition is often caused, or exaggerated by eating foods that are too heating.
  4. Overdoing it physically: it is great that a woman can enjoy sport and the physical freedom of exercise to build a body that conforms to her desires, but for her fertility center, her womb, to be stable and fertile and able to become pregnant, there must be a regular supply of Blood and periods. Overdoing it physically diverts the Blood supply to other uses. Worse, they may stop her periods altogether. Theoretically this is particularly a problem when young women are at or just after puberty, when their bodies are particularly sensitive to stress. This would also include not getting enough sleep or rest after vigorous exercise or sport.
  5. Cold. In a bird’s nest, if the parent birds don’t keep the eggs warm, the eggs die. Similarly, a woman’s womb must be warm enough to nourish and support a growing baby. Fashion and the desire for freedom of self-expression incline many women to wear too little just at a time when their womb is developing during puberty (often causing them many years of painful or irregular periods) or later when trying to conceive. Cold acts in various ways, one of the most common being Blood Stasis or Blood stagnation. Here, even if there is enough Blood it fails to flow properly. This inhibits ovulation and/or causes uterine fibroids, for example.
  6. Sex! Too much too early may harm a woman’s chances of getting pregnant. This seems so unfair! But it applies perhaps to women, or maturing women, who have been taken advantage of, been abused or allowed themselves to be abused, to the point that they get diseased, especially if they catch sexually transmitted diseases. Disease can stop fertilization in many ways, including blocking of the fallopian tubes and vaginal infections, both of which block the sperm’s progress. Infection is usually diagnosed as Damp-Heat in Chinese medicine, and can be exacerbated by the wrong diet, see above.

 

No periods at all?

If a woman has been having no periods, then there’s an additional reason for infertility – additional that is, to those mentioned above.

Stress, worry, depression. It is terrible to say this, especially if you are feeling stressed, worried and depressed, but these emotions (plus any other major emotion) can disrupt your Heart energy.

If your Heart energy isn’t working smoothly (and this does NOT mean that you have a heart problem) then, as Governor of your Blood, it cannot smoothly supply blood where it’s needed, when it’s needed ie to your fertility center, your womb.

 

Fertility Center Treatment

 

 

As you may imagine, for 3000 years Chinese doctors haven’t been merely diagnosing fertility center problems of infertility. They have evolved ways to treat it. Western medicine has huge advantages in many ways, but doesn’t yet look at fertility center problems as being energetic in nature – and in its current form, Western medicine has only been around for perhaps 200 years.

Nowadays there are many fertility centers and fertility treatments using the theory of Chinese medicine.

What About IVF?

Do You have a Question or Comment?

If you have a question on infertility and how perhaps Chinese medicine might diagnose it, fill out the form below (it’s right down at the bottom of the page, below the ‘related’ articles) and we’ll try to answer you.

Under the form you can see what others have asked or said. That’s also where, if you have something you’d like to contribute, it may be shown so others can read it.

However, if you have a question and DO NOT want it to be displayed, please say so CLEARLY! I don’t wish to cause you offence or embarrassment. 

Oh! And if you do not want a public reply, make sure the email address  you give is real! Otherwise you’ll never receive the answer you were anticipating.

Important! Please head your question with the word ‘Fertility’.

 

Have a Question or Story About This Topic?

Do you have a question or a great story about this? Would you share it? Again, see the form below.

Please note! Your contribution will not be made public if you don’t want it to be. Please let me know when you write and be sure to include your real email address so I can communicate privately with you.

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Questions from Readers

These questions have come in the normal way, but the senders didn’t want their details made public, so I replied privately and summarise the question and answer below. The question is exactly as asked:

Adenomyosis and Fallopian Tubes infertility

“I have been trying to conceive through IVF for three years now.

After trying naturally in vain I was diagnosed with blocked fallopian tubes.

Then we did three IVF cycles with 5 embryo transfers, all not successful.

Before the last cycle, I was advised to remove the tubes, which I did, but it didn’t help.

I changed the doctor and she now says I have adenomyosis and this could be the reason for the lack of implantation.

My question is if removing the tubes has impacted the balance of the body and is there anything I can do, like nutrition or self-acupressure for any imbalance and for reducing the adenomyosis?

There aren’t many TCM doctors in the country I live in, but i feel this could help.”

My Answer

I’m very sorry you’ve had all this trouble. It must be intensely frustrating, indeed agonising.

Do I think removing your tubes affects the balance of your body? 

Yes, I do. In itself it may not affect your fertility, although of course without tubes your eggs cannot be reached by sperm in the normal way.

But if you have, stored, more eggs which IVF can fertilise, in itself tube removal might not prevent pregnancy.

However, your tubes are part of your female yin apparatus, so the operation may, from the point of view of Chinese medicine, possibly reduce your ability to conceive and carry on through pregnancy. But probably, given the wonders of modern medicine, not by much.

There is another issue, however, which comes closer to the adenomyosis, which is that operations nearly always cause Blood stasis because they are a form of trauma. Like a deep bruise, blood flows less vigorously: it has to find its way round additional obstacles and scars from the surgery.

Adenomyosis, assuming you have it, is a form of tumour, like a continuing bruise, and is almost always diagnosed as being a form of Blood Stasis. Possibly pregnancy won’t ‘take’ because the yin-like processes of absorbing, implanting and nourishing don’t work so well when Blood can’t flow properly. You can read more on our page You Probably have Blood Stasis! What to do about it? – Acupuncture Points (acupuncture-points.org).

So that’s the bad news.

What can be done?

Well, DIY treatment isn’t going to be easy nor quickly effective, but it may help, depending on your overall health and vigour.

Towards the bottom of that page on Blood stasis I’ve described various treatments you could begin.

To start with, get your partner to do some guasha over your abdomen and and/or cupping on your low back and sacrum. Because you aren’t perhaps familiar with these, read the page on cupping. I wouldn’t do cupping on your abdomen to start with.

Guasha, a form of gentle scraping with a spoon, on your abdomen would be better. You’ll have to look it up on the internet because I haven’t yet written a page on it. Don’t bother to buy any of the expensive contraptions web retailers will try to sell you! The kind of ceramic spoon Chinese restaurants sometimes produce for soup consumption is ideal.

If, after gently scraping for 15 minutes or so you see an area of skin turning a mottled bruise-like colour, that’s excellent because it suggests the stagnant blood is being moved, or pulled out towards the surface. Of course, be careful of any scars that are still healing. Always wait some days before doing it again.

The point of guasha and cupping is to try to ‘move’ any Blood stasis locally.

There’s lots more advice (including some on food) on the page on Blood stasis.

Acupuncture for this

As to acupuncture points, they are also listed on the Blood Stasis page though if I were treating you, diagnosis would lead me to the best ones to use and they might not be where the books say they should be.

At any rate, if one of the points listed is very sore, that’s a pointer to it being of possible benefit. Regular, GENTLE, massage on it may help.

Overall body massage, and reflexology, may also help. Don’t do so much that you start getting tired by it, however. A little and often is better than a huge amount altogether.

Herbs

Probably someone trained in Chinese herbal medicine would also prescribe a herbal formula, adapted to your symptoms.

This would be to move Blood and support your ‘upright’ qi. This would be aimed at reducing the adenomyosis, if that is what you have. I’m afraid it can’t do anything about the missing tubes, however.

One further thought … many failed pregnancies occur because the sperm isn’t healthy. There’s more on our page Male Infertility – Acupuncture Points (acupuncture-points.org)

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2 Responses

  1. After some research on your site and others, I believe I have damp-heat. I also have held in a lot of anger in my life do to abuse as a child. I was wondering if either of these, or both combined, could have caused my daughter to have septic shock when she was born? I am also fighting fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, IBS, and overweight, and my mother smoked when I was in the womb (which I’ve seen can cause weight problems), and these may also have contributed.

    1. Dear Amy

      If you are correct in your self-diagnosis of damp-heat, then this could mean you were harbouring an infection in your reproductive system as infections like and may produce damp-heat.

      As I understand it, Western medicine-defined ‘sepsis‘ can be caused by infection originating in several places including the reproductive system, so to that extent your surmise may be correct as being a source of infection from which your daughter might have developed sepsis.

      How your other conditions contribute to this is hard to say. Certainly damp-heat can be present with all of them. Suppressed anger also links to qi stagnation, one consequence of which is heat which might exacerbate any existing damp-heat. Diet can also contribute: we have page on foods that cause or at least contribute to damp-heat. That page includes a link to foods that may help to clear it.

      What an invidious situation for you! I am so sorry. However, with good care and love even severe illness at birth can be overcome.

      Best wishes – Jonathan

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