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?
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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