To Your Health
April, 2008 (Vol. 02, Issue 04)
Women, by comparison, are extremely complex reproductively. They have countless hormones that have to be in fairly narrow concentrations to get pregnant, stay pregnant and carry a baby to term.
Some common causes of infertility can be categorized as environmental (e.g., heavy metal toxicity, electromagnetic influences), emotional, structural (Fallopian tube occlusion [blockage]), and organic (anti-sperm antibody production, sexually transmitted diseases, endometriosis, polycystic Ovarian syndrome, etc.) Interestingly enough, no emotional causes are cited in modern medical texts beyond "stress" - a woman's concern over having a baby will actually inhibit her from having one.
Pregnancy is a multi-step process. First, a woman must be capable of producing a viable egg (ovum). Then, the egg must be able to be fertilized by the sperm, travel down the fallopian tube and successfully implant into the wall of the uterus (endometrium). At this point, the fetus must be nurtured in that environment until birth. Trying to get pregnant is an emotionally charged topic, with well-meaning family members adding to the already high pressure to reproduce. Anxiety, anger, disappointment with one's reproductive system and shame are all emotions common with partners trying to conceive. Those couples who have tried conscientiously for years to have children and finally adopt, have a surprisingly high rate of pregnancy after the adoption paperwork is complete and the pressure is off.
Tai chi and meditation are two exceptional ways for a couple to decompress and return to a state of balance in a world of high-powered careers and chronically overscheduled lives. Practitioners of Chinese medicine do not use the term "infertility", we recognize an imbalance is present and need to work with the patient to restore balance and harmony resulting in healthy parents and subsequently healthy offspring. Focusing on optimal health is the key to conception, according to Chinese doctors.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has identified four common disorders (in order of prevalence) that contribute to infertility or increased chance of miscarriage: polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, fibroids, and premature ovarian failure (POF) or ovarian insufficiency.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS):PCOS is a disorder affecting 5 percent and 10 percent of American women, where the ovaries are enlarged and contain fluid-filled sacs. Levels of androgens (male hormones) typically increase causing a number of issues. Acne and hirsuitism (additional hair or coarse hair) are common signs of PCOS. The symptoms usually develop during puberty and can include irregular menstrual bleeding or weight gain. Acupuncture is known to help balance hormones and improve the symptoms associated with PCOS.
Endometriosis: Endometriosis is a disease whereby patches of endometrial tissue, normally found in the uterus, migrate to other areas of the body, usually within the pelvis. The implication is that the misplaced endometrial tissue responds to the same hormones as the endometrium and may bleed during the menstrual period, leading to cramps, pain, irritation and scar tissue. Researchers estimate that 5.5 million women suffer from endometriosis in North America.
Signs and symptoms of endometriosis include painful menstruation (cramps, abdominal pain, etc.). Diagnosing endometriosis on symptoms alone can be daunting due to their variability and overlap with other conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease and irritable bowel syndrome.