If you have been trying to have a baby for a while, without success, it can be hard to face each new day with hope and optimism. You question your fertility, and all your “why”s have no clear answers. Why not try these Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) tips to ensure that your body and your mind are in peak condition to welcome new life first?
Medically, infertility is defined as the inability to conceive via unprotected sex over the course of one year, or more. In general, one in six couples does not succeed when trying to get pregnant for the first time.
Contrary to traditional belief, the inability to become pregnant is not always due to problems on the female end. Up to 40% of the time, infertility is caused by a problem that can be attributed to the male. Finally, in up to 20% of cases, infertility can be equally attributed to both the man and the woman.
Using TCM to help improve fertility
Since ancient times, Chinese medicine has been used in China for the treatment of infertility. One of our biggest TCM institutions — the Singapore Thong Chai Medical Institution — even has a special fertility clinic which as been serving patients facing fertility issues for over 30 years.
A landmark study in 2002 found that women undergoing IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) who had acupuncture treatments before and after egg transfer had a pregnancy rate of 42.5% as compared to the non-acupuncture group which had a pregnancy rate of 26.3%.1 Since then, more couples have turned to TCM methods to get pregnant, whether they are going through IVF or not.
You may not be ready for acupuncture, but there are many TCM-recommended ways to improve your fertility and improve your chances of having a baby. Physician Edmund Pang from EMW (East Meets West) Physiotherapy and TCM suggests the following tips. Here’s to hearing the patter of little feet soon!
1. Have sex for fun, not just to procreate
Sex feels good but the added stress of having sex for a purpose can make it a nerve-racking chore. Performance anxiety, anyone? In addition, it is important to manage your stress properly, as stress can heavily impact on your health, and hence, your fertility.
2. Stop stressing yourself out
Experts state that a little stress can be good; it keeps us sharp and ready to move forward. Moreover, it is sometimes vital for achieving optimum performance. However, prolonged stress can impact your health, and hence, fertility2. Studies associate higher stress levels with a longer time-to-pregnancy (TTP), and an increased risk of infertility. Women who experience higher levels of stress also have lower rates of conception3.
3. Give yoga a try
Yoga and meditation can help reduce stress. They are also known to help prepare the body for conception. In fact, some yoga poses that designed to boost fertility4. Some yoga studios in Singapore, such as Devi Yoga and Omsantih Yoga, offer fertility yoga.
4. Consider Acupuncture
Acupuncture helps qi (vital energy) flow through the body along pathways (meridians). It aids with blood flow to the reproductive organs, and stabilises hormonal levels. This helps to increase sperm production, as well as improve sperm count and quality in men.
Studies have also shown that acupuncture can increase the chances of IVF success. Acupuncture combined with Western fertility treatments can yield higher pregnancy and live birth rates.5 In a German study, 34 out of 80 patients (42.5%) in the acupuncture group got pregnant, as compared to 21 out of 80 patients (26.3%) in the control group.6
Do note though that if you are attempting to get pregnant or undergo IVF treatments, it is advisable to begin acupuncture three months before that. Ideally, patients should see their TCM physician twice a week until they get a positive pregnancy test result. After that, once pregnant, they should see the physician weekly during the first trimester. This is to help reduce the risk of miscarriage.
5. Take Chinese herbs
In TCM, a woman’s menstrual cycle is a major indicator of her overall health. Hence whether a patient is trying to get pregnant or is undergoing treatments for anything else, her menstrual cycle is always tracked. As her health improves, her cycles and periods may change as well.
Studies7 have shown that TCM can help improve fertility and reproductive health. It can also help with ovulation for women with amenorrhea (no periods), as well as those with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
6. Clean up your diet
In TCM, nutrition and lifestyle are integral when it comes to enhancing fertility. Digestion is the root of energy and blood production for conception, so having a healthy gut is crucial. Taking a high-quality probiotic can be helpful for this. Similarly, a healthy diet is important.
Focus on organic vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and lean proteins. Minimise processed foods, caffeine, alcohol, and sweets. If you have PCOS, cut down on sugar and carbohydrates. If you are vegan or vegetarian and have exceptionally light periods, you may want to supplement with vegan protein powder.
7. Warm your belly
In Chinese medicine, it is especially important for women who want to conceive to ensure that their lower abdomen is warm. Try warming your abdomen gently during the time after your period, until ovulation. You can do this by placing a heating pad (on medium heat) on your lower abdomen for 20 minutes before bedtime.
8. Get a massage
A good massage stimulates and relaxes the body. It also tones the body by acting on the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, and ligaments). If done regularly in the right manner, its benefits extend to the deeper layers of muscles, and even the organs. Hence deep massage can help untangle nerve tissues and help promote uterine and reproductive health.
9. Take more antioxidants
You probably know that antioxidants are cancer and heart disease-fighters. However did you know that they can also increase male fertility? Researchers have found that men who take antioxidants have less DNA-damaged sperm compared to men who do not. Likewise, couples have higher pregnancy rates when men take additional antioxidants.8
10. Cut down on alcohol and smoking
Moderate alcohol consumption (a few glasses per week) is fine. However too much alcohol can decrease fertility. A study of people with alcohol use disorder found that only 12% of the men had normal sperm counts and health, compared to 37% of non-smokers and non-alcoholics. The study also found progressive deterioration in semen quality in men who increased their alcohol intake and cigarettes smoked.9 Thus if you are hoping to conceive, it would be good to cut back.
:: Bonus! :: Herbal Fertility Tea Recipes
Herbal teas have traditionally been used in Chinese medicine to improve fertility in men and women. These two recipes can help couples who are trying to conceive.
For Her – Womb Warming Tea
This womb warming tea has red dates, rose flowers, Chinese wolfberries, longan, and dried ginger. According to TCM, rose is associated with the liver and spleen meridians. It regulates qi and reduces stagnation, improves menstrual irregularities, removes blood stagnation, nourishes the skin, and improves digestion.
Red dates have an anti-inflammatory effect. They are good for the complexion, nourish the blood (ideal for those with thin menstrual lining), and help with relaxation. Dried ginger helps to treat a cold uterus, and improve digestion.
How to make it:
- 1 tablespoon loose cut dried rose buds
- A handful of pitted red dates
- 1 tablespoon of dried longan
- 3 slices of dried ginger
Place all the ingredients into a cup. Pour in 250ml of boiling water and allow it to rest for five minutes before drinking. Add in a handful of Chinese wolfberries at the end to give your liver an additional lift.
For Him – Morinda root with American Ginseng Tea
In terms of TCM, the kidneys are important for growth and development. They are also crucial for reproduction and water metabolism. Hence any imbalance in the kidney system may lead to health issues.
Morinda warms the kidney and treats kidney yang deficiency, which manifests as sexual ailments such as impotence, premature ejaculation, and infertility.
American ginseng nourishes yin, clears heat, and promotes fluid production in our bodies. It also helps with stress reduction, and boosts energy levels in men.
How to make it:
- 6g of Morinda root (available in TCM stores)
- 3 slices of American Ginseng
Place ingredients into a tea bag, simmer in hot water, and drink during the day.
10 Fertility Tips from a TCM practitioner
In conclusion, there are many ways to help improve your chances of conception. If you have tried other methods to conceive, without success, why not put some of these tips from TCM into practice? Or if you already have tried these, and succeeded, congrats! Do let us know what worked best for you, so as to benefit those who are TTC-ing as well.
Edmund Pang is the Principal Physician at East Meets West EMW Physiotherapy & TCM. He uses clinically proven, evidence-based treatment approaches to help and guide his patients to successful conception, post-delivery, and management of women’s health.
- W. E. Paulus, M. Zhang, E. Strehler, I. El-Danasouri, and K. Sterzik, “Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy” Fertility andSterility,vol.77,no.3,pp.721–724,2002
- Lynch CD, Sundaram R, Maisog JM, Sweeney AM, Buck Louis GM. Preconception stress increases the risk of infertility: results from a couple-based prospective cohort study–the LIFE study. Hum Reprod. 2014;29(5):1067-1075. doi:10.1093/humrep/deu032
- Sengupta P. Challenge of infertility: How protective the yoga therapy is?. Anc Sci Life. 2012;32(1):61-62. doi:10.4103/0257-7941.113796
- Cui Hong Zheng, Ming Min Zhang and Wei Wang. The Role of Acupuncture in Assisted Reproductive Technology. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Volume 2012, Article ID 543924, 15 pages doi:10.1155/2012/543924
- Wolfgang E Paulus, Mingmin Zhang, M.D.b, Erwin Strehler, M.D.a, Imam El-Danasouri, Ph.D.a, Karl Sterzik, M.D.a. Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Fertility and Sterility April 2002 Volume 77, Issue 4, Pages 721–724
- Julia Johansson and Elisabet Stener-Victorin. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Effect and Mechanisms of Acupuncture for Ovulation Induction. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Volume 2013, Article ID 762615, 16 pages
- Ross C, Morriss A, Khairy M, et al. A systematic review of the effect of oral antioxidants on male infertility. Reprod Biomed Online. 2010;20(6):711-723. doi:10.1016/j.rbmo.2010.03.008
- Gaur DS, Talekar MS, Pathak VP. Alcohol intake and cigarette smoking: Impact of two major lifestyle factors on male fertility. Indian J Pathol Microbiol. 2010;53(1):35-40. doi:10.4103/0377-4929.59180