The Five Best Ways To Boost Your Fertility With Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Aimee Laurence

Trying for a baby is a time to build a closer connection with your partner and to focus on what life will be like with another member of the family. Though when you feel you have been trying for a long while, your fertility starts to come into question. This can put pressure on couples and families, lead to lower self-worth and prolong increasing your family. There are many natural ways that women and men discuss that aid fertility; these are five tried and tested methods that use Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to help you have a baby.

1. Focus on your health: diet and exercise and mindfulness

A woman’s reproductive system requires the whole body to be in balance and good health for a balanced and healthy pregnancy to occur. Men’s reproductive systems also require the body to be in optimal health to produce healthy and strong sperm. Diet and lifestyle are key. TCM takes a focus on bettering the health of the entire body alongside targeting the reproductive organs.

With age, we are more exposed to potential health hazards and toxins in our environments and may make poorer dietary and lifestyle choices. Eliminating mucous-promoting foods such as gluten and dairy will improve the health of your reproductive tract. Minimize caffeine, alcohol and white foods – sugar, salt and flour.

“Foods that increase sperm quality are seafood (especially squid, eel and cuttlefish), Chinese yam and ginkgo biloba. Alcohol has a negative effect on sperm quality and sex drive is increased with zinc-heavy foods such as peanuts, chicken and eggs,” says Lee Connolly, traditional Chinese medicine expert at Academized and Assignment Service. Fertility can be reduced when taking part in intense exercise more than four times a week. On the other hand, gentle and regular exercise is brilliant for the health of the blood – vital for good fertility.

Photo by JD Mason on Unsplash

Also take time to promote a positive mindset in your life. Keep a healthy sleep hygiene and stay present. This will help you avoid stress if you have been trying for a long time.

2. Find a TCM specialist

There is a huge range of resources that can teach about TCM, but the best place to go for advice is someone properly educated in it. AcuFinder and the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine are great reputable places to look. An ideal practitioner will be experienced in understanding women’s health and fertility.

3. Knowing when there is a problem

If you have been experiencing a lack in fertility for more than a year and are under 35 (and your partner is under 35), or if you have had this issue for at least six months and are over the age of 35, it may be in your best interests to simply go to a doctor. This could be a TCM practitioner or medical doctor. Identifying if there is an issue early will increase your chances of having a baby.

4. Understanding hot and cold foods

Internal heat is developed when a person has too many “hot” foods. And there are many ailments that are caused by an over-consumption of “cold” foods. This isn’t about temperature, but about the actual properties of the food substances. “Neutral foods stimulate the spleen, appetite and enhance nourishment. Always keep moderation in mind when thinking about your diet,” says Karen West, health writer at Big Assignments and Ox Essays.

Photo by Nadine Primeau on Unsplash

5. Warm your abdomen

In TCM, the lower abdomen is seen as carrying the fire of the body. Infertility can, therefore, be caused by a cold abdomen affecting the uterus. This can easily be counteracted by using a hot water bottle or heating pad each evening after a period up until ovulation. Ovulation pains or severe cramping can be aided with using castor oil to accompany the heat. TCM is one of the oldest medicines in practice and has grown from millennia of use, encompassing nutrition, sophisticated herbalism, tui na and qigong as well as acupuncture. Aside from fertility, a woman’s reproductive cycle is a major indicator of her health – talk to
a TCM specialist for more information on this and for personalized advice. TCM can be as beneficial as stimulating ovulation in women with no periods, helping make cycles more regular and reducing endometriosis.

Image from Chatelaine Magazine

Aimee Laurence can be found offering her expert insights as an educator at Essay Writing Service and BoomEssays, where she mostly writes about college life. Aimee also tutors at Essay Roo academic service.


Pregnancy - The Ultimate Exercise in Letting Go

By Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP

Pregnancy, until recently, had been a bit of an abstract concept for me. I have always thought of it as a wonderful, magical and beautiful experience, and one that is probably one of the most important and profound in any woman's life, I just hadn't ever done it before. So far, it has been an amazing education, and it is only going to get more intense in the next couple of months, especially when I get to the birth part. I have always found that going through things is the best way that I can learn and bring those experiences to my patients. And what I have learned so far, is that pregnancy is the ultimate exercise in letting go.

In my experience, how you are pregnant (and give birth) has a lot to do with how you live your life. It has been interesting to see all of the pregnant ladies coming and going from the birth centre over the past many months. Most seem relaxed, and that meshes well with the general atmosphere of the birth centre, as it is quiet and very comfortable, looking more like a little house - with comfy couches with lots of pillows - than a medical facility with bright lights and people rushing around in scrubs.

My experience with people outside of the birth centre environment has been a little bit different. There are always a lot of questions and anxiety surrounding pregnancy and birth. Inside my circle of friends, there is support and calm about the whole situation. We are all on the same page when it comes to this subject. Many of us are healers. Hippies. Trust in the universe, nature and our bodies. There is no anxiety, only love and support. But from the outside, the reaction is noticeably different. For one, pregnancy seems to be the ultimate conversation starter. Complete strangers will come up to you and ask about how far along you are, if it is your first baby and if it is a boy or a girl. It is sweet to see how seeing a pregnant girl really brings out feelings of joy in complete strangers. People in the grocery store see your belly and smile. Random strangers will come up to you and congratulate you, or tell you that you look beautiful and radiant which has been really lovely. Everyone seems to be really excited and happy about impending babies. And they are pretty cute, so who can blame them?

From what I can tell from past patients and many mothers that I have spoken to, is that I have been really lucky with my pregnancy so far. I have not had any morning sickness or any problems whatsoever. There were periods of intense eating (which was alarming to anyone around me who had the pleasure of witnessing me eating for eight or nine people), and a few weeks, after a large growth spurt, some intense sciatic pain accompanied with pain in my back. But thankfully the pain resolved itself and the insane eating has slowed down a little and now it seems I am only eating for five or six. It is still impressive to watch and my mother almost cries with joy to see me eat that much as I have always been thin, *too* thin as far as she is concerned.

Pregnancy and Letting Go

One of the most profound things I have experienced being pregnant is the overwhelming feeling of having to let go. Perhaps this is difficult to explain, but I will try. The first thing that went, although I did have to willingly let it go, was all sense of dignity. Granted, after med school and learning about all the things that can happen to human bodies, your sense of dignity is significantly altered. But going through something like pregnancy takes it to a whole new level. First of all, your body is doing things that you never thought were possible. There are the things that you learn about pregnancy in your textbooks, and then there are the "other" things that happen when you are pregnant that are new and surprising. Not everyone experiences all of these things of course, and there is a wide array, but without getting into details let me just say that this has been humbling.

 

Pregnancy and Letting Go : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from www.thespiritscience.net

We have a lot of body issues in our culture. Women are taught to not only be wildly successful in their careers and at home, but they are taught that being beautiful, fit and thin are virtues as well. It is a lot of pressure, and I know from the ladies I see in my practice, that it takes a toll. Many women come with feelings of inadequacy, who are constantly fighting their bodies and who give way more to the people in their lives than they give to themselves. And it still amazes me how these women - beautiful, successful women with amazing talents, who have incredible children and great relationships can still feel that they are not enough and should be doing better. We could all, in my opinion, use a little more self-love.

Pregnancy - The Ultimate Exercise in Letting Go : Chinese Medicine Living

When you are pregnant everyone wants to give you advice, and the number of books and blogs out there about pregnancy are overwhelming. I actually found some articles about how to lose weight when you are pregnant. Yes. Why in gods name would you want to lose weight while you were pregnant? The answer is that you wouldn’t. And there are lots and lots and LOTS of articles about how to lose weight after pregnancy, how to tighten up belly skin (and other things), get rid of stretch marks and so forth. I see a lot of information about how to get your post-baby body back and I know it is a concern for a lot of ladies. The thing is, that when you have a baby growing inside you, you are supposed to gain weight. Granted, you should be eating well and getting everything you need to help your baby grow and develop but that is going to cause your body to change. And that is ok. It is marvelous actually. You are making a human being, and that is awesome.

I know that this whole process, the process of pregnancy and birth, is a lot easier if you can relax and let go. Easy to say I know but for some, so much harder to do. One of the reasons that I chose to have a baby not with a doctor or OBGYN and instead with a midwife, is that midwives respect this process. Their job is not to intervene, but to support you and your body because they believe (and I also believe) that your body at least, knows EXACTLY what it is doing. It was designed to do it. If you can really accept that this is true, then pregnancy and birth will be a lot easier for you.

There are a lot of things that women fear about childbirth, which is understandable. For instance, pain is one of the biggest. It is completely normal that when you actually think through what is going to happen, that you would have some feelings of anxiety about it. Of course. But there are many ways in which we can cope with that pain. Women, especially, are very good at this. Many meditative practices are excellent for pain management. Deep breathing. Internal martial arts. And being in control of your state of mind are some. Fear, as an emotion, contracts. It tightens and makes things small. And many women go through pregnancy and labour with these feelings which actually intensifies pain. The hospital environment also, with all the chaos, bright lights and doctors taking control away from the mother, all feed this fear and can intensify pain. Creating a relaxed and calm atmosphere can decrease feelings of discomfort and pain enormously. Because everyone has a different idea of what a comfortable environment is, it is good to think about it so that you can consciously create it for yourself. Not just with things like pregnancy and childbirth, but with any situation that you know scares you or makes you uncomfortable. Do things for yourself that calm and soothe you and help yourself get through the experience with positivity, expansiveness and joy instead of fear and trepidation.

Pregnancy - The Ultimate Exercise in Letting Go : Chinese Medicine Living

Another thing that I have noticed that I have really had to let go of, is my ideas about how I want this whole thing to go. Not only my pregnancy but giving birth as well. I am a strong willed and extremely stubborn person, so this whole letting go thing has not come easy. I have been working on it my whole life. A lot of it came from the discipline of many years of martial arts (bless them). A lot of it has come from some serious work on myself, self-reflection, writing and working through demons, and some more has come from my meditation practice which has helped me more than I can express to get through difficult times and put things in perspective. These things have helped in every aspect of my life, and I know are helping me now with my pregnancy and will help with the birth process.

When thinking about it I realized that I had some fears when it came to the birth. I had to be honest with myself and realize that what scared me was what I didn’t want, which was to have a baby at the hospital. I didn’t want to deal with doctors who might try to force me to have drugs or a cesarean which might inevitably lead to me putting said doctor into a headlock or worse and us both ending up on the evening news. So I had to face this fear and really come to terms with the fact that if for whatever reason I do have to go to the hospital to have a baby, I will have to accept it and not fight. I will have to let go and accept it or the entire process will be unpleasant for me, and for my baby.

In conclusion, I have tried to keep my ideas about pregnancy and birth pretty loose as far as how I would like everything to go. I keep my desires about things general like - I would like to have a healthy baby, rather than I must have a water birth with a midwife with no drugs on or after my due date. Of course, I have an idea of how I would like things to go, but I am not married to it and if it changes I have worked through my feelings so that I will not be devastated or disappointed. A lot of this is the excellent keeping things in perspective skills I have acquired over the years. So, what is amazing about this experience. I have had an amazing, practically symptom-free, healthy pregnancy. At the ultra sound (which was a mind blowing experience, wow!!) I learned and saw that I had a fully formed beautiful baby who has all fingers, toes, organs and is super healthy. I am having this baby with a person that I love madly and who is an amazing partner and will be an incredible father. Every one of those things is a blessing and I am grateful for every single one of them, and I make sure to be thankful for them every day. I am grateful and I want to make sure my baby can feel that too.  In the end, the most important thing is that whatever happens, a healthy baby is the result. How he or she decides to come into the world is largely up to him or her. I for my part, will do my best to be calm and relaxed and make the journey as easy and lovely as possible. And I am thankful for all these lessons in letting go and look forward to applying them to the rest of my life - and I am sure that they will be useful when raising a tiny human too. :)

Pregnancy - The Ultimate Exercise in Letting Go : Chinese Medicine Living

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Pregnancy - The Ultimate Exercise in Letting Go : Chinese Medicine Living

 


Birth Without Fear

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I would like to preface this by saying that I believe that everyone has the right to choose how they live their lives and how they choose to give birth. If there is anything that travel has taught me, is that I am very lucky to live in a place where we are able to have choices over a great many things. What I wish to present here is how I have chosen to travel this path, and to give information. I have seen through many years of clinical practice that many people are unaware of how medicalized the process of pregnancy and especially birth has become in this country. I only wish to educate so that people may make the most informed choices possible and fully understand all possible outcomes for the choices they are making.

Giving Birth Naturally : Chinese Medicine Living

This beautiful image from http://www.hartshornportraiture.com/

It was years ago when a pregnant patient told me about a documentary that she had watched called The Business of Being Born. The doc discusses the history of prenatal and natal care and the increase in the use of doctors and hospitals as well as medical procedures during the birth process in the last century. It is also a film about midwives and the important role they play in pregnancy and birth. Here are some statistics taken from the film (which was released in 2008):

  • Midwives attend more than 70% of births in Europe and Japan
  • Midwives attend less than 8% of births in the US
  • The US has the second worst newborn death rate in the developed world
  • The US has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among industrialized countries
  • In 1900 95% of births took place at home
  • In 1938 half of all births took place at home
  • Since 1996 the cesarean rate in the US has risen 46%
  • In 2005 cesarean sections were performed for one out of every three births
  • A cesarean section is now an elective procedure
  • The US spends two times as much per birth than any other country in the world

Natural Pregnancy and childbirth : Chinese Medicine Living

This lovely image from blog.vonbon.ca

Natural Pregnancy and Childbirth

I am presently pregnant with my first child. Ironic as I have treated many pregnant women in the past with the book knowledge but without the direct experience. I watched the film again and it was with a fresh, and perhaps more invested perspective.

I should say that for me, I always knew that when I had babies that I would have them with a midwife, preferably at home and in water. This has always been normal to me. Perhaps it is because my mother also had me with a midwife, in England, where apparently, that sort of thing is considered more "normal". Once I was born I remained in the same room as my mother, and my father was allowed to also stay in the room,  and bring my mother any foods or drinks she liked. Anything to make her more comfortable. I have been pretty surprised by some of the reactions that I have gotten from people when I tell them I will not be having my baby in a hospital, but in a tub, at home, with a midwife. The eyes get very large and there is a pause, as if they are waiting for me to say that I am just kidding. This reaction surprises me, but after watching that film, I realize that it shouldn't. Among me and my close friends, this way of having a baby reflects the way in which we choose to live our lives. Naturally. Gently. Kindly. And with the reverence and respect for our bodies and that they know exactly what to do without intervention. Anyone outside that small circle seems to be a bit horrified and sometimes angry at the idea, saying that it is irresponsible and dangerous if anything were to go wrong. So let me tell you a few things about how having a baby with a midwife works, because many people simply don't know, and knowledge is the best antidote to fear.

Natural Childbirth : Chinese Medicine Living

One thing that really surprised me was that people in the US on the whole seemed to not know very much about midwifery in general. One person, when asked, likened it to having a baby in a barn which made me laugh out loud. And then I realized that they were serious. The other thing was that a bunch of women with small children were asked if they had ever considered having their baby with a midwife and none of them had and they seemed a little freaked out by the idea, like it had never ever crossed their mind.

Midwifery

In the film it states that in the 1900's began a bit of a smear campaign demonizing midwives as primitive, dangerous and unclean. Up until that time throughout the world, they had been the ones delivering all the babies. But modern medicine was being developed and techniques that were thought to make the birth process safer, cleaner (and certainly more profitable), began to be employed, and births moved from the home to the hospital.

I think because of this there is a lingering idea that if you decide to have a baby with a midwife she will somehow not be as qualified as a doctor or OBGYN if there are problems or complications with the birth. I believe that this is completely untrue.

Chinese Silk Pulse Cushions : Chinese Medicine Living

First of all, midwives (at least in the US) only deal with low risk mothers. I am sure this is determined in different ways depending on where in the world you are, but here it is a point system. At your initial appointment, the midwife takes a detailed medical history about you and your partner. This is similar in scope and detail to an acupuncture initial appointment (without the spouse part ;) And there are certain criteria that are given points, like certain medical conditions, genetic history, age of parents, etc... In this system you are allowed 3 points. More than that and you will not be offered care because you are no longer considered low risk. At that point, you must have your baby with a doctor in a hospital as you are considered slightly higher risk.

The appointment continues with the midwife listening to your heart and taking a lot of blood for labs. They check for the same things a doctor would, making sure that you are free of disease, infection, STD's and to make sure that all your levels are within a normal range. You are also asked to do a series of urine tests to test for levels in your body and determine your general health. You are asked where you would like to have the baby, at the birthing centre, or at your home, and if you would like to have the baby in water (which is available in both places). You and your midwife have to know where you are planning to give birth and if it is at your home, then the midwife makes a trip to your house and makes sure everything is ok before the event. They also bring with them everything they need for you to give birth, everything they would have at the centre. You must also be within 15 minutes of a hospital in case of an emergency so that you can get there safely and quickly.

Natural Childbirth : Chinese Medicine Living

Although birth centres vary in design, the ones that I have seen have many of the following features. They are often in old houses and non commercial structures. The appointment rooms are designed like large, comfortable bedrooms, with normal beds, lots of pillows, a rocking chair and bathtub and shower. Like a lovely bedroom in a quaint bed and breakfast, a place you would want to be. They are not clinical environments, and the energy is relaxed. Although all the medical equipment needed for each appointment is in the room, it is put away in drawers and cupboards, to keep the environment comfortable and to keep the mothers and their spouses relaxed.

The rest of the centre also has a relaxed atmosphere, and people smile and say hello. You get to know your midwife (often several midwives, as they are all on call all the time) and the staff. When you arrive there are often mothers having their babies in the adjacent rooms, and children playing. There is often a lending library with books on a wide variety of subjects that can be borrowed. There are various classes offered for you and your partner from birthing, to breastfeeding to help prepare you for what is happening, and what is coming.

Meeting with your midwife for appointments, there is always a discussion and they are happy to answer any questions that you have. Midwives are there to answer questions and give you information, not to make decisions for you about your pregnancy or birth. The decisions are always up to you. They also have a great respect for the process of pregnancy and birth and are there to support it and help when they are needed.

What Have We Lost?

Ina May Gaskin is a pioneer in the field of midwifery and has been delivering babies at The Farm Midwifery Centre in Tennessee where she is founder and director since it opened in 1971. I have posted a TED talk she did below where she discusses the culture of fear surrounding birth in the US. It is a powerful talk.

Ms. Gaskin's talk really resonated with me for many reasons. The main one is that she states that women have become afraid of the act of childbirth and that the confidence in their own bodies and their innate knowledge has been lost. To take that thought even farther, I think that we have largely lost our connection to our own bodies. And, more importantly, I think that we have forgotten to trust that our bodies have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to do things like give birth. One of the reasons that I chose to study Chinese medicine, and the reason that I connected with it so strongly is that the entire system has not lost this connection. In fact, the medicine has been built with this at its foundation. We are not doing something to the body, we are supporting the body and giving what it needs to heal itself. And this is the way, the graceful dance of the midwife and childbirth, that the process can happen. Without fear, and with joy. They are not standing over you, calling the shots, telling you what to do because they know best. They are supporting you through the process and giving you what you need to do what you already know how to do.

I believe that the medical industry has exacerbated this problem and fed the fear that women now overwhelmingly feel about childbirth. Countless images of childbirth in the media have women screaming in pain and begging for painkillers. Medical interventions for women giving birth in hospitals are commonplace and seem to be based on the doctors convenience rather than concern for the wellbeing of the mother and baby. The rate of Cesarian section in the US is much higher than anywhere else and increasing every year.

For me, a hospital is where you go when you are sick. Having a baby is not a sickness. And doctors are not trained in health, they study and treat disease. They are experts in illness. Things aren't exciting for a doctor unless there is a pathology, something is going wrong. That is what they are trained for. Most doctors or OBGYN's haven't even experienced a natural live birth. They are familiar with administering pitocin (a drug that induces or speeds up labour), episiotomies (a cut in the perineum which is the space between the vagina and the anus) and epidurals (an injection into the lower spine through which pain medications are administered). All of these procedures have their downsides, and those are the ones that they will likely not discuss with you. Sometimes, of course, these procedures are necessary, but unfortunately, many times they are not. I urge you if you are having a baby, or care about someone who is to arm yourself with all the information so that you can make the most informed decision possible.

Pregnancy and childbirth are a wonderful, exciting time in a woman's life. It can certainly be an overwhelming time for a lot of reasons as well. There is a lot of information out there and we tend to be bombarded with advice, books and websites telling us the best way to do things. My advice would be to listen to your gut. Your instinct. You have it for a reason, and it has evolved over many thousands of years to serve you and keep you safe. It does not have to be a scary experience, in fact it can and should be a wonderful and edifying experience, one of the most powerful ones you are bound to have in this lifetime. To create life is one of the most profound and beautiful experiences that we can ever hope to have, and I wish for any of you who go down that path that it is incredibly joyous and empowering, and one you will never forget.

Midwives : Chinese Medicine Living

 

Reducing Fear of Birth in US Culture -
Ina May Gaskin at TEDx Sacramento

The Business of Being Born

Resources
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The Business of Being Born
Ina May Gaskin
The Farm Midwifery Center - The Farm Midwives
Books By Ina May Gaskin
Birth Matters: A Midwifes Manifesta
Ina May's Guide To Childbirth
Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding
Spiritual Midwifery

Peace Love & Acupuncture Button : Chinese Medicine Living

Birth Without Fear : Chinese Medicine Living