Usually, by the time she hears that sentence; she has been trying to conceive for over a year, has undergone an extensive array of tests and possibly some kind of surgical procedure to evaluate the health of her reproductive organs.
Her partner may also have gone through a similar process.
Checking All The Steps
Even with all these tests and all this information, unexplained infertility is still an all-too common diagnosis. Up to 30% of all cases of infertility in women and 25% in men are the result of idiopathic (unexplained) causes. This simply means there is no medical reason for conception not to occur.
Couples with this diagnosis are either told to go home and keep trying, or are pointed toward ART (artificial reproductive therapy) or IVF. The theory being that putting sperm directly into the uterus (as is done during IUI – intrauterine insemination), or fertilising her eggs outside the body and then providing a chemically enhanced environment for their implantation, might bypass their mysterious fertility problems.
There are many steps in the journey of fertility, and even a small misstep can make the difference between a happy mother and a woman faced with unexplained infertility. One hormone produced at the wrong time in the menstrual cycle, a tiny change of pH of cervical mucus, or a millimetre less depth in the endometrial lining can be the deciding factor between a pregnancy and yet another period. Western medicine may be very good at measuring such differences when they reach critical levels; but what of subclinical – ie, too small to be measured – problems that may still be significant enough to keep a woman from getting pregnant?
Western medicine can be invaluable for some couples who would not be able to conceive without it. I have personal experience of this in my family. But I wonder if IVF is recommended too quickly at times when there may be other options for couples.
The Eastern Approach to Unexplained Infertility
Luckily, TCM may help in treating women (and men) with this frustrating diagnosis. In Eastern medicine, “unexplained infertility” translates simply to “impaired reproductive functioning,” and reproductive functioning can be supported by bringing the entire body back into balance.
The first step is always to address the manifestation of the problem and determine the underlying pattern. In most cases, there is some sort of indication of where the problem lies – whether it be in symptoms involving the menstrual cycle, or feelings of hot or cold, lethargy or nervousness, and so on. When diagnosing with TCM all symptoms are taken into account in addition to taking the pulses and looking at the tongue.
TCM treatment with acupuncture and Chinese herbs then helps to balance the energy and the body restores its natural condition of health. The reproductive system, functions as it was designed to do and the resulting conditions are far more conducive for conception.
My approach in the clinic integrates, to some degree, the theory of the two medical systems. Such an approach has arisen from the desire to meet the needs of my patients who live in the West, use the medicine and latest technology of the West but also wish to benefit from what an ancient but living tradition such as TCM can offer.
If you would like to discuss fertility and the possible treatment options, please contact me at our Studio in Pt Chevalier.