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Getting pregnant after 40 – where does TCM fit in?

Whilst in NYC we caught up with expert fertility acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner, Mike Berkley, from The Berkley Center for Reproductive Wellness. Mike gives his specialist fertility expertise on conception when trying to conceive in your forties and how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can provide fertility help by increasing your chances of success.

Over to Mike…

www.berkleycenter.com | @TheBerkleyCenter

The Berkley Center for Reproductive Wellness has been treating those with fertility struggles since 1997. In fact, we are the first complementary medicine center in the U.S. to exclusively treat reproductive challenges with fertility acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. Many women are trying to conceive in their forties and the chances of success are limited and, even if conception is achieved, the rate of miscarriage and baby loss is high. The reason it’s difficult to conceive is because a woman in her forties (generally speaking) has diminished ovarian reserve and a reduction in egg quality. After several failed IVF cycles, the usual next step is using an egg donor. Donor eggs have between a 60% and 70% IVF success rate.

Factors that can limit your conception success rate include:

Related Article – How to Choose an Egg Donor: Tips and Points to Consider from The Experts at Extraordinary Conceptions

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How Can Fertility Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Help?

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine (herbs) for fertility cannot increase ovarian reserve, but they can improve the quality of eggs, uterine lining and sperm in many instances. The mechanism-of-action is improved blood flow to the ovaries and testes. A “perfect” 10 millimetre lining is not necessarily “perfect”. Many 10 millimetre womb linings do not have proper blood flow within the uterine lining and this compromises the ability of the lining to maintain an implantation. For women trying to conceive in their forties, their eggs can always stand to be improved. The sperm in a man in his mid to late forties is often below par and may often be improved with fertility acupuncture and Chinese herbs designed for fertility.

‘I don’t believe that fertility acupuncture and herbal medicine can get one pregnant…’

Well the desired and often obtained end result of including acupuncture and Chinese herbs when trying to conceive is an improvement in egg, lining and sperm quality. An IVF embryo transfer is a ‘mechanical’ procedure: eggs are retrieved, mixed with sperm, embryos develop and are placed in the uterus (womb), and the rest is pure luck.

Related Article – IVF Blog – How To Prepare for an Embryo Transfer

IVF or IUI has no bearing on improving the chances of conception and an ongoing pregnancy via the mechanism of improving the constituent components of an embryo – egg and sperm.

Fertility herbs and acupuncture often fill this gap. If the egg, sperm and lining quality can be improved even a little bit, this may significantly increase (IVF) success rates. Our expectations are not unrealistic. I don’t, for example, believe that acupuncture and herbal medicine can get one pregnant any more than an IVF can get one pregnant, even though pregnancies do occur as a result of both interventions. Pregnancy occurs as a result of the relative health of the woman who is housing the embryo in addition to the quality of the embryo and uterine lining. Many things can go wrong resulting in failed cycles.

Related Article – IVF – What to Do If You Have a Thin Womb Lining

So, at the end of the day IUI, IVF, acupuncture and herbal medicine can help a woman conceive but cannot guarantee success. The key is this: you have the power to use additive means which today, more than ever, are at your disposal to help increase the odds of IVF success, natural conception and a healthy, ongoing pregnancy. Acupuncture and herbs are but two. There is also psychotherapy, diet, exercise, biofeedback, yoga, tai chi, and fertility meditation that can also provide help.

Related Article – Exercise Whilst Trying to Conceive: 5 Fitness Trainers who Help the Body, Mind and Soul

Did you know that pregnant women who are highly stressed are more likely to give birth prematurely?

This is a fact. Acupuncture, besides its action on the testes, ovaries and uterine lining is also known to help reduce stress, which can be very helpful in the 2WW (two-week-wait).

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Repeated Egg Donor Failure

Why is it that some women with “good” lining and access to “good” sperm may not conceive with egg donor IVF transfers? There are several reasons:

  1. Chromosomally abnormal eggs

  2. Undiagnosed poor lining quality

  3. Disease (as mentioned above)

Most of these cases are considered ‘idiopathic’ meaning that your fertility specialist doesn’t understand why you’re not getting pregnant. Idiopathic means ‘no known cause’. That the cause is ‘unknown’ does not mean that there is no cause. Fertility acupuncture and herbs are probably not necessary for the egg donor, unless she is older than 35 years old, but realize that even 16 year old girls have some amount of chromosomally abnormal eggs. So if your cycle fails because of a chromosomally abnormal egg, it is undoubtedly bad luck and should not typically recur.

However, if you have repeated failed egg donor cycles, it is probably not a matter of egg quality but, more likely, sperm quality, lining quality or disease. Acupuncture and herbs can help improve lining quality and sperm quality and in some cases even reduce the effect of autoimmune issues or blood clotting problems which may contribute to repeated pregnancy loss. I do firmly believe, however, that the best and most effective way to treat autoimmune disorders or blood clotting disorders which may cause miscarriage is with Western medicine.

Related Article – Chinese Medicine for (In)fertility: 5 Top Tips When You’re Trying to Conceive

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What Effect Does Stress Have?

Stress and reactive-oxidative-species negatively affect sperm quality. Herbs and acupuncture can successfully reduce both as well as stimulate greater blood flow to the testes, improving delivery of hormones, oxygen, electrolytes and nutrients thereat and enhancing the excretion of dead cells. This is the same mechanism-of-action whereby egg quality is improved in the ovary. Acupuncture cannot positively affect a man with no sperm. This is called azoospermia. Nor can acupuncture improve sperm count due to genetic abnormalities (micro deletion of the y chromosome) or anatomical abnormalities of the testes (vericocele).

East meets West in Reproductive Medicine – The New Gold Standard

The most intelligent approach for those faced with difficulty when trying to conceive and/or staying pregnant is to combine Eastern and Western medicine. These two modalities, though decidedly different, are nonetheless complementary and work synergistically. This means that by combining IUI or IVF or egg donation with acupuncture and herbs you should expect better results than when using one of these modalities alone. This is particularly the case if you’re trying to conceive in your forties.

In the world, most things manifest in pairs – night and day, summer and winter, exercise and rest, work and vacation, food and wine, joy and sorrow, etc. This is the yin and yang of life. The ‘pair’ or yin and yang of reproductive medicine is embraced by recognizing the benefit of pairing Eastern and Western medicine.

What You Need Most when You’re in Your Forties and Trying to Conceive:

  1. Improved egg quality – acupuncture and herbs often facilitate this.

  2. Improved lining quality – acupuncture and herbs often facilitate this.

  3. Possibly improved sperm parameters – acupuncture and herbs often facilitate this.

  4. Reduced stress – acupuncture and herbs often facilitate this.

Related Article – Conception Help: Help Prepare Your Body For Fertility With The Right Supplements

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Hopefully this fertility blog has provided you with a better understanding on how you can better your chances when trying to conceive in your forties. As well as the help offered in this article, why not contact Mike directly to find out how he can help you, even virtually.

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