Chinese herbal medicine for fertility
Chinese herbs are often overlooked in fertility treatment. This is because most people are unaware of their benefits. Also most acupuncturists don't offer herbs as they don't practice herbal medicine (which is alien to the Chinese).
The use of fertility herbs in fertility treatment can greatly benefit both male and female fertility. This can sometimes be the deciding factor as to whether they end up being successful or not. I know I am bias, but I recommend herbs to most of my patients.
Taking Chinese herbs for fertility and during IVF can help to thicken the uterine lining. It's recommended to take Chinese herbs alongside an optimised dietary and lifestyle. This can increase pregnancy and live birth rates.
It's not often known that in China, people opt for herbs first before having acupuncture. This is because herbs are more powerful and can fix the problem a lot quicker. In the west, it's the opposite, as acupuncture gets more press so tends to be more popular than Chinese herbs.
Taking Chinese herbs during IVF
During assisted reproductive technology such as IVF, if you mention to your doctor or IVF clinic that you are having acupuncture, they may agree it’s a good idea or shrug their shoulders and say it’s up to you. However, tell them you're taking herbs and they will often disapprove. This is largely born out of ignorance about the benefits of herbs. Some IVF clinics will tell patients to stop taking herbs for at least one month before starting an IVF cycle. This is because some herbs contain natural hormones (phytoestrogens) that can interfere with the hormones the IVF clinic is trying to control.
However, a good herbalist such as myself, will know which herbs might cause problems and can eliminate them from a herbal formula. I recommend taking Chinese herbs throughout the whole IVF cycle to help follicle growth, thicken the endometrial lining and maintain the pregnancy. Taking Chinese herbs during reproductive technology such as an IVF cycle can actually improve the chance of success.
Research into Chinese herbs for infertility
Research conducted in 2011 found that the management of female infertility with Chinese herbal medicine can improve pregnancy rates 2-fold within a 4 month period compared with western medical fertility drug therapy or IVF. They found that assessment of the quality of the menstrual cycle, integral to traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis, appeared to be fundamental to successful treatment of female infertility. Another research study conducted in 2015 found that prepping with herbs and acupuncture for 3 months prior to IVF significantly improved pregnancy rates.
Other research has shown that Chinese herbal formulas such as Bu Shen Tiao Chong Tang have the same effect on ovarian function as in-vitro fertilization (IVF) drugs and improve success rates. Another Chinese herbal formula Bu Shen Sheng Jiang Pian has been shown to regulate levels of FSH, prolactin, testosterone and corticosterone. Whilst another Chinese herbal formula Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang has been shown in research conducted in Japan to reduce sperm motility issues by over 50%.
Individual herbs have also been tested in research studies, for example Shan Zhu Yu which was found to increase sperm motility. PCOS has been found to improve after taking the Chinese herbal formula Wen Jing Tang.