Everywhere we look, literature is filled with odes to love and romance. Whether it’s feminist and social theorist Simone de Beauvoir espousing that, “She was ready to deny the existence of space and time rather than admit that love might not be eternal” or famed children’s author Dr. Seuss telling us that, “You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams,” between the pages of literature old and new, poetic or prosaic, targeted towards adults or children, we find evidence of love’s driving force.
While most of us love Love, at no time is our cultural fixation on this emotion more poignant and deeply felt than on Valentine's Day. We dress in festive shades of red and pink, decorate with hearts and cupids, and gift each other with flowers, chocolates, and love notes. Essentially, we immerse ourselves in the celebration of love and romance.
It is said that true love stories never have an ending. For many couples, this sentiment takes the physical manifestation of procreation. A child is conceived in love and so continues the legacy of a couple’s devotion and tender regard for one another.
Unfortunately, it is a tragic reality that many modern day couples are experiencing fertility challenges. It is commonly estimated that roughly 1 in every 6 Canadian couples are struggling to conceive. According to the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (CFAS), a multidisciplinary national non-profit society that seeks to serve as the voice of reproductive specialists, scientists, and allied health professionals working in the field of Assisted Reproduction in Canada, the number of fertility clinics across the country have doubled over the course of the past 15 years. This clearly speaks to our increased national struggle to bare children without support.
As Canadians, we are blessed by the many assisted reproductive opportunities made available to us through our medical doctors. These include in vitro fertilization (IVF); intrauterine insemination (IUI); embryo transfer; and even surgeries to unblock fallopian tubes, retrieve eggs or sperm to be used in fertility treatments, or reverse past surgeries undertaken to prevent conception, such as vasectomies and tubal ligations. The Ontario government even offers women one fully funded IVF cycle. And yet, these options don’t feel right for some couples and/or don’t deliver the desired outcome without additional support.
Many Canadians are surprised to discover that there are other options available to them in their quest to increase their fertility and give birth to healthy children. Acupuncture and nutrition represent two natural options. These can be undertaken individually, or in conjunction with medical assisted reproductive technologies (ART).
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, the purpose of acupuncture is to balance body energy by increasing or decreasing the flow of Qi, or vital energy, through judicious selection of the appropriate acupuncture points. The prevailing sentiment is that, as we bring the body back into a state of health and balance, natural body processes, such as fertility, will balance themselves.
TCM requires that each client’s treatment plan be constructed based on their unique health challenges because no two patients, irrespective of their identical medical diagnosis, are interchangeable. To quote Hsu Ta-Ch’un (1757), “Illnesses may be identical but the persons suffering from them are different. Physicians must therefore carefully take into account the differences among people…” Fertility experts, such as Jane Lyttleton, have devised protocols to help balance the female reproductive cycle utilizing a fusion of the knowledge gained through Traditional Chinese and Western medicine, but at no time can the unique requirements and health status of each patient be forgotten or ignored.
Acupuncture can help enhance fertility in many ways. It can help reduce stress, which is a surprisingly common contributor to fertility challenges; regulate the menstrual cycle; stimulate ovulation; improve sperm quality; improve blood flow to the ovaries; and more. We are learning more and more as studies continue to emerge, supporting acupuncture’s use as an effective means to support, not just fertility, but also optimal health.
Acupuncture is arguably the best known pillar of Traditional Chinese Medicine, but nutrition is also a fundamental component of its practice. Part of this has to do with the fact that proper nutrition helps to support healthful, abundant Qi, which helps acupuncture to achieve optimal results. After all, how can we move vital energy through the body’s energy pathways if the body possesses insufficient Qi? When we combine this more abstract understanding of food energetics with the abundant knowledge available to us via Western nutritional science, we can enjoy the best of both worlds—full spectrum nourishment for the body, mind, and spirit.
While fertility challenges can feel depressing and demoralizing, it is important to remember that there are a great many avenues that we can pursue in order to increase our odds of conceiving healthy children. It is simple a matter of weighing our options and choosing the approach that best suits of unique requirements.
Kristin Jillian Shropshire, MS, ROHP, R.Ac., is a Registered Nutritionist, Registered Acupuncturist and faculty member of The Institute of Holistic Nutrition at Glebe Health House.
Author's Note: This is the original article prior to edits by the Glebe Report. Please see here for the altered version, as well as other great articles on the topics of health and community news.