Traditional Chinese Medicine Information Page
Expert Advice-Treatment of Endometriosis-related Infertility in Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM):
There can be a number of causes for infertility, but endometriosis is the most common cause in the U.S. and China.
In Chinese medicine, diseases and imbalances are diagnosed as patterns. A pattern is defined by the signs and symptoms that a person exhibits, and patients will often present more than one pattern. In the case I discussed last month, the woman had a combined pattern of Congealed Blood (also called Blood Stasis) and Phlegm Accumulation, with the Phlegm Accumulation being the predominant issue. Her Western-medicine diagnosis was endometriosis. This month, I will talk about Jean. Jean also has a Western-medicine diagnosis of endometriosis, but her predominant Chinese medicine pattern is Blood Stasis.
Chinese medicine believes that Blood travels both in the blood vessels and also in the energy meridians of the body. It sounds strange to say that blood can circulate in an energy meridian, but Blood has several aspects in Chinese medicine. There is the physical aspect of blood – the blood that you see when you cut yourself – and this physical aspect only circulates in the blood vessels. There is also the energetic, or functional aspect of blood, which can travel in both blood and energy vessels. The functional aspect of Blood is as a primary Yin substance in the body. Blood is called the “mother of Chi” because it moistens and nourishes every cell. It also nourishes the feminine principle that exists in every human being. Ideally, Blood circulates freely through the vessels and meridians, but sometimes it becomes stuck in the meridians of in the tissues, and this is called Congealed Blood or Blood Stasis. A bruise is a superficial type of Blood Stasis involving the physical aspect of blood. When Blood is stuck in the meridians, the main symptom people notice is pain, which is usually described as constant, fixed, stabbing pain. When Blood is stuck in tissues, it often produces lumps, tumors, or masses, which can also be painful. Endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and ovarian cysts are all examples of Blood Stasis in women.
Jean is a thirty-five year old patient who originally came to see me for problems related to a car accident. These injuries cleared up well with acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatment, and Jean began to talk about her infertility issues. She has a successful career and has been happily married for nine years, but she and her husband are both eager to have children, and they have not been able to. Jean felt enough pressure about this situation to visit a fertility clinic. After some diagnostic tests, they told her that she had endometriosis, and that was probably the reason she had not been able to conceive. The doctor at the clinic decided to try fertility drugs with Jean. He believed that the endometriosis was a relatively mild condition, and that fertility drugs could override the endometriosis problem. Unfortunately, the drugs did not work, and at this point, Jean was very hesitant to try this method of fertility treatment again. She didn’t like the side effects from the drugs, and it is an expensive treatment with no guarantee of results.
After I began to treat Jean’s Blood Stasis issue with acupuncture and Chinese herbs, her symptoms improved relatively fast. The patient that I discussed last month, Tanya, had endometriosis based in a pattern of Phlegm Accumulation, and it took quite a while to resolve because it was a severe case. But Jean’s Blood Stasis pattern was not as serious or as deep-seated. Even though both of these cases are called endometriosis in Western medicine, they are seen as two different patterns in Chinese medicine, so the acupuncture points that I used and the herbal formulas that the two women took were quite different. Jean’s response to treatment was wonderful – her pelvic discomfort lessened, and she became pregnant. In a few months she will be a first-time mother.
In China, where both Western-style and traditional Chinese medicine are practiced, gynecologists always recommend their infertility patients to try traditional Chinese medicine first. It is far less invasive, and there is much less risk from herbal formulas than from potent drugs.