I was recently interviewed for Fran Meadosw wonderful blog. Here is the interview:
Do you have a personal experience that you would like to share with infertility?
When my wife and I were trying to conceive, we were not able to do so.
I was not an acupuncturist at the time; I was a computer salesman. My
wife went to Elaine Stern, a fantastic acupuncturist and herbalist for
treatment. After three months of acupuncture and herbs, my wife became
pregnant and subsequently gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby boy.
He’s still my baby even though he’s now eighteen years old!
Why did you choose the field of acupuncture and herbal medicine for reproductive
When I started out in acupuncture I treated pain. I had a woman come to
my office for care. She wanted assistance in getting pregnant. I didn’t
know what FSH or IUI or IVF meant. All I wanted to do was to treat her
neck and back pain. I explained to this patient that I knew nothing about
infertility or how to treat it. She had four IUI’s and two or three
IVF’s; all resulting in negative outcomes. I promised her that I
would do the research on how to treat infertility issues with acupuncture
and herbs. Her issue was advanced maternal age. After two or three months
of care with me, this patient became pregnant at forty-years of age and
gave birth to a healthy, baby boy. I knew then that I was going to give
up pain management and devote the rest of my professional life to learning
Western and Chinese reproductive medicine so I could help couples start
or grow their families.
Share with us how acupuncture and herbal medicine can help boost male
fertility? Give us an example of treatments for a new male patient.
There are five key points to determining sperm health. The four most common
parameters are volume which refers to the amount of sperm ejaculated,
count, which refers to the amount of sperm in the ejaculate, morphology,
which refers to the shape of the sperm and motility which refers to the
ability of sperm to swim in a straight line. Other issues which are germane
to sperm physiology are the amount of white blood cells in a given sample
of sperm which may represent an infection, and sperm dna fragmentation
which is the separation or breaking of DNA strands into pieces. A study
showed a significant increase in miscarriage in patients with high DNA
damage compared with those with low DNA damage.
Any deviation from the normal standards in these parameters can either
lead to sub-fertility, infertility, or chronic miscarriage. Acupuncture
and herbal medicine can often help to normalize sperms pathologies. Where
there are genetic defects, for example a micro-deletion of the y chromosome
which causes either reduced sperm (oligospermia) or no sperm (aspermia),
acupuncture and herbal medicine cannot help. When there are structural
abnormalities such as a congenital absence of the vas deferens acupuncture
and herbs cannot help. Congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens
occurs in males when the tubes that carry sperm out of the testes (the
vas deferens) fail to develop properly. Although the testes usually develop
and function normally, sperm cannot be transported through the vas deferens
to become part of semen. As a result, men with this condition are unable
to father children (infertile) unless they use donor sperm. However, in
the pathological states of low sperm count, poor motility, poor morphology,
low volume and sperm dna fragmentation, with the cause being genetic or
anatomical, acupuncture and herbs often help to remedy these pathological states.
The key effect of acupuncture and herbs on the health of sperm comes from
their ability to increase blood flow to the testes and to increase the
excretion of dead cellular debris from the testes. Blood carries nutrients,
hormones, electrolytes and oxygen to the testes. This improves testicular
function and health and often results in improved sperm parameters including
count, volume, morphology, motility, and sperm dna fragmentation.
Sperm dna fragmentation is represented by percentages which look like
this: 0-15% represent good fertility outcomes; 15-29% represents fair
outcomes, and >29% represents infertility and/or chronic recurrent
miscarriage. There are men who present with dna fragmentation levels above
50. Acupuncture and herbal medicine can often reduce sperm dna fragmentation
levels to the normal range.
Do you work with both patients who are undergoing IUI or IVF as well as
patients looking to go the more natural route?
Yes. Whether a patient is undergoing an IUI or IVF or trying to conceive
naturally several things are required for pregnancy and live birth. They
are: good eggs, good sperm, good endometrial quality and lack of a disease
state that can mitigate fertility or contribute to miscarriage. No matter
how many IUI’s or IVF’s are attempted, without high quality
egg, sperm and lining and the absence of systemic pathology, either pregnancy
will not occur or miscarriage will occur. The effect of acupuncture and
herbal medicine for female factor infertility stemming from poor egg quality
is the same as that for male factor which is to increase blood flow to
the ovaries to facilitate the same effect as mentioned above. Acupuncture,
via the release of beta-endorphins has a vasoldilatory effect and can
frequently improve blood flow (hemodynamics) through the uterine artery
which contributes to greater lining health. The uterine artery branches
off and feeds the ovaries as well; this can often contribute to improved
egg quality. Many diseases that can contribute to infertility and/or miscarriage
should be treated with both Western and traditional Chinese medicine or,
just Western medicine alone. Two examples are 1) hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism
can contribute to infertility. It is best treated by a Western reproductive
endocrinologist with Synthroid. I see no place for acupuncture and herbs
in this type of case. Another case where the patient may benefit from
the intervention of both modalitities of care is endometriosis. For the
purposes of this interview it is not possible to elucidate everything
about endometriosis. Let’s just say that endometriosis is an inflammatory,
autoimmune disease that affects fertility in many planes. The way endometriosis
is addressed is typically via laparoscopic surgery. However, it is usually
not possible to get all of the endometrial implants out during the surgery
and the inclusion of herbal medicine can frequently reduce the remaining
inflammatory state which can contribute to the facilitation of pregnancy
and a live birth.
Regarding patients trying to conceive naturally, I won’t treat them
unless they are seen and evaluated by a reproductive endocrinologist first.
There is no way for me to determine if the patient has a uterine anomaly,
blocked tubes, polycystic ovarian disease, endometriosis, autoimmune fertility
dysregulators or male factor infertility. Therefore, treating a patient
without them first having had an evaluation by a reproductive endocrinologist
is irresponsible. Once the patient has had their evaluation, I can then
determine if I think that they may benefit from acupuncture and herbs
or, if they should have a surgery or if the reproductive endocrinologist,
the patient and I should move forward in a team-oriented approach to care.
Tell us how most men that you treat react to starting a program of treatments
for male factor?
Typically male patients are the most difficult to treat. As a result of
the pressures on little boys to “take it like a man”, “be
a man”, “be brave”, “don’t cry”, “don’t
be a wimp”, etc, etc, men are less likely to seek care for any malady.
Treatment flies in the face of their image of masculinity especially when
it comes to treating sperm anomalies, as sperm, in many cases, for many
men, represents their ‘manhood’. Another issue is that men
complain that they “have no time for treatment” which, I suspect
is a defense mechanism to avoid treatment due to the aforementioned reasons.
It is too bad that many men have these insecurities. It is my view that
these insecurities represent the damage that society has done to men based
upon societies ill-informed definition of masculinity.
Have you experience men expressing themselves emotionally as most women do?
There is always a "great moment" - What is your moment when
hearing of a pregnancy announcement and/or a successful birth under your care?
When my patient tells me that she is pregnant we often hug each other
and cry together. This is a ‘great moment’!