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 Chinese Medicine: Chinese Medicine and Assisted Reproductive Technology for the Modern Couple  

Currently TCM, both in China and America, is used in conjunction with Western medical techniques and testing to design an effective course of treatment for the couple wishing to achieve not only pregnancy, but a healthy baby delivered at full term.

Sixty percent of all spontaneous abortions occur in the first half of the first trimester of pregnancy. Genetics play a key role in habitual miscarriages. To presume that TCM alters genetic structure without triple blind studies etc., would be a stretch of most peoples imagination. However, Traditional Chinese Medicine is very effective in strengthening a persons' constitution.

If a woman has miscarried, it is important to build and conserve her Qi and build her Blood. This usually means building and conserving Kidney Qi, as within the Kidney both Yin (Blood) and Yang (Qi) are generated. We must remember that Kidney does not just mean the ear shaped organs guarded by the ribs just above the lower back. It means the whole psycho physical interrelated matrix and visceral relationship of Kidney function and its meridian pathways.

In oriental medicine we say that all chronic imbalances effect the Kidney organ/meridian network. What this means is that if a person has a weak constitution i.e., is pale, feels cold is undernourished, etc., then this is a result of either prenatal (genetic) influences and or lifetime habits and illnesses. The way to change these conditions, if possible, is to change them through treating the Kidney with tools of acupuncture, herbs, diet, and exercise. Kidney means bone and bone marrow and from the marrow is made blood. Blood nourishes Qi and the cycle regenerates and builds. Essentially, in oriental medicine it is said that the Blood nourishes, the Qi protects, and the Kidney Qi holds the fetus. The Kidney is injured by cold, therefore dietary considerations are generally applicable for this patient. Recent studies have also shown that good dental hygene and quality dental work can increase fertility.

There is a very famous formula, that builds both Qi and Blood, which is used to strengthen the body and prepare a woman for conception. This is especially useful if she has a history of miscarriage. The formula should be given for three to six months before conception is attempted. It is called "The Rock on Tai Mountain Decoction." This somewhat poetic name refers to a great mountain that many Chinese religiously pilgrimage to, hoping to get their prayers answered. It is an extremely demanding climb of a thousand steps, just as pregnancy is demanding of the modern mother. Just giving this herbal decoction does not guarantee that conception will take place and the next baby delivered to full term. Seeing the patient as a whole person and thereby considering their total health picture helps the TCM physician decide how to choose and change a formula to be specific to the patient.

Sex During Pregnancy
In the oriental culture there is a very direct and honest attitude toward one's sexuality. Nothing is considered to be sexually "dirty" as sex is seen as a natural function, as natural as "clouds and rain". Within the training of a TCM practitioner, it is taught that it is not the job of the physician to make judgements about an individuals sexual practices, it is more important to point out the consquences of these practices. Therefore it is easy for the doctor to indicate that sex (intercourse) during the first trimester is contraindicated, especially for the woman that has a history of miscarriage, as the placenta is not yet fully formed. Many men have a problem with this recommendation. Usually, TCM practitioners go one step further and indicate that it is probably best for all couples to abstain for the whole nine months of pregnancy. As mentioned previously, modern couples usually have no problem with this idea especially when they consider the investment they have made. For the couple, where the woman is over 40, intercourse is not recommended for the entire pregnancy even by western physicians.

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