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  The F​ire Within Acupuncture & Wellness

Sky above me, Earth below me, Fire within me



Healing the Conception Vessel - Mechanical Infertility: blog series part 7 of 8

Posted by Tanya on April 20, 2013 at 1:45 AM

"I thank God for my brokenness; only then may I heal."  

~ Anonymous

Sometims, a woman can't get pregnant because the path from her ovaries to the uterus is compromised. For instance, the ovary could be covered with adhesions blocking the mature egg from entering the pelvic cavity; the fallopian tube could be narrow or even completely obstucted; or perhaps the uterus is bound with scar tissue, keeping it from holding the fertilized egg successfully.

Some cases of blockage can be resolved through surgery. In other cases, however, surgery results in a small improvement in fertility, if any. In that case IVF is usually a woman's only choice. We'll discuss mechanical infertility and how TCM can provide support in healing your reproductive system.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)                                              

Pelvic inflammatory disease is a heartbreaking cause of mechanical infertility, because it can detroy a woman's fertility without warning, long before she considers getting pregnant. PID is usually the result of a bacterial infection within the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, and cervix. More than one million women are diagnosed as teenagers or in their early twenties - the cause is usually sexually transmitted diseases, especially chlamydia and gonorrhea, but PID can also result from IUD (intrauterine device). 

Treating PID with Chinese Medicine

It is rare to see a patient with active PID - usually patients will connect with a practitioner long after the damage has been done. However, there are ways to use TCM to treat both the symptoms and infection of active PID. In addition to treating the manifestation of the problem, we must address the underlying imbalance: 

  • The practitioner will use TCM diagnosis by looking at the accompanying symptoms the inflammation causes since most cases of PID involve abnormal discharge. Most conditions are damp and cool in nature, or classified as damp heat. Regardless of diagnosis, any treatment would need to resolve dampness, and balance the conditions created by the body's response to infection. It is important to note, however, that our inflammatory response to the infection may remain for some length of time after symptoms have been resolved. In the same way a course of Western antibiotics usually must be continued for several days after symptoms of the underlying infection disappear, it is equally essential that TCM treatment continue until the inflammatory response has quieted and the body's balance has been fully restored.
  • A primary treatment is through the Extraordinary meridians known as the Girdle vessel (Dai Mai). The Nei Jing describes the Extraordinary meridians as a system of "drainage ditches" that tap into the main meridians and allow excesses - such excess discharge - to run off and clear out.
  • If pelvic pain is predominant, TCM diagnoses its underlying pattern by assessing the nature of the pain. Sharp or stabbing pain involves Blood stasis, and we would apply principles of invigorating the Blood by using herbs such as: red peony (Chi Shao), peach kernel (Tao Ren), frankincense (Ru Xiang), and myrrh (Mo Yao). Strangulating and distending pain involves the obstruction of Qi, and we treat by resolving Qi stagnation. by using herbs such as: citrus peel (Chen Pi), green tangerine peel (Qing Pi), Cyperus (Xiang Fu), Lindera (Wu Yao) and Melia (Chuan Lian Zi).

Fallopian Tube Obstruction
One of the more common results of PID is fallopian tube obstruction. The fallopian tube is the "golden path" the egg must travel to get from the ovary to the uterus. It is also the most common location for egg and sperm to meet for fertilization. Unfortunately, the fallopian tubes are often the first location attacked by opportunistic bacteria coming from the uterus; because they are so narrow in their structure, can often become blocked quite quickly. The tubes may develop adhesions and thickened walls, and close off completely.

Since most fallopian tube obstructions produce no overt symptoms other than infertility, most women discover the state of their fallopian tubes as a result of laparoscopy, laparotomy, or a hysterosalpingogram. Treatment for tubal blockage is always some kind of surgery. Advances in micro- and laser surgery are making success rates higher for tubal blockage treatment. 
If a woman still cannot get pregnant, the final treatment recommendation is IVF, in which a fertilized egg is implanted directly into the uterus, bypassing the blocked tube and allowing pregnancy to occur.

Treating Fallopian Tube Obstruction with TCM
Chinese medicine employs a number of techniques to help remedy fallopian tube inflammation and obstruction. Herbs to invigorate Blood are typically given orally to help diminish active inflammation. To eliminate tubal blockages in China, herbal concoctions are sometimes injected directly into the uterus, as in a hysterosalpingogram procedure. The herbs then flow to and through the fallopian tubes, bringing the healing effect of the herbs directly ot the site of obstruction. Unfortunately in Canada, our medical/legal system will not allow any procedure involving this kind of internal delivery of herbs. Therfore we must use alternatives to treat the imbalance using less direct but still effective means.
  • Chinese herbal therapy must be powerful and capable of reaching the closed-off environment  of the fallopian tubes. TCM calls this "resolving stasis in the network vessels" (which are quite difficult to reach). To treat Blood stasis in network vessels, we use resins such as myrrh and frankincense, which are known for reaching the deepest meridians and their offshoots.
  • In cases where the condition lies within the uterus or fallopian tubes, women can ingest herbs that will find their way through the digestive system and to the fallopian tubes, use herbal enemas (decoctions taken rectally), or suppositories (herbal concentrates in a glycerin or cocoa-butter base).
Diet and lifestyle changes include tubal massage using a deep, kneading technique on the lower abdomen. The Fallopian Tube Massage is done in circular, clockwise motions with your fingertips. While massaging, apply deeper pressure to any areas of tension and congestion, holding at the tighter regions. Finish with a pumping motion with the heel of the hand.

Pelvic Adhesions
Most mechanical infertility is caused by adhesions and/or scar tissue found inside or outside the organs of the reproductive tract. Adhesions form naturally within the body as a healing response to tissue trauma. Some are from injury (such as a fall, or sexual abuse), inflammation or infection (such as endometriosis, yeast or bladder infection, or PID), or surgery (such as D&C, abortion, cesarean section, or appendectomy). 

Where adhesions are present, you can feel the restriction in the deeper tissues through manual palpation. Western medical treatment is inevitably surgical and may or may not restore fertility. In some cases, however, the adhesions are so extensive that they make pregnancy impossible.

Using TCM to Treat Mechanical Obstruction
To decrease adhesions of the female reproductive tract, Chinese medicine prescribes manual massage of the pelvic organs. Applying deep pressure to knead and stretch the abdominal area can help break up scar tissue and slowly and gently pull adhesions apart. As the adhesions decrease, function increases.

In addition to the fallopian tube massage described above, the following massage techniques will release adhesions in the uterus and ovaries:
  • Uterine Massage: just above the pubic bone, along the midline is your uterus. Place your fingers on either side of the midline and apply a deep, kneading type of massage, pressing and lifting while massaging any tight spots. Finish with a pumping motion with the heel of the hand.
  • Ovarian Massage: about three inches out from the midline and four inches below the navel. Massage in a circular motion, and if you find any areas of tension or congestion, knead deeply applying increased pressure and lift with the fingertips. Finish with a pumping motion with the heel of the hand to resolve congestion and improve circulation. 

Please join me next week as we discuss the final section of this series: Male-Factor Infertility: It Still takes Two to Make a Baby


This article was written using the following sources:

1. The Infertility Cure : the ancient Chinese wellness program for getting pregnant and having healthy babies / Randine Lewis, Ph.D. ISBN 0-316-15921-2, pgs. 242 - 250


Categories: TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), Fertility, Pregnancy