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Dealing with Infertility: What to expect on your first visit to the doctor, and exploring Chinese medicine

So you suspect you have infertility problems, and you’re heading to your doctor to chat about it – what can you expect? That really depends on your doctor, and how long you’ve been trying to get pregnant.

Some doctors might tell you to go home and try for a bit longer. Frustrating, but sometimes, that’s all it takes. Others may refer you to an infertility specialist. What they’re unlikely to tell you is that Chinese medicine can be a very effective form of treatment. I stumbled across it while chatting to a doctor of Chinese medicine. It was certainly never suggested by any of my doctors, one of whom told me there was a 50% chance I’d need IVF.

In the end, almost a year of acupuncture and five months of drinking herbs was what it took to get me pregnant.

Dr. Kaleb Montgomery, of Fertility Toronto, says Chinese medicine can help male and female infertility.

“It helps by improving egg quality, uterine lining and regulating hormones to help ovulation to happen regularly,” he says. “For men, it helps increase sperm quality and quantity. It does this by helping to improve blood flow and improving the negative effects of stress on the body for both men and women.”

With acupuncture, you’ll have needles in your arms and legs, from the elbow and knee down – don’t worry, there’ll be none in your genitals. Then there is Chinese medicine’s other main treatment–herbs.

I’m not going to lie, they don’t taste great. But you get the benefit of two treatments a day and they’re good at helping the body regulate hormones, especially important with problems like PCOS or premature ovarian failure, says Dr. Montgomery. The research speaks for itself.

Studies show if you get nine acupuncture treatments before your IVF, plus a treatment immediately before and after your transfer, it adds between 14-20% to your success rates.

“In my practise, the best results come when people commit to a treatment plan of at least three months,” adds Dr. Montgomery, whose success rate is about 80%.

So why don’t more doctors sing its praises?

Dr. Montgomery says some medical doctors do now tell patients about Chinese medicine.

“Mostly they don’t because they don’t know about the benefits of acupuncture,” he says. “Probably because they haven’t looked at the research and write it off as quackery.”

There’s also the cost. A session of acupuncture could set you back over $100, but then, sadly, most things related to fertility treatments are expensive. However, some insurance plans do pay for acupuncture treatments.

At first, hearing the options offered to you can be daunting – especially if you don’t know much about your condition. I remember feeling crushed by my treatment plan, which involved a drug to make me ovulate each month. It was a treatment plan I didn’t end up needing, thanks to the acupuncture, but I was sad it had come to that. I also remember being freaked out by fertility lingo that I didn’t understand. I was told to phone the fertility clinic on day 3 of my cycle, when back then, I didn’t have a cycle at all.

But with all that said, the staff at the fertility clinic ended up being extremely supportive, just don’t be afraid to ask questions – and explore all your options.

~ Charlotte Percival-Gonzalez is writing a four-part series on infertility for She Does The City. Charlotte explores some common symptoms that might suggest fertility problems, and what you can do as well as facing possible problems with pregnancy, and exploring solutions.

Photo courtesy of Fertility Toronto