Many men and women spend years trying to avoid pregnancy only to be frustrated later in life to find out how difficult it really can be to start that dream family. When troubles with fertility arise it can be shocking, devastating, confusing, and frustrating. Luckily, medical acupuncture and functional medicine offer numerous ways to address difficulties with becoming pregnant and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Infertility and miscarriage can be an isolating experience. According to the CDC, about 10% of women in the US between the ages of 15 and 44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant. If you are in this 10%, remember you are not alone!
There are numerous reasons for inhibited fertility and in many cases, Westen medicine can’t offer an actual diagnosis. But that’s ok because Chinese medicine has many ways of diagnosing and addressing the causes of fertility problems. Over the next few weeks, we will talk about some common issues that many women experience and how acupuncture helps in those instances.
Thin Uterine Lining The lining of the uterus is called the endometrium. This is what the embryo attaches to during implantation after an egg is fertilized as well as what helps to nourish the fetus later in pregnancy. If implantation does not occur, this is what sheds during the period and then regrows again the next cycle. In order for the embryo to implant and hold a successful pregnancy, the lining must be thick and supple. Think of a cloud- fluffy and inviting- for the embryo to tuck into and thrive. In some cases, the lining is not sufficient and causes problems with fertility. A thin lining can be a result of an imbalance or insufficiency of certain hormones, anemia, high dopplers (low blood flow to uterus), scars or adhesions in the uterus from previous surgeries, fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, autoimmune disease, and the use of some medications including long term use of birth control pills. Although the only way to be sure of a thin lining is to look at it during an ultrasound, there may be some signs to look out for. Many women with thin lining tend to have lighter periods. Because the endometrium hasn’t thickened enough, there isn’t much to shed. More signs could be irregular or skipped periods, infertility, or abnormal blood test results such as low estrogen.
A 1996 study was conducted to find the effectiveness of electrical acupuncture for blood flow to the uterus for women undergoing IVF. The protocol consisted of 8 acupuncture treatments over 4 weeks and concluded that electrical acupuncture had a significant effect on improving blood flow to the uterus. It is now common practice to use this protocol in nearly all IVF cases as well as many individuals trying to get pregnant naturally who have thin lining. If there are autoimmune issues, it is important to address those issues before trying to become pregnant naturally or to transfer for IVF. Often, various factors need to be addressed when dealing with autoimmune disease. Check back for future blogs to see more about autoimmune disease and fertility.
There are multiple ways to address thin lining including acupuncture, electric acupuncture, supplements, diet, and lifestyle adjustments. Because there are so many reasons for thin lining, each case will vary in terms of suggestions from your practitioner. Below you will find my favorite bone broth recipe which is often suggested for those with thin uterine lining.
When there is a shortage of blood in the body, anemia, it is important to try to replenish that with high-quality red meat and other food sources. Bone broth is an easy way to get the benefits of red meat without having to eat a steak every day. Check out my favorite bone broth recipe from scratch and some great places to find high-quality marrow bones.
4 pounds of the highest quality grass-fed, grass-finished, hormone-free beef, or lamb bones. You want a mix of about half marrow bones and half soup bones (they will have a little meat on them still)
2 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium leek, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 head of garlic, cut in half horizontally
1 onion, cut into quarters
Place everything in a roasting pan and roast for 45 minutes at 450 degrees. This will bring out the richness of the bones and vegetables and give more depth and flavor.
Scrape everything into a stockpot and fill with at least 12 cups of water with the following:
2 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon whole peppercorn
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Bring to a boil with the lid on and then lower to a simmer. Leave simmering on the lowest temperature for up to 24 hours with the lid slightly ajar. You can simmer for less time but the flavor may not be as rich. Add water along the way if the water level drops below the bones. Skim off the fat that has risen to the top periodically throughout the simmering process. After the stock has finished simmering, remove the bones and vegetables, and drain the liquid through the strainer. Let the stock cool and then refrigerate it in small containers. Once it is completely cooled, another layer of fat will rise to the top. You can either skim this off or if you’ve used very high-quality bones, you can leave the fat and it will melt in once you reheat it. The fat and marrow is full of wonderful nutrients but should only be used if the bones were top quality. Use this marrow stock for making soups, steaming vegetables, making sauces, or just sipping from a mug.
Bone broth is one of the many tools I prescribe to my fertility patients. Additionally, I use medical acupuncture and regular blood test analysis to help my patients achieve their goals. Believe it or not, male and female fertility rates in America are historically low. So like I said in the introduction, you're not alone! You can escape the 10% statistic!
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