This morning I have been exchanging emails with a patient who is newly pregnant. She and her husband have been trying to conceive for several years and they are thrilled to have finally achieved their goal. I am so happy for them and feel very privileged to have played a small part in their journey. As I thought about how Chinese medicine had helped this couple I was struck by how humbling it is to practice fertility medicine. Although my patient benefited from The Yinova Center’s fertility program and made much progress with regular acupuncture and Chinese herbs, the true star of the show was, as always, mother nature.
This was brought home to by some amazing pictures of ovulation actually occurring that were published in the June 11, 2008 edition of the New Scientist magazine. The pictures were captured by accident by a gynecologist, Dr Jacques Donnez, during an operation on a 45-year old woman at the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) in Brussels, Belgium. The photograph below shows the whole process, which was described in the New Scientist article like this, “shortly before the egg is released, enzymes break down the tissue in the mature follicle, a fluid-filled sac on the surface of the ovary that contains the egg. This prompts the formation of a reddish protrusion, and after a while a hole appears, from which the egg emerges, surrounded by support cells. It then enters a Fallopian tube, which carries it to the uterus.”
Obviously the above picture has been magnified. The egg is really the size of a tiny dot.
These pictures give us new information about the process of ovulation. Previously we had assumed that the egg bursts forth in a small explosion but what Dr. Donnez observed took 15 minutes and was more of a slow ballet.
In Chinese medicine ovulation is seen as the transition from yin to yang. Yin governing growth and yang being the force behind transformation. It takes nourishing yin to grow a follicle and all the energetic force of yang to make that follicle open and release an egg. Acupuncture has been shown to promote blood flow and help to induce ovulation or promote a smooth ovulation. But to me, what these pictures show is that women’s bodies need very little help to accomplish this miracle, because we are extraordinarily well designed.