by Dr. Daryl Thuroff, DACM, LAc, LMT

Recovering from a Traumatic Loss in Fertility: How to Use Chinese Medicine to Treat Stress and Anxiety

We often talk about how to use acupuncture for assisting women and their partners in the pursuit of fertility but what about when trauma occurs and there is stress in trying to conceive again?

A patient, new to acupuncture, recently came to see me for stress reduction before having an embryo transfer. While many women seeking to conceive with Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART) may have a higher instance of stress and anxiety due to medications, hormones, fear of the process, etc, this case was different. Unfortunately, less than a year prior, the patient gave birth to a child that died only a few days later due to an undetected genetic disorder. The trauma caused such stress that the patient was fearful of what could happen should they try again even though the initial genetic concern was eradicated.

Acupuncture has been clinically proven as a supportive, safe and effective measure in helping infertile women get pregnant. How can it help in a case such as this, where we want to reduce the effects of trauma, stress and anxiety to create an optimal environment for mother and child during pregnancy?

Chinese medicine theory includes the 5 elements, each of which has an emotion and organs attached to it. In addition, the elements function in two major ways: controlling (checks and balances) and generating (parent and child). When a shock or trauma happens, from an emotional standpoint we often see a halt in communication, or control between the Fire and Water elements, specifically the heart and kidney energies. When the mind and body are unable to connect and communicate, we may notice an irrational or abundant amount of fear, insomnia and palpitations amongst other symptoms. The main goal is to reconnect the energetics of the heart and kidney, alleviating signs/symptoms and allowing the patient affected to be fully present and grounded in their every day life.

For any patient we find to be adversely affected by shock/trauma while preparing for embryo transfer, we would continue with points meant to support blood flow to the reproductive organs and implantation. In addition, we would use points to help calm the mind, connect the heart and kidney energies to reduce fear, insomnia and palpitations. Not only will this help for the actual transfer, continued weekly treatments throughout pregnancy would keep the potential for further communication issues between the heart and kidney quite low.

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