Couples trying to conceive will often do anything (safe and legal) to shift the needle. In Asia, many swear by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). But is this alternative medicine really worth it?
If you were to look up the definition of ‘alternative medicine’, it’s not exactly one that lends a great impression. Wikipedia, for one, states that ‘alternative medicine is any practice that aims to achieve the healing effects of medicine, but which lacks biological plausibility and is untested, untestable or proven ineffective’ . Ouch.
Oxford Languages is much kinder, simply stating that it is ‘any of a range of medical therapies that are not regarded as orthodox by the medical profession’. Either way, that hasn’t deterred TCM from achieving the popularity that it has in Hong Kong, Singapore, and other nations where Chinese communities are living in.
In the Lion City, TCM complements Western medicine, rather than one replacing the other entirely. This then begs the question, is this alternative medical practice any good for couples who are trying to conceive? What TCM remedies and procedures aid with fertility? It’s time to find out.
What is TCM, exactly?
According to Singapore’s National Heritage Board, TCM ‘is one of the oldest systems of medicine in the world, dating back to more than 2,000 years’ . The body is viewed as a whole rather than as individual parts, with each organ influencing each other. Maintaining balance in a person’s body is the primary aim of TCM.
Furthermore, TCM aims to ensure that an individual’s organs and tissues are functioning well, rather than simply treating an illness’ symptoms. Lifestyle and dietary recommendations are often provided, alongside the usual medication and/or treatments. This can be as simple as getting more sleep or changing up the temperature of water that you drink.
This alternative medical practice is so prevalent in Singapore that public and private hospitals offer TCM procedures. For example, Sengkang General Hospital offers acupuncture for patients who require pain management . Additionally, Tan Tock Seng Hospital provides cupping and other TCM services , should patients need it.
How does TCM aid with a couple’s fertility?
Remember, TCM is all about bringing balance to your body and ensuring that all organs are functioning optimally. For ladies to conceive successfully, it helps greatly when both her and her partner’s bodies are in great shape. In this sense, TCM complements Western medicine and points out how your lifestyle needs to be adjusted.
With regards to fertility, TCM does help both men and women too. Here’s how.
When viewed through the lens of TCM, the kidney, liver, and spleen are mostly responsible for an individual’s fertility . Lowered fertility levels may be the result of any or all of these organs not functioning optimally. The cause of this suboptimal functioning could be a poor diet, lack of exercise, or a combination of several other factors.
Additionally, poor fertility in males could also be due to one’s qi (life force) not flowing smoothly throughout the body . TCM physicians may recommend acupuncture in this instance, allowing qi to circulate smoothly throughout the body. When combined with Chinese herbal medicine, this should result in the production of higher quality sperm.
The 3 organs mentioned above are vital for a woman's fertility too. However, TCM physicians also believe in priming the womb for conception. For one, a healthy womb has sufficient ‘warm’ energy, allowing for a good flow of nutrient-rich blood . ‘Cold’ wombs are therefore not as conducive for pregnancy, due to poorer blood flow.
Acupuncture is one treatment that TCM physicians recommend for women as well, with needles being placed at the lower abdomen and other areas to help with blood flow . Remember, it’s all about the smooth circulation of qi. This then results in the womb receiving more ‘warm’ energy, readying it for conception.
What TCM fertility medication and treatments are there?
Because TCM is preventative in nature, every treatment, medication, and recommendation indirectly helps with your fertility levels. That’s because the aim of TCM is to balance your body, allowing you to lead a healthier life. Remember, how fertile you are depends on how healthy you are as well.
That being said, there are TCM treatments and medication that aid with male and female fertility. These include:
This treatment was mentioned above and TCM physicians recommend it to help with male and female infertility. Needles are inserted into specific points of the body, allowing qi to flow smoothly and your body to be balanced again. These points are usually located at areas that are closely related to your kidney, liver, and spleen .
If you recall, these organs are the ones responsible for an individual’s fertility, according to TCM. Allowing qi to flow stabilises hormonal fluctuations and for the ladies, the capability to ovulate. Additionally, acupuncture complements Western medicine well, given that you’re not ingesting anything or undergoing anything extreme.
2. Herbal medication
Chinese herbs are usually prescribed to bolster your blood flow or aid with any of the 3 organs associated with fertility. Take the liver for instance, where herbs are usually prescribed to detoxify it and allow it to function optimally again. Although herbal medicine is tailored to the individual, here’s a common list of herbs that help with specific conditions.
If your kidneys and spleen are not functioning optimally, expect to be prescribed angelica root, white peony root, or several other herbs. If you’re having poor blood flow, fennel seed, red peony bark, and other herbs are said to help . If you aren’t prescribed these exact herbs, don’t be shocked. Herbal medication is tailored to your needs.
This heat therapy requires a substance caused ‘moxa’ to be burned on or very near the skin, warming one’s meridians (pathways where vital energy flows). ‘Moxa’ sounds exotic, but it’s simply a substance created from the dried leaves of either mugwort or wormwood. If you’re wondering how this helps with fertility, it boosts your flow of qi .
Furthermore, in 2015, researchers in China performed a study on moxa smoke and fertility. They observed that exposure to moxa smoke boosted the reproductive system of male rats . To be precise, sperm concentrations, progressive motility, and sperm motility all improved.
Is TCM costly in Singapore?
As with any widely available product or service, the cost of TCM in Singapore depends on where you go. For TCM company Eu Yan Sang, one acupuncture session ranges from S$30 to S$150 . This is similar for hospitals and other TCM clinics in Singapore, but speak with the staff to understand why you’re being charged a certain amount.
It’s a similar situation with moxibustion. The Singapore College of TCM charges S$20 per area that requires it whereas other clinics might offer a one-time upfront cost . Again, speak with your physician and determine which offers the most bang for your buck. Higher costs might not result in greater satisfaction, as with most things.
However, the cost that arguably varies the most would be the herbal medicine prescribed. This depends on what herbs you’re required to take, along with the dosage. For example, if you’re prescribed ginseng, that’ll set you back a fair bit. Even if you were to purchase slices of it on its own, a 50g box can easily cost over S$100.
On the other hand, one supplement that is worth the cost and is perfect for couples would be twoplus’ CoQ10 With Vitamin B1. This ubiquinone supplement helps both parties in a relationship combat age-related fertility declines, preserving egg quality and boosting sperm motility.
TCM occupies a unique space in Singapore, working alongside Western medicine to help individuals lead their best lives. Neither medical practices override each other and as stated earlier, certain hospitals have even gone on to establish TCM departments. If you’re trying to conceive or are already expecting, speak with your primary care physician or Obstetrician-Gynaecologist.
Fully disclose what TCM treatment and medication you’re thinking of trying and they’ll give you the green light. Additionally, be completely transparent when speaking with your TCM physician as well. They are the first to know whether a certain procedure or medication does not gel with what you’re taking from their Western counterparts.
All in all, do what you need to do to boost your chances of conceiving, but remember to always heed the advice of your medical professionals.
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