by: Randine Lewis, Ph.D., MSOM (Master of Science in Oriental Medicine)
This book was my Bible when I was trying to get pregnant with my second child. While the title boldly uses the word “INFERTILITY!!!“, I think the book should be titled something along the lines of Using Traditional Chinese Medicine to Get Healthy and Get Pregnant. I suspect it uses the word “infertility” because many women don’t turn to TCM (traditional chinese medicine) as a first option when they don’t conceive on their own. By the time women get around to exploring TCM, they already have been given the label of “infertile,” a horrible label for anyone to endure.
I, on the other hand, in my quest to have a second child, refused to go down the traditional Western route of drugs and hormones to get pregnant. After a HORRIBLE experience with birth control pills in the first months of my marriage, I swore I’d never take hormones again. So, what’s a girl to do when she finds it hard to get pregnant and doesn’t want to take Clomid (or anything else)? Well, this book is it. I don’t remember how I first heard of this book, but my purchase of it was the first step on a path that eventually led to me to having acupuncture treatments every other Wednesday, downing shots of strange-smelling powdered herbs 2-3 times a day, and holding smouldering moxa sticks over my Ren 4 (a point halfway between your navel and pubic bone) every afternoon on my front porch. (Word to the wise: Don’t use moxa around small children. Especially don’t let them jump on you. I have a lovely scar forever marking the location of my Ren 4 thanks to Lyd jumping into me and jabbing the hot moxa stick right into my gut. Let’s just say: Ouch!)
Anyway, back to the book.
This book first explains the principles of TCM, and then helps the reader apply those principles to herself. It has a useful diagnostic checklist early in the book, where symptoms of different imbalances are listed that you probably never thought were symptoms of anything. For example, did you know that a sign of imbalance could be:
- cold feet
- lower back pain
- craving sweets
- often being sick
- brittle nails
- varicose veins
- depression and/or anxiety
- acne (including the type of acne you get and when you get it in your cycle)
Other cycle-related signs, which doctors often tell women aren’t indicative of anything, also are seen as symptoms of imbalance in TCM, such as:
- quantity and quality of cervical fluid
- night sweats and/or hot flashes
- low libido
- color, amount, quality of menstrual blood
- quality and duration of cramps, and what methods relieve those cramps
- what type of PMS symptoms you have
- length of your cycle, whether short or long
A good TCM practitioner will ask you questions like these, along with looking at your tongue (its color, shape, cracks, coating all point to different problems in TCM. If you’d like to try it yourself at home just for fun, click on this link.) A good TCM practitioner will also feel your pulses. This is different than just checking your pulse rate. There are different qualities to your pulse at different points on each wrist and at different depths on your wrist. Different spots reflect different organ systems in your body, and different qualities of your pulse will reflect different imbalances.
(Another diagnostic tool used by TCM practitioners with women trying to get pregnant is seeing a woman’s basal body temperature charts. Just like Toni Weschler explains in her book, those same charts are useful for TCM, too. Learn to chart, ladies. Learn to chart!)
So, why is this book useful for a woman (or a man) trying to get pregnant? While nothing compares to being seen by a trained practitioner, there’s something to be said for diagnosing yourself at home and being given simple treatments to resolve the imbalances. In the first half of this book, Lewis has a diagnostic checklist in this book, and then uses that diagnoses to show what the possible imbalances could be. She then offers dietary changes, acupressure points, and herbal treatments. In the second half of the book, Lewis discusses common infertility diagnoses, such as “luteal phase defect,” “endometriosis,” “PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome),” “recurrent miscarriage,” “advanced maternal age,” and even “unexplained infertility.” She then discusses various imbalances that can cause those conditions and explains various treatments. These conditions are usual very treatable through TCM, treatable without the side effects of Western methods and with greater overall health as a final result.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is about bringing your entire body into balance. Imbalance in any one place will cause imbalance throughout the body. So, when a woman can’t get pregnant, it’s not that something is “off” with merely her reproductive organs; the problem could be anywhere in her body. Bringing her whole system into a state of health and balance will have a positive effect on her fertility as well. Author Randine Lewis gives more in-depth explanations of how that works with short and easily-grasped chapters on energy channels and meridians and other TCM terms. But what you really need to know is that: it works. Just because we don’t know how it works don’t mean that it doesn’t work. (And for those of you Christians out there who thinks this talk of energy channels sounds a little too voodoo for you, let me assure you: it’s not. It’s actually VERY scientific. It’s just not a science we’re accustomed to.)
One more note: I’ve been talking about women getting pregnant, and while this book is geared primarily for women, there is a chapter aimed at men’s fertility issues as well. So, ladies, it’s useful to buy this book even if, technically, you’re not the one with the “problem.”
I am so thankful to have found this book when I did. I credit it not only for helping bring my beautiful Baby J into our family, but also for opening up to me a whole new understanding of my body and how it truly works together as one unit, and finally for fanning the flames of my interest in alternative medicine to a whole new level.
While this book is great for getting a person started in TCM, the best way to get the full benefits of TCM is to actually work with a qualified TCM practitioner, one who can give acupuncture treatments to you and prescribe herbs for you to take. I can hear you say, “Needles, Emily? Needles? Don’t they hurt?” Honestly, no, not really. Unlike injection needles, which are hollow, acupuncture needles are tiny metal needles. You hardly feel them when they go in, although once and a while if your acupuncturist is treating a particularly blocked energy channel, the needle might tingle for a bit. An acupuncture treatment is VERY relaxing. Trust me. Try it once. Email or call me if you want more particulars.
If you’re interested in finding an acupuncturist near you, a great resource to locate one is http://www.acufinder.com/
One more note: There is another book out there, entitled Fertility Wisdom: How Traditional Chinese Medicine Can Help Overcome Infertility by Angela Wu, an acupuncturist in San Francisco, CA. I bought it when I was pregnant with Baby J, just to see what it was all about and how it differed from The Infertility Cure. I personally didn’t think it went into nearly the depth that The Infertility Cure did, and I didn’t like the emphasis on other aspects of Chinese culture, such as Feng Shui, as having a significant role in helping you conceive. By all means, clean and organize your house while you’re waiting to get pregnant, but a room or house organized along specific lines are not going to make THE difference as to whether you conceive or not. Plus, I condemn any book that says you’re not getting pregnant because you’re putting up your own barriers in your mind, because you don’t REALLY want a baby. That’s bogus! So, check this book out of your library and read it if you want, but shell out the money to actually buy The Infertility Cure.