One of the most common causes of infertility is a mysterious medical condition called “endometriosis”. The endometrium is the outer lining of the uterus. In the early stage of a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle, a surge of estrogen hormones cause that lining to expand to allow implantation of the egg if a pregnancy occurs. When it doesn’t, enzymes in the body break down, and liquefy that superficial lining, which becomes the menstrual blood shed during the menses.
In endometriosis, small sections of that layer are retained in the body. They gradually migrate outside the uterus to implant themselves in a wide range of areas, including: in the cervix, the fallopian tubes, the large intestine, the bladder, the thorax and the lungs. These abnormal secretions get inflamed, causing scaring and adhesions to the surrounding tissues resulting in the production of fibrous cysts in the fallopian tubes which stops the egg being fertilized.
The main symptoms of endometriosis, apart from infertility, include: severe menstrual pain, and cramping, pain during sexual intercourse, fatigue, pain during urination and bowel movements, diarrhoea, constipation or nausea.
The current Western medical approach is to prescribe pain killers, and then to use surgery, or hormone controlling drugs to remove the foreign endometrial tissue. Unfortunately, hormones injections in the body can results in severe side effects. Even when surgery occurs, it is very difficult to totally remove all the endometrial cells, so there is a constant risk of further contamination of the fallopian tubes.
The Oriental medicine’s approach to treatment is to prescribe blood moving herbs, to break the blood stagnation at a deep level. A Japanese medical study conducted at the University of Osaka a few years ago, showed that women who received Chinese herbal medicine remained pain free for months after the study was concluded. Also patients are advised to avoid dairy and wheat products, reduce their meat consumption, and take flaxseed, evening primrose, or fish oil supplements
With the right diagnosis, lifestyle modifications, and appropriate treatments, the results can be very effective. Many women, who had previously been told that they had no chance of achieving a normal birth, often get delighted when they are able to regain their health, and have a successful pregnancy after a few months of regular herbal and acupuncture treatments.
Olivier Lejus MHsc, BHSc, is a Sydney based acupuncturist specializing in infertility.