Archaeological evidence recently confirmed that Traditional Chinese Medicine was already treating infertility over 2000 years ago.
In Oriental medicine, the inability to conceive is regarded as a manifestation of a disharmony in a woman or a man's body, which has to be resolved before a pregnancy can be attempted. In contrast, modern Western surgical techniques, including IVF, are very successful at removing the physical obstacles to pregnancy, without attempting to resolve the fundamental causes of infertility, which are the poor quality of the human eggs or the sperm.
For these reasons, Chinese herbal medicine used in combination with acupuncture and dietary guidelines is able to achieve a rate of successful pregnancy that, millenniums later, Western medicine is still unable to match.
Today, millions of women in the Western World are discovering that, while the Oriental medical process tends to be slower, it is also gentler, cheaper and less traumatic to the body.
Once fertilisation has taken place, Chinese medicine can be very helpful from the beginning of the pregnancy to alleviate early morning sickness, nausea, headaches, anxiety and, in the latest stage, to prepare the body for a successful delivery and induce labour when needed.
While the birth of a child is a wonderful experience for the new parents, the following period can be very difficult for a new mother.
After the baby is born, a woman's body will go through several stages to recover from the physical and emotional ordeal. As soon as labour has ended, the leftover mucus and tissue will be discharged. This flow will gradually change colour, from pink to brown, then yellow and, finally, white, before disappearing after four to six weeks. Often after a vaginal birth or a sectarian procedure, some tearing of the surrounding tissues will occur, which can cause significant discomfort. In addition, abdominal cramps can quite severe following the birth due to the release of oxytocin hormones triggered by the onset of breastfeeding.
Emotionally as well, the birth of a child can be quite traumatic for the new mother. Changes in hormone levels can result in periods of depression and mood swings. Following the East Asian tradition, after the birth the mother or her partner can be taught simple Chinese medical techniques.
Learning to use a moxibustion stick to warm and stimulate the blood circulation in her lower abdomen will help to relieve pain and speed up recovery as soon as any redness or fever has been cleared.
Around two weeks after the birth, acupuncture and dietary therapy can be introduced to strengthen the mother's body, regulate her mood, stimulate her appetite and increase her overall wellbeing.
Soon after, as the newborn baby begins to grow, Chinese medicine can become a constant companion to his or her development. When the baby's body is gradually being transformed, his reserve of Qi and Yang energy can easily become depleted. Due to their small size, and the fact that their organ systems and immune defences are not fully developed, babies and small infants can become unwell very quickly. This can be a very stressful experience for the new parents, knowing that the intake of medications can be quite problematic.
Very young children are also very responsive to energetic stimulation.
On the positive side, very young children are also very responsive to energetic stimulation. Nearly 300 years ago, the Japanese developed a style of acupuncture called "shonishin" especially designed for the treatment of infants and young children, from the age of one month to seven years.
In shonishin acupuncture, no needles are inserted into the skin.
Instead, specialised tools made of gold, silver or stone are used to provide gentle stimulation of the meridians through a variety of techniques, which include tapping, rubbing and pressing on the surface of the skin.
Another technique is the application of tiny round pellets, which are taped to the skin, and left for a few hours to stimulate specific acupuncture points, and boost the child's vital energy. This form of acupuncture can be very effective to induce sleep, build up the infant's immunity, and treat digestive disorders such as stomach pain, diarrhoea, and vomiting.
A shonishin treatment for a young child will usually be quite short in duration, and is administered with the child clothed, or just wearing a diaper. A young baby will only need a few minutes' treatment, sometimes given several times in a week to produce quick and lasting improvements.
Many simple techniques can later be taught to the parents.
A daily home treatment routine can help develop an effective physical and emotional bond between the mother and father and their child. In addition, regular massage given by the parents will increase the circulation of Qi and blood, and build up their child's immunity in a relaxing and enjoyable way.
Keeping in mind that the wellbeing of the child should always be the first consideration, in these early stages of life, your chosen GP should always be the primary care provider. He will be aware that Western and Oriental medicine have complementary strengths and weaknesses. Combining these two medical frameworks will lead to the best therapeutic results.
Olivier Lejus MHSc, BHSc is a registered acupuncturist practising in Sydney. www.olejusacupuncture.com
Olivier Lejus BHSc.MHSc. is a registered acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist practising in Sydney. A former casual university lecturer and tutor in Oriental medicine with over 15 years experience in clinical practice, Olivier specialises in Japanese- style acupuncture for the treatment of male and female infertility, migraine, pain, and insomnia.www.olejusacupuncture.com