Unexplained Infertility

By Dr. Daniel Lee, L.Ac. OMD, Ph.D.

One of the most stressful and frustrating diagnoses patients can receive is “unexplained infertility.”  This diagnosis is a nice way of saying that the cause of infertility is unknown. Physicians are not able to identify the cause of the multiple failures to conceive.   Patients are sometimes told to just keep trying to do more IUIs and IVFs, hoping for better luck.  This diagnosis can also apply to patients who suffer from low HCG or multiple early miscarriages, and applies to those who have failed to achieve pregnancy with genetically normal embryos.

The one thing in common with this diagnosis is that most of unexplained infertility patients have been given “normal” status through the standard tests in Western medicine.  However, Dr. Lee has found that most of the patients who have been diagnosed with unexplained infertility have some form of “imbalance”.  There are five acupuncture meridians responsible for pregnancy.  Each of these meridians requires optimized energy, and maximized and consistent blood flow.  These imbalances are not found with blood tests or ultrasounds.  Thus, this type of infertility is called “unexplained infertility” in western medicine.  Thorough knowledge of acupuncture and Chinese herbs and the ability to detect the subtle imbalance is critical to achieving pregnancy after being diagnosed with unexplained infertility.  Dr. Lee has helped many patients achieve pregnancy with acupuncture and herbs after being diagnosed with unexplained infertility — some of these patients had failed as many as 5 IVFs.

These acupuncture treatments are individualized for each patient according to their individual imbalances.  One important factor is making sure that patients with unexplained infertility understands the importance of their participation in achieving and in keeping the balance during the acupuncture treatments.  Simple things such as what to eat, what to drink, how to dress, stress level, or how much to sleep can drastically affect the egg quality  during its 85-day journey to maturity, the fertilization rate, as well as the subsequent implantation and development.

As part of the exam, Dr. Lee focuses on the unexplained infertility patient’s past history, such as luteal phase defects, recurrent miscarriages and endometriosis, conditions that have adversely impacted their normal development of follicles, and the receptivity of the uterine lining and uterine environment.  The physiological process of getting pregnant is much like that of a “100-day ballet” involving multiple hormones, proteins, fatty acids and their derivatives.  Like a dancer in a ballet, each hormone must act and interact with its receptor and with other hormones, and also appear and disappear at well-defined times for a predetermined duration, as dictated by the “conductor” — the hypothalamus and pituitary glands.  To expect this 100-day ballet go smoothly without a hitch is to expect driving on a freeway for 100 days without running into a traffic jam.

For patients with unexplained infertility, it means that something did not go well during this “100-day ballet”.  Patients with unexplained infertility can help their reproductive endocrinologist a great deal by getting their body balanced through acupuncture and Chinese herbs first before starting the next IVF.  Dr. Lee has explained the “unexplained” not only with words but with actual pregnancies and live births through acupuncture and Chinese herbs.  One should ask the following question:  After failing to qualify for the Olympics, would you want to immediately tryout for the Olympics again without additional training?  This “training” process is similar to the optimization process.  It takes 2 to 6 menstrual cycles to get optimized – much shorter than the 4 years needed to train an athlete.  But, in the long run, it is the quickest way to get pregnant even for patients over the age of 40.  As the proverb goes: Haste often makes waste.