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What is IVF, & how effective is it?

You could say that IVF is essentially a numbers game – it increases the odds of success by increasing the numbers of eggs produced. This technique does not aim to affect the quality of the eggs; rather it aims to increase the quantity of eggs. In the hope that in a large number at least one will have what it takes. The thickness of the lining of the uterus is the only other parameter measured. The general health of the couple, in the absence of major pathology, is of minor concern. Whether the male partner has enough motile sperm is even becoming less important now in the days of ICSI.

TCM approach to fertility treatment

In contrast, Chinese medicine considers the overall health of the person (with special emphasis on Kidney Qi) who is making the gametes, based on the supposition that this will translate into healthier gametes. We know that the greatest determinant of a viable pregnancy is a viable embryo, which in turn depends largely on the fusion of healthy and compatible gametes. Unlike IVF, TCM treatment is not a numbers game. Treatment with Chinese medicine on its own does not usually increase the number of eggs ovulated. While it cannot change the genetic make-up of the egg, TCM is thought to influence how well the eggs are nourished and stimulated to grow and the facility with which they are released and travel down the fallopian tubes. In addition, TCM treatment improves endometrium thickness and quality. Chinese medicine can also influence the number, motility and genetic quality of sperm.

The correct application of Chinese medicine in the treatment of infertility is complex and demanding of its practitioner. Unlike the IVF treatment regimen, TCM has an endless number of variations – as numerous as the patients themselves. The skill of the TCM infertility specialist is in the correct diagnosis of subtle patterns of dysfunction, the correct prescription of herbs and their doses, the correct timing of the medicine and the technical skill involved in applying acupuncture if that is part of the treatment programme.

Where TCM treatment of infertility is holistic, time tested and generally slow acting with few side effects and little risk, IVF is specialised, experimental and quick to get results but not without risks to mother and baby.

—- By Jane Lyttleton (2004) “Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine”

Lin Du's methodology

The quotation above is to give you some insight into the difference between conventional medicine and Chinese medicine in terms of fertility treatment. It also explains the importance of Chinese herbal medicine which we often suggest and is yet to be widely recognised. We prepare before seeding! We suggest couples starting pre-conception treatment 3-4 months prior to IVF. This pre-conception programme may include acupuncture, herbal medicine, or both. We give you our advice tailored to you and the choice is yours. Whichever your choice is, we do our best to help. Due to the fact that no other medications are allowed by hospitals during IVF procedure, we don’t suggest any herbs to those who are having IVF within 4 weeks. Acupuncture itself has been already proven beneficial at this stage.

Written and sourced by Lin Du
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