Infertility affects millions of couples around the world. Although there are a wide range of physiological reasons for infertility, medical treatment to foster conception can have many side effects and is typically very expensive. Because of its effectiveness, safety and relative low cost, Shiatsu is a favorable option for a growing number of men and women hoping to expand their family.
What Is Infertility?
Affecting 10 to 15 percent of American couples, most experts define infertility as not being able to get pregnant after at least one year of unprotected, sexual intercourse. Women who are able to get pregnant but then have repeat miscarriages are also considered infertile. Infertility may be due to a single cause in a man or woman, or a combination of factors that prevents a pregnancy from occurring or continuing.
A result of a complex sequence of events, the following four phases must occur for a woman to become pregnant:
- Ovulation – A woman must release an egg from one of her ovaries.
- Egg Travel – The egg must travel through a fallopian tube toward the woman’s uterus.
- Fertilization – A man’s sperm must find and fertilize the egg.
- Implantation – The fertilized egg must attach to the inside of the uterus.
Infertility can result from problems that interfere with any of these steps.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) considers infertility to be a reflection of an energetic blockage or imbalance. With the goal of unblocking and rebalancing the affected individual’s energy flow, TCM treatments have demonstrated effectiveness in improving male and female reproductive function.
In the traditional literature of TCM, fertility is closely related to the health of the following channels: Kidney, Liver, Spleen, Governing Vessel and Conception Vessel. More specifically, the following TCM patterns are known to interfere with conception:
- A deficiency in the Kidney and Liver energetic organs disrupts the endocrine system, resulting in a hormonal imbalance that can prevent ovulation or implantation.
- Stagnant energy and/or blood in any of the five channels (but especially in the Governing and Conception Vessels) can easily prohibit ovulation, egg travel, fertilization or implantation.
- Besides hampering sperm and egg production, damp heat in the Liver or Conception Vessel channels causes inflammation that can irritate the delicate tissues needed for reproduction – thus impeding their function.
According to experts, stimulating key points encourages the energy within these channels to flow in a smooth, healthy fashion – thus improving chances for conception.
Based on TCM theory, Shiatsu is an ideal, non-invasive application to improve circulation in the Kidney, Liver, Spleen, Governing Vessel and Conception Vessel channels. After Shiatsu practitioners evaluate their clients and conclude which TCM pattern is most likely responsible for infertility, they can focus on stimulating the following points:
- Kidney and liver deficiency – Kidney 3, Conception Vessel 4 and Spleen 6
- Stagnant energy or blood – Liver 3, Spleen 8, Spleen 10, Spleen 6
- Damp heat inflammation – Spleen 6, Spleen 9, Stomach 40, Gallbladder 34
While carefully directed Shiatsu treatments can help resolve an imbalance that is prohibiting conception, practitioners must remember which points to steer clear of on women who might be pregnant. On pregnant (or potentially pregnant) women, avoid:
- Points on the sacrum and lower abdomen
- Spleen 6
- Large Intestine 4
Of particular interest is Spleen 6 – which is advised in all stages of fertility treatment, yet contraindicated during pregnancy. Thus, whenever working with clients trying to conceive (whether they are having trouble or not), Shiatsu therapists must know if there is any chance of a pregnancy.
When a couple’s attempts to procreate have been unsuccessful, they are likely to explore their options within allopathic and alternative medical practices. Massage therapists with an understanding of reproductive health, TCM pattern differentiation and Shiatsu can help balance their clients’ energetic channels to overcome their fertility challenges.