Practitioner Notes from a Seminar on the Classical View of Fertility

Fertility is one of the most frequent reasons my patients seek treatment with acupuncture. Last month I attended a workshop with Sandra Hill in Brighton at the Anahata Health Clinic, where she talked about the Chinese classical view of fertility. Sandra’s teaching was inspirational, informative and extremely detailed, but I thought I would share some of what we talked about which has struck a cord with me, and hope that it might add something to your practice.

Kidney Energy

Strong Kidney energy is essential for fertility; Suwen chapter 8 explains that, “the kidneys are responsible for the arousing of power; skill and ability come from them”. We need a strong surplus of Kidney essence in order for conception to occur, and subsequently the power to hold the newly forming foetus in the depths of the uterus. Chapter 1 takes us through the 7 and 8 year stages of fertile life, and it’s all about the Kidney’s. Between the ages of 21 and 28 a woman is fully developed, the Kidney’s are balanced and even, and by 28 she is in her prime, she is powerful and strong, her bones are solid, her hair is long and thick. Somewhere between 21 and 35 is the optimum time to conceive a child. By 36 things are beginning to decline, nourishment is not reaching the face and head as it used to, and the first sights of fine lines and grey hairs emerge. Interestingly, this is a typical age when women might consider seeking help with conceiving either naturally, or in conjunction with other ART. According to the classics, men also have a peak fertile time between 24 and 40 when their essence is at it’s strongest and most vigorous, but as we know, it is possible for men to continue to father a child well into their 60’s and beyond.

Like all the Zangfu organs the Kidney’s have a number of roles, but one not always associated with fertility is the function of holding the breath sent down by the Lungs, and keeping it down. Breathing changes in sex and is an important part of creating the right conditions for conception, stimulating vital energy borne out of passion; passion for creation and new life. It made me consider that perhaps couples who have been trying for a baby for some time may be fixated on timing and habit, rather than emotions conducive for conception.

Chinese women

The best time for pregnancy for a woman is between 21-35 years of age

Genetic Blueprint

The Dantian situated below the umbilicus, is the root of Qi, where Jing and Shen are stored. Jing essence is the informational coding, responsible for our inherited qualities; think DNA. The Shen is the spark that moves consciousness into something that happens, we can think of it as consciousness embedded into the body giving it the ability to know what to do in certain circumstances, it can be thought of as intelligence in the Blood, not just the brain.

Therefore if we needle we must reach the Shen, to maximise our work with a patient’s Qi and creating the ability to take something and shift with it.

Extraordinary Vessels

Used as balancing treatments think of them as the intelligent hormone regulators, aligned with the Western endocrine system so important for the phases of the menstrual cycle. The Chong, Ren, Dai and Du Mai form the first embryological structure, or the first generation of the extraordinary meridians. Here are notes of interest about three of the most commonly used in fertility.

Ren Mai – the character for Ren depicts something being carried in a balanced way. The channel is all about nurturing, containing and holding – to do with Yin. It’s all about persevering, going on with something reliable and steadfast, like the prenatal phase. The Nan Jing difficulty 28 explains that when there is illness in women associated with Ren Mai, “there are discharges as well as concretions and accumulations” so we can think of vaginal leaking (not holding), and lumps and masses in the tissues protecting the uterus (fibroids, endometriosis), substances not being transformed leading to stagnation.

Chong Mai – the character for Chong depicts things piling up until a strong pressure or force surges forward – the Chong Mai is about the idea of moving, penetrating, accumulating and moving/circulating. Chong Mai comes from Yin and Yang meeting and coming together, a uniting, of pre and postnatal Qi. When the Chong Mai gives rise to illness, according to the Nan Jing, “Qi moves in a counter current and the inside is tense”, for example when Qi moves too quickly pushing up against the Heart, the upper and lower Jiao do not communicate causing imbalance and tightness.

Dai Mai – the character for Dai illustrates clothes being held in by a belt, this meridian keeps us able to stay in shape and intact. The belt (Dai Mai) should be at the correct tension, not too tight, or too loose, so that the Qi can flow freely. The Nanjing Difficulty 29 tells us that “when the Dai Mai gives rise to illnesses the abdomen is congested, the lumbar areas is like flowing water, and it is if one is sitting in water”, we can imagine the Dai Mai cutting off the area below and above it, below is cold and not transformed (sitting in water), we might gain weight in this area which can feel cold to the touch, particularly on the lower abdomen and upper thighs.

Some Point Suggestions

Du 4 – Ming men, Destiny Gate – Ming gives the authority to rule/carry out what you are given at birth i.e. your destiny – but it’s up to you. Gate – a constant reminder of your origin.

Ren 3, Ren 4 and Sp 6 Combo – used together these points are great for preparing for pregnancy, in this combo Spleen 6 is not tonifying the Spleen but concerned with the relationship of the Liver, Spleen and Lower Jiao. Add Spleen 8 to regulate the uterus.

Ren 5 – Shi men – Stone Gate – rarely used and sometimes associated with a contraceptive function, therefore avoid if in doubt, but when combined with Ren 7 can be a powerful combo for increasing fertility, but use sparingly.

GB 26 – Dai Mai – Dai Mai – used to combat coldness and the leaking of precious fluids/loosing Jing. Combine with Du4 or Ren 6 and Spleen 6 and use moxa for warming and restoring the flow of Qi. For prolapse of uterus combine with St 30.

Bl 43 – Gao Huang Shu – Vital Region Shu – has a primitive quality to it, often used to get to a deep level when the patient is depleted and there is a need to build up resources and Blood.

A last note on use of points on the extraordinary meridians; think of using them as a regulating/evening treatment when other things are not working. Opening and couple points on the meridians should be used sparingly, i.e. not every week, and use only those points in one treatment, or on those channels, it is the dynamic between the two points that accesses the extraordinary channel so it is best not to confuse the Qi. Finally, if you get the chance to attend a seminar with Sandra Hill, I would say it would be time very well spent.