By Jessica Silver, MAOM, L.Ac.
About the Book
The Infertility Cure: The Ancient Chinese Wellness Program for Getting Pregnant and Having Healthy Babies is written specifically for those facing fertility challenges. The book describes a wellness program to solve (or "cure") the diagnosis of infertility according to Chinese Medicine. The author, Randine Lewis, has training in Western medicine as an Ob-Gyn as well as a Master's degree in Science in Oriental Medicine and a Ph.D. She gains additional credibility and insight from personal experience navigating the waters of infertility in her own life and ultimately finding success through use of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
The book is divided into three useful sections. The first is called "Changing Your Mind About Infertility" which discusses the concept of infertility, explaining that a medical diagnosis of "infertility" is often a fallacy. She presents the idea that instead of infertility, there is only imbalance or disharmony in one's body. Then she discusses correcting the "conception misconceptions" of Western medicine and highlights the Eastern view of the body and its needs.
The second section is about "The Ancient Chinese Program for Reproductive Wellness." The goal of the program is to remove obstructions on the path to conception because "restoring optimal health permits the expression of our natural fertile state." The program starts with preparing the reproductive system by balancing opposing energies and taking care of the body gently and naturally by adjusting diet and lifestyle. The next two parts focus on acupuncture and acupressure, followed by herbal remedies.
The third section is about "Fertility in Special Circumstances" and covers the most common Western-diagnosed obstacles to fertility. Topics include luteal phase defect, advanced maternal age, recurring miscarriage, unexplained infertility, endometriosis, fibroids, PCOS, and using Chinese medicine to complement assisted reproductive technology or ART.
My Favorite Things About the Book
Just One Drawback...
- The author is able to bridge the gap between Eastern TCM and Western scientific knowledge about supporting fertility. She presents a cohesive and realistic perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of each modality.
- It includes a brief yet thorough explanation of the basis of TCM, especially as it relates to women's gynecological health and fertility.
- The occasional metaphors comparing Eastern and Western medical tools to restore balance to the body are useful. For example, in one anecdote she explains to a patient who had her hormones stimulated unsuccessfully:
- Think of your body like a river. The health of the river depends upon the natural flow of water. When nature is doing its job, rain falls in the hills, runs downhill in rivulets into streams, then into bigger streams, then into the river. But if the river isn't getting enough water - if there's a drought, for example - the system won't flow the way it's supposed to. The Western solution to a drought is to open the floodgates of a dam upstream and release an enormous amount of water all at once. That will cause water to flow into the river, but it also may cause enormous problems because the river's ecosystem isn't equipped to handle that much water all at once. Hormonal stimulation can have the same effect on a woman's body: it floods the system with a huge amount of stimulation that the body simply isn't equipped to handle. (7)
- The book emphasizes the individually tailored treatment with Chinese medicine and the importance of correctly diagnosing the pattern of disharmony to ensure the balancing is appropriate.
- I especially liked the "Discussion on Stress: The Fertility Killer." The specific medical information on the physical consequences of stress and its impact on fertility is useful.
- The "TCM in Action" anecdotes are wonderful. In each chapter, the author includes a story of one of her patients relating to the topic discussed, which brings the information to life. These stories, which represent very typical situations, offer hope and a human touch to the reading experience.
- Dr. Lewis includes many specific suggestions for foods to eat or avoid for each pattern of disharmony, as well as what supplements and home care techniques will be useful. The book is full of valuable resources for more information on certain topics as well.
- Dr. Lewis includes a chapter called "Healing the Soul and Body When All Else Fails." As optimistic as she is about the Chinese Medicine program, I appreciate that she is still very realistic and prepared to discuss the possibility of helping patients that ultimately do not become pregnant.
- Most importantly, this book primes people for achieving a successful pregnancy through Chinese Medicine. Many patients come into our practice for treatment having already read it. This subgroup of infertility patients I have treated is remarkable because they are already quite informed with background knowledge about how Chinese Medicine works and have a good idea what to expect. These patients arrive fully willing to participate in their own healing process, coming in consistently for acupuncture treatments and carefully following herbal and dietary advice. It is a pleasure to treat them, and the best part is the success - so far the majority of them have become pregnant!
My only concern with this book is regarding the section on using Chinese herbs to enhance fertility. As Dr. Lewis mentions, in the United States herbs are categorized as concentrated food products, and there is little regulatory control over their distribution and usage, but it's important to remember that these herbs are medicines. Any substance capable of producing positive physiologic effects is equally capable of creating negative ones, which can happen if herbs are taken improperly and without the supervision of a trained Chinese herbalist.
That's why I'm surprised that Lewis seems to encourage patients to self-prescribe their own herbal medicines. Though it's wonderful that patients are encouraged throughout the book to participate in their own diagnosis of pattern disharmony, Chinese herbs should only be taken as prescribed by a licensed professional, an experienced practitioner of Chinese medicine. Even though the author's instructions on self-care are quite specific, herbs are one aspect of self-care that could be dangerous if patients misdiagnose themselves or misunderstand how Chinese herbs work and take too few or too many. Chinese herbs can be dangerous if taken inappropriately and it is important to check with an experienced practitioner before taking any medicines. Also, companies that sell common formulas through websites online may not be regulated or quality-controlled for purity by Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), so consumers cannot be absolutely sure what they are buying. The herbs and formulas we prescribe and sell in our practice are strictly that of established and high-quality herb companies who will only distribute their product to licensed practitioners.
Dr. Lewis says, "From my own fertility struggles arose a compassion and determination to do everything I could to make sure other women would not have to go through such events without the availability of everything that medicine - Western or Eastern - has to offer." Indeed, her compassion truly shines through in every chapter. She has put forth an amazing piece of work, both informative and accessible. She offers realistic and genuine hope for people facing frustrating circumstances. I wholeheartedly recommend this book, useful for couples looking to conceive a child as well as practitioners of Eastern and Western medicine alike.
Juliette Aiyana, L.Ac.
Aiyana Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs
41 Union Square West, Suite 519
New York, NY 10003
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