For women with low ovarian reserve, Chinese herbal medicine is a proven effective way contributing to IVF success. This Chinese Medicine treatment strategy targets IVF patients who are above 40 years of age, or those from a younger age group but has already undergone multiple IVF stimulation cycles. There will be a history of poor response to gonadotrophin (eg. FSH) injections, in many cases with less than three or even no follicles developed or matured.
One of the Chinese Medicine patterns which apply to this group of IVF patients is ‘Deficiencies in Jing (reproductive essence) and Blood (essential nutrients)’. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, the material substance which forms the basis of developing follicles and maturing oocytes is in short supply for these women. The disease pattern is the reason why these women are infertile and seek IVF help to get pregnant in the first place.
Valid cautions for using Chinese herbal medicine during IVF cycles
Chinese herbal medicine is generally not recommended for IVF patients, especially those undergoing the down-regulation cycle. At this stage of the IVF treatment, GnRH agonists are administered to suppress natural hormones, in order to shut down the ovaries allowing complete control of the subsequent stimulation stage.
The use of Chinese herbal medicine is a valid contraindication, when considering that the strengthening and moving nature of some Chinese herbs will actually work against the GnRH agonists, hence preventing the functioning of ovaries to be completely quieten down, causing premature developing of follicles. It is also a valid caution during gonadotrophin (eg. FSH) injection stage, because in the event of an unbalanced Chinese herbal formula being administered, the effect of follicle-stimulating drugs will be unintentionally over-enhanced, causing hyper-stimulation of the ovaries and potential early release of oocytes.
Women with low ovarian reserve is unable to respond to IVF stimulation
However, for women with low ovarian reserve, the use of Chinese herbal medicine is not contraindicated, as these women lack the material substance to initiate follicle development. Furhermore, a study in 2008 concuded that for IVF patients with low ovarian reserve, ‘no significant improvement in oocyte and embryo yield or pregnancy rates was observed following an upward adjustment of FSH dose‘.
Chinese herbal medicine supplements reproductive essence and blood
The taking of Chinese herbal medicine enriches the material substance needed for producing good quality eggs and eventually nourishing the fetus. When the essence and blood are full and vibrant, these women regain their capacity to respond efficiently to IVF drugs.
1. Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics, 2008, ‘Increased gonadotrophin stimulation does not improve IVF outcomes in patients with predicted poor ovarian reserve’.