Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
December 14, 2009
Creating a baby the Chinese way
Expensive fertility treatments push many couples to try acupuncture and Chinese herb treatments
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Shane and Charlene Bissonnette, a married couple from Fort McMurray, had been trying for six years to have a baby.
They were opposed to in vitro fertilization (IVF) because of the incredible costs involved.
"I started looking into it, but it was really expensive. Around 2004 I started taking fertility pills and they just made me all crazy and I said 'no, I can't take these.' So I stopped taking them and, obviously, still nothing happened," said Charlene Bissonnette.
Then her mother told her another option that was less invasive, less expensive and more natural than resorting to IVF or endocrine therapy. She told her daughter about fertility treatment through acupuncture and taking Chinese herbs.
Chris Hogan, a Catholic acupuncturist, treats couples with infertility problems at The Acupuncture & Health Centre, 126-9704-39 Ave.
Hogan said he is shocked by the emotions of an infertile couple.
"You get this myriad of different ways of how people handle it. The female is usually more emotional because she has more instinct to have a baby. It's an emotional roller-coaster ride," he said.
Instead of being impatient and overwrought with emotion, those Catholics most successful in conceiving a baby have a prayer life to calm them.
"I came down for a consultation with Chris (Hogan) and Michaela (Lundberg), and they told me what it was all about.
"I'd waited six years, so what was a few more months? They told me it would take about six to 12 months probably. I was driving down from Fort McMurray every week for two appointments," said Charlene.
"There were these herbs to take and they were all optional, and I took them. I could feel them working: I could tell that things were happening."
If nothing else, she figured that the acupuncture would be healthy, and she could get her body into better shape than what it had been.
The acupuncture treatment worked. Five and a half months later she was pregnant. Her first child, Mikayla, was born May 8, 2009.
"I have recommended it to a few of my friends because they were having problems too," she said.
Hogan said that IVF was designed to treat people with structural deficiencies, such as a woman without fallopian tubes.
For those couples receiving fertility treatments in Calgary, which has one of the leading success rates (50-55 per cent positive outcomes), 70 per cent of those undergoing IVF have problems that are classed as "unidentified," he said.
In these instances, there is no structural issue, and the couples are resorting to IVF because, as Hogan described, they have an "I-want-a-baby-now mentality." Infertile couples wanting babies immediately are what drive the industry.
The drugs used in conjunction with IVF have side effects similar to that of chemotherapy. Many women later complain of nausea, dizziness, headaches, and some are even bedridden or hospitalized.
The process is also expensive. "At its lowest, with someone having subsidy for some of the drugs, I've seen IVF work for $13,000 and I've been doing this for 10 years. I've seen it not work for $64,000," he said.
The Catholic Church is opposed to IVF because most embryos created through the process are frozen and eventually destroyed, the technology does not respect the child's right to be conceived through an act of sexual love and the means of obtaining the sperm is not morally licit.
As another option, gynecologists will refer women for endocrine therapy. Again, 70 per cent of those treated have unidentified infertility.
"I don't know why they call it infertility. I like to call it sub-fertility.
"We're trying to get people to understand that this isn't a panic button. You're just trying to have a baby. Your fertility, my fertility, has waned in and out all our lives without us ever noticing it, but is often very connected to our health. Health and fertility are the same thing," said Hogan.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI), the injection of sperm into the uterus by means of a catheter directed through the cervix, has between 28-33 per cent positive outcomes.
IUI MULTIPLE BIRTHS
IUI often results in multiple births. For women taking Clomid, the most common fertility drug used to induce ovulation, having two, three or more babies is common.
In Chinese medicine, yin and yang are the principles of opposites, and one is needed to balance the other. Clomid is referred to as a "yang spiker" because taking the drug can, in effect, injure yin and negatively impact a woman's menstruation.
Through Hogan's treatment - acupuncture and standard professional Chinese medicine - the positive outcome rate is 74 per cent.
"The cons to it? You must have needles put in, you must take Chinese medicinals, you might have to change your lifestyle, and it might take longer. Timelines, I'm finding, are not really a big issue," said Hogan, noting that he has dropped his standard from two years to one year. If the problem is with the woman only, that standard is dropped to six months.
"Oftentimes the average that these people are successful (in conceiving a baby) is between two and seven cycles. The cost is between $3,000 and $7,000," he said.
Unlike Western medicine that treats everybody the same, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners look for patterns of disharmony on an individual basis.
"Today's standard of traditional Chinese practitioners totally understands the Western doctors. But then we treat from the level of patterns of disharmony. Chinese medicine treated 2,000 years ago what they today call PMS. It wasn't recognized by Western medicine until 30 years ago," said Hogan.
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