March 5, 2022

Infertility, Immunity and Chinese Medicine

Many couples face infertility problems. A failure to conceive, or a failure to maintain a full term pregnancy, prompts them to seek professional help. That has historically been a prolonged and frustrating process for countless couples. However, as medicine has continued to address infertility issues, we have learned a great deal more about the causes, and therefore have found more specific solutions for many couples. One of the most helpful areas of research in recent years has been in the role of immunological issues in fertility problems. Immunity problems can play a significant role in fertility issues.

Auto-immune Mechanisms and Infertility

Among the many specific functions of the human immune system is the ability to distinguish ‘self’ from a foreign ‘invader’ that threatens health. To ward off or recover from an infectious illness for example, we need an activated immune response. A problem in the immune response however can cause our bodies to misinterpret what are our natural cells and which are invasive and threatening. In cases of auto-immune diseases for instance, the immune system can mistakenly attack normal cells.human fertilization

This mistaken immune response plays an unfortunate role in some cases of infertility. The placenta, embedded in the uterine lining, is initially perceived as foreign and a potential threat to the welfare of the mother. However, the immune mechanisms have to ‘monitor’ that ‘threat’, determine it is not problematic, go on to allow the placenta to remain, then foster a connection to the growing fetus. While this is a simplistic discussion of immunological matters in pregnancy, and just one specific example, it illustrates the profound role of immune mechanisms in reproductive issues. There are many more pertinent to the treatment of fertility issues.

Cellular and Antibody Mechanisms

When all goes well with the immune system and pregnancy, there can still be issues to tend to. For example, the body’s natural shift between immune mechanisms in pregnancy can be problematic.

A shift naturally occurs in pregnancy from one dominant immune mechanism to another… or from the cellular type to the antibody type. The cellular type of immunity is our typically dominant type of immune functioning, but it is unsafe for the immune system to operate in this type of dominant mode in pregnancy. Consequently, the body shifts to the antibody type of immune functioning as its primary mode in pregnancy. This shift can ease certain already existing health conditions during pregnancy, but can exacerbate others. Concurrent care for aggravated conditions during pregnancy may be necessary.

Other Immune Complications

Other immunological issues that impact fertility involve the presence of antibodies that disrupt conception such as in anti-testicular or anti-ovarian failure. These conditions are most likely to be caused by antibodies produced in an autoimmune disease, although some individuals without autoimmune disease have such antibodies as well. Also, sperm antibodies may occur in both males and females which creates resistance to fertilization.  IVF can often successfully circumvent this problem.

Chinese Medicine and Infertility

Chinese medicine has been used for more than 2000 years to treat gynecological issues including infertility. In particular, compounded natural herbal ingredients have proven able to counteract endocrine and reproductive disorders (1). A great deal of modern research in China supports the use of Chinese herbal medicine in infertility treatment, and combinations of Chinese medicine modalities have proven effective using acupuncture, herbal medicine and massage in various combinations (3).


  1. Teng, B., Peng, J., Ong, M., & Qu, X. (2017). Successful Pregnancy after Treatment with Chinese Herbal Medicine in a 43-Year-Old Woman with Diminished Ovarian Reserve and Multiple Uterus Fibrosis: A Case Report. Medicines (Basel, Switzerland)4(1), 7.
  2. Jiang, Cui PhD; Wang, Zhaodi MS; Yuan, Shiqing PhD; Jiang, Yong PhD; Ye, Ying PhD∗ Chinese herbal medicine for immune infertility, Medicine: February 05, 2021 – Volume 100 – Issue 5 – p e24248
    doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000024248
  3. Jiang, Dan; Li, Lily. Effect of Chinese Herbal Medicine on Female Infertility. Obstetrics & Gynecology International Journal, 8:1. eISSN: 2377-4304


If you are dealing with fertility issues, call to schedule a consultation with Jeffrey Russell.

 (502) 299-8900


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