Mike Berkley was the first acupuncturist in the United States to specialise in the care and treatment of infertility. He has been treating individuals for 21 years. Mike is known and well respected by reproductive endocrinologists, gynaecologists and acupuncturists throughout the world. He has lectured extensively; is a member of, and certified by the American Board of Oriental Medicine, the NCCAOM as well as the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. He sees patients from St. Barnabus, NYU, Weill Cornell, The Sher Institute, Batzofin Fertility Services, Columbia Presbyterian, RMA, New hope, Neway and numerous other prestigious reproductive medical centres in New York City, New Jersey and Long Island. He has an extensive knowledge of acupuncture, herbal medicine and Western reproductive medicine.
He is the Founder and Director, The Berkley Centre for Reproductive Medicine. Here he gives his candid views on the importance of acupuncture and herbal medicine in the fertility process.
Conception, pregnancy and birth need to be viewed as a process.
Conception, pregnancy and birth need to be viewed as a process. One definition of the process is, “a series of actions, changes, or functions bringing about a result”. In my view, any natural process is better in every way than an artificial one. A good example is cooking. There is the process of cooking which is a slow, mindful act and there is microwave cooking which is basically a non-participatory act without natural process. There is no relationship between the chef and the outcome of the meal. Which meal tastes better? Just as important, which is healthier to eat?
The process of conception is quite complicated and requires the perfect balance and function of many components all working in a coordinated and harmonious fashion. Sperm must be attracted to the egg, it must find it and then it must penetrate it. Both egg and sperm are required to be of the highest quality. The lining must have qualitative integrity. The embryo must find the lining and must be able to penetrate it. The placenta must develop and nourish the developing foetus and rid the foetus of waste matter. The placenta must protect the foetus from immunological attack. The cytokines, proteins, immune function, blood flow, glycoproteins, hormones must all be in balance and not under or over functioning. There must be the absence of pathological mitigators which can contribute to infertility or promote miscarriage. Each and every player in the orchestra of conception must be in tune. One sour note and pregnancy will not occur, or miscarriage will ensue.
A viable conception, pregnancy and birth all follow this distinct process.
Chinese medicine which consists mainly of acupuncture and herbal medicine does not work by adding to that which is deficient or reducing that which is in excess; Western medicine is good at that. For example, a common practice in treating a deficiency syndrome, i.e., hypothyroidism is to ADD Synthroid. Or a common method at reducing excess insulin is by prescribing Metformin. These medicines which add, suppress or reduce have changed the face of civilization. Without the intervention of Western medicine and surgery our life-span would probably not exceed 40 years of age and eight million babies would not have been born as a result of IVF. How many couples, however, have remained childless even though they have undergone multiple IVFs? I am guessing more than six million.
Here is why: Just as a microwave oven can cook a meal, IVF can create a baby. But, as the microwave does not supplant the relationship between the chef and the food and the process of creating a meal, IVF cannot, in all its glory, in all cases, replace the natural process which is necessary to occur for conception and a take-home-baby to ensue.
Acupuncture and herbal medicine are essentially used to create a state as close to homeostasis as possible. Homeostasis is when everything in the body and mind work perfectly. Obviously, this is not attainable. But, acupuncture and herbs attempt this and through their intervention a greater state of systemic and psycho-emotional health can be, and invariably is, achieved. This is why in many cases, acupuncture and herbs work to help one achieve pregnancy when IVF fails.
I believe the greater one’s physical and psycho-emotional health is, the more likely they will be able to conceive and deliver.
Based upon twenty-one years of clinical experience in the field of infertility it is my professional opinion that the best-case scenario for the infertile patient is to utilize Western medicine in conjunction with acupuncture and herbal medicine. The reason for this is quite simple. When the reproductive endocrinologist retrieves eggs and fertilizes them with sperm the resulting embryo is as good as its constituent components; the egg and sperm. Most IVFs that fail, do so because of poor egg quality and/or poor sperm quality. The reproductive endocrinologist invariably cannot improve egg or sperm quality; acupuncture and herbs invariably can.
I saw a thirty four year old patient today. She has conceived three times with intercourse only to miscarry each time. She did get pregnant and delivered a baby as a result of insemination. She then had one subsequent failed IVF treatment. Now her doctor has recommended donor egg with IVF. The patient has cold hands and feet, a pale complexion, low energy and gets dizzy. Obviously, she has poor hemodynamics.
Blood is what carries FSH and LH from the brain to the ovaries; blood nourishes the endometrial lining; blood carries oxygen, electrolytes and nutrition to the entire reproductive system and removes waste matter from the reproductive environment. When cells die which they constantly do, they are ‘eaten’ up by macrophages. If the immune function is not functioning normally and debris is not removed, the outer layer of the dead cells breach and the internal toxic substance circulates within the ovarian milieu causing degradation in ovarian/egg quality. Acupuncture and herbal medicine increase blood flow; as a result, this can in many instances, improve the health and function of the target tissue: ovaries and endometrial lining.
Why are you not using acupuncture and herbs?
It is difficult for me to understand why all infertile patients don’t include acupuncture and herbal medicine in their protocols. Why would they not? There has been so much research elucidating the efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of infertility that acupuncture is no longer referred to as ‘alternative’ medicine but rather ‘complementary’ medicine. Herbs have a three thousand year history of positive clinical outcomes.
Regarding the safety profile of herbs, I have this to say: there are at least one million hospitalizations per year in America alone which occur as a result of adverse reactions to Western medicine. Many of these hospitalizations result in death. This does not happen with herbal medicine.
It is ironic, therefore, that many (but no longer all!) doctors don’t want their patients on herbs because “they don’t know what’s in them”. Do you know what’s in Lupron? Or Gonal F? Did you know that ovarian hyperstimulation even from Clomid can be fatal?
Don’t misunderstand, I am 100% pro IUI, IVF and donor egg IVF protocols. But to not partake of a modality with proven results which may change the course from a negative outcome to a positive one especially in the patient who has had multiple IUI/IVF failures is a clinical error.
More information can be found on Mike Berkely’s website.