Chatting with Qin

1 January 2012


Chatting with Qin

Between their overloaded schedules and a busy reception, it can be very difficult to get time to talk with our practitioners so when we decided to put a little focus on fertility in this newsletter, Qin kindly agreed to put aside a couple of her hard earned free hours to talk about her experiences, not only, of fertility and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) but of practicing and living both here and in China. She is incredibly modest, very protective of her patients and work and also a little shy, so we were especially grateful.

Qin Li is one of our senior Chinese Medicine practitioners and has achieved particular success in the field of fertility. She has been practicing for 28 years and says that she still learns from every single patient and case. As she puts it, this is her golden age for TCM, even with an incredible wealth of experience she says, “I will always be a tiny baby to a medicine that is four thousand years old, but that is why I love this job; each patient is a new pressure, an excitement, a challenge.”

Qin graduated in China as “Doctor of Chinese Medicine” after doing a five year full time course at the Chinese Medical University of Chengdu. She then started working in hospitals focusing on internal medicine, particularly the heart, lungs and spleen (this translates into cardiac, respiratory and gastrointestinal). She always had an interest in fertility and gynaecology, relating to that area as a woman but most especially because of the impact of TCM in this field. Already after 5 years of working in hospitals, Western trained doctors started sending Qin their fertility patients, realising that she had more to offer than HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) or other methods they were using. Qin has seen that many fertility issues can be helped with TCM alone, as it offers perhaps more than Western medicine can in this context. Diabetes is an opposing example, because although TCM can be of benefit to diabetes sufferers they simultaneously rely on using Western medicine too.

So here are some of Qin’s insights and advice for “girls and boys,” as she calls you, who are trying for a baby.

Relax! That is most definitely the first point to make. The stress that people put on themselves during this time definitely makes the whole process harder.

It is normal for it to take up to two years for a couple to fall pregnant, if one is over 35 and has been trying for a minimum of two years, and there is no medical reason for not conceiving then it would be advisable to see a TCM practitioner.  

Even if there is no known reason for not conceiving whatever age you are, acupuncture and herbal medicine can be used as a stress reliever and a fertility boost.

Qin stresses that today’s lifestyle choices often influence couples ability to conceive.  It is said that the ideal age for “girls” to conceive is probably around 24 to 28. It is also important to get ready about three months ahead of time of planned conception in terms of preparing one’s body, and this goes for both “boys and girls”.

Qin said, with a smile, drinking or smoking was not something that she had to really consider as a fertility factor in China as women traditionally abstain, but of course, life is a little different in the U.K! She understands that it’s harder in this country but if you are trying to conceive then alcohol should be cut out of your diet completely but she could just about accept one drink a week, no more. Alcohol stresses the body, for both “boys and girls” but even more so for girls. The liver channel has to work harder, which works your blood and hormones, both vital in fertility.

She has zero tolerance on smoking however! One should quit at least 3 months before trying for a baby. Acupuncture can help with 50% of the quitting issues but people must also be committed to giving up themselves.

Focusing on “boys” for a while, Qin said that they are usually very shy and don’t tell her everything about all the difficulties they encounter! The kind of issues that Qin has treated with acupuncture range from poor sperm count and quality to stressed out sperm! For increasing mobility, speed and swimming power Qin would always recommend herbs, similarly for conditions such as prostate gland infections, herbs would be the best course of action.

Something that effects both men and women in the UK is what Chinese medicine practitioners call ‘damp heat.’ If your tongue is sticky and yellow, pulse slippery and rapid (best diagnosed by a practitioner), your stools are loose and you have little appetite or thirst, then Qin would recommend taking a closer look at your diet, getting a check up with a practitioner who can verify if it’s damp heat in the body and then prescribe you a course of herbs and acupuncture to clear the heat.

Another condition Qin regularly sees which can often impede conception is ‘yang deficiency’, this can be recognised if you always feel cold, bloated after your evening meal, suffer from loose stools with little energy and a sluggish feeling. Immediately, a change of diet is in order, no fatty foods (oily or deep fried), no salads or raw foods, no ice cream or iced drinks. Foods that are warm and soft, such as steamed vegetables, all liquids should be room temperature and all foods should be body temperature, are the recommendations for overcoming yang deficiency. Of course if things do not improve by themselves then it is always best to see a practitioner.

Now for the “girls”! Qin focuses on improving general health as well as specific fertility issues that may be present. For women the priorities are “making sure all tubes are in the best health possible, blood flow is strong, womb lining is prepared and qi is strong.” If there are any signs of early menopause, lacking periods or highly irregular periods than you should go straight to a practitioner. Don’t worry if your cycle isn’t exactly 28 days, natural cycles can vary from 24 to 32 days and Qin would work with your body’s natural cycle for optimum effect. Some people may need a different herbal prescription for each week of their cycle, others may only need certain elements to be boosted, so one or two prescriptions a month, which is where the tailoring of prescriptions to a patient’s particular needs comes in and the wonder of TCM takes over. In general the first week of a menstrual cycle is when the egg starts to grow, the second it ripens and ‘drops,’ the third thickens the womb to accept the egg and the fourth week is conception or menses. Herbal prescriptions can work with the body to accentuate and strengthen these actions.

Herbal medicine is also particularly good for IVF preparation and especially beneficial for girls. One should seek treatment at least three months before the first IVF treatment.

In conclusion, Qin emphasised the fact that everyone is different, will need different treatments and for different lengths of time, this is in part the wonder of TCM as it considers each case individually and specifically. Qin is often asked what the duration of a treatment will be and it is for those same reasons that she is unable to predict how long it will take for an outcome to be achieved, as everyone reacts differently.

Qin is “here to make the journey easier, but you must be decided.” It’s a commitment and patients must be prepared for what the treatment entails and for a little sacrifice.

This is one of the most striking differences that Qin found whilst first working in the U.K. In China TCM is so ingrained in the culture that the general public don’t think twice about going for acupuncture or herbs at the slightest sign of illness or discomfort they know TCM will be helpful for, and they accept what the practitioner asks of them with barely a question. In the U.K. the majority of us have not had the luxury of becoming that acquainted with TCM. Qin’s first patients often came to her as a last resort, which in some cases can make the journey more difficult as problems may become more advanced or patients have become more stressed by their condition. Here people have a lot of questions (understandably) and don’t necessarily have the same initial confidence or conviction in TCM, as in China. Qin recounts a story of giving acupuncture to a patient when she first arrived and still had a translator, she was treating a migraine with acupuncture needles in the foot, her patient was clearly shocked and becoming agitated so in the end the translator had to also reassure that this was a perfectly normal procedure! Now Qin knows how, when needed, to explain to British patients, what she will do and why certain points may seem to bear no relevance to the condition being treated. She is happy to have broadened her outlook of TCM whilst in the U.K., not only with the conduct of patients but experiencing and treating a different and more diverse range of conditions than in China.

Finally, we asked Qin what her first impressions of the U.K. were? “People were so friendly here, speak slowly, so that I could understand. The English are very open minded people, accepting people from all over the world, new foods and new cultures.”

Chatting to Qin I saw another side to the care and empathy she has for her patients and the true depth of her dedication and investment in TCM. It was incredibly moving at times to broach such sensitive topics, the cases she hasn’t been able to help, the struggles people go through and to see the impact that they have on her. Once again, I felt very privileged to be in the environment that I am, the extraordinary world of TCM, surrounded by such incredible healers.

Thank you, Qin.

By Victoria Osterbery