Happy 20th Anniversary to The Zhai Clinic! 1993 – 2013
01 Jul 2013

This month, The Zhai Clinic is celebrating its 20th Anniversary. Founded in 1993 by Dr Zhai, The Zhai Clinic has helped thousands of couples to get pregnant over the past 20 years. As 2013 looks to be the bumper year for bumps, with over 20,000 more births expected this year than last in the UK, it seems everyone is jumping on the baby bandwagon. However, with fertility issues on the rise, with 1 in 6 couples in the UK struggling to conceive, we decided to take a look at how the fertility industry has changed over the last 20 years. 

Advancements in technology over the past 20 years have allowed us to now offer more comprehensive diagnostic testing for fertility issues. We can offer better assessments of female fertility potential and nutritional, emotional, physical and lifestyle factors are now known to affect fertility. Testing men along with women has become the norm as a man’s normal sperm count is now half the quantity that it was 20 years ago, with 40% of all cases now caused by male infertility. Today, the media regularly reports on fertility issues and many prominent celebrities have come forward to share their own fertility stories. This acceptance from the press has helped to eliminate “infertility shame,” which was much more common 20 years ago. 

Over the years, there have been continuous breakthroughs in Assisted Fertility Treatments. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment for fertility has become more widely accepted as people’s attitudes have changed with the increase in research to back it up. With more options now available, more couples are willing to try alternative methods of treatment before embarking on any Assisted Fertility Treatment. Dr Zhai has taken note of how her patients and the fertility industry have changed over the past 20 years. Dr Zhai comments:

“The very first couple came to see me in 1995 – two years after I established The Zhai Clinic. They were both in their 40s, were trying to conceive for seven years, went through all the possible investigations and had five failed IVF cycles. The diagnosis on the woman was unexplained while the man’s sperm had slightly low motility and high abnormal form. The man and woman were both treated and after four months of TCM treatment, they conceived. The result astonished the couple as well as myself. I went on to do some research to find out what treatments were offered to infertile couples in this country. It was the starting point, but I didn’t have another couple come to see me for infertility issues until 1998.

After that, more and more couples came to me for treatment after 9, 10 or even 18 failed IVF cycles. I think they were sceptical at first as to whether or not I could help them, but they had run out of ideas for the way forward and were willing to try anything. 

Having observed the impressive results from our patients, a leading embryologist suggested we should do some studies to find out the effects of herbs in the treatment of fertility. The studies we carried out with Brunel University (later moved to Kent University) found that the majority of the herbs and prescriptions could improve the chromosome makeup of the egg and sperm quality. The finding was very encouraging and reinforced my belief that TCM is an effective fertility treatment.

Assisted Fertility Treatment is technologically advanced- ICSI could overcome poor sperm quality in men who are unable to achieve a pregnancy naturally and can also help women overcome fertilisation problems when the eggs are too hard for the sperm to enter. However, these treatments are not looking into what can be done to improve the quality of the eggs, sperm and uterine environment through the use of supplements, relaxatiion and key lifestyle changes as well. The important factor that Assisted Fertility Treatment is missing, is correcting the human body function and improving the reproductive systems in both women and men to get them to their optimal health before conceiving. 

Today, many of our patients come to see us because they want to get themselves in the healthiest position possible before considering having Assisted Fertility Treatment. Based on our Clinic statistics, many of these patients may be able to conceive spontaneously when we tell them they are ready to start IVF. For the past decade, we have undertaken a close study of our patients. Of 869 patients who completed our fertility treatment programme using TCM, 78% achieved a pregnancy- of which 76% resulted in a live birth. The women were an average age of 37.8 and had on average 3.8 failed IVF cycles before consulting us. Of those patients who conceived, 69% of the pregnancies were spontaneous using TCM only and 31% used TCM combined with Assisted Fertility Treatment.”

Today, many women are delaying starting a family due to various circumstances such as wanting to be financially stable and waiting to find the right partner. The average British woman now has her first child in her 30s. Most of these women are educated, have careers and don’t completely rely on their partners or the government to support themselves and their children. In the UK, Assisted Fertility Treatment remains the first recommended source of action for couples who are having difficulty conceiving by the NHS, but this may not be the most appropriate choice of treatment in all cases and may cause the couple to actually take longer to conceive. 

With all the new developments in the fertility industry that have come about over the past 20 years, we think it is time for the British Government, health authority and the British Fertility Society to review the current fertility treatment recommendation in the UK and offer couples information on TCM treatment for fertility as well, so that they can make the best choice possible for themselves.