Heart Qi stagnation differs from Liver Qi stagnation, but as both involve Qi stagnation they share many qualities. The Heart houses the Spirit and controls communication, intimacy and love, and this makes the Heart vulnerable to stress and heart-ache, which can affect fertility in three ways:
- Through the “uterus vessel” (Bao Mai) that directly connects the Heart to the Uterus. The Bao Mai is itself a branch of the ‘the Sea of Blood’ (Chong Mai) and the Chong Mai ‘arises from’ and is rooted in the Kidneys and this means the Bao Mai is a crucial connection between the Heart, the Kidneys and the uterus and it has a role in regulating how the uterus ‘fills and empties’ during the menstrual cycle. The influence of the Heart system is that it both ‘Governs Blood’ and ‘Controls the blood vessels’ and through the Bao Mai it influences the function of the Chong Mai and the rhythms of the cycle. This is especially true of the timing of ovulation, and Heart Qi stagnation can be a cause irregular cycles. In a western viewpoint the Heart could be said to influence the release of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) from the hypothalamus and through this the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonad axis (HPG) that controls the sex hormones for both men and women. This relationship between the Heart and the uterus is something women may recognise when a shock delays ovulation by a week or more (and can cause unexpected pregnancies), but for many women the disruption to their Heart Qi disruption may not be current, but comes from previous emotional distress or shocks, especially from around puberty as the rhythms of the Chong and Ren Mai (conception vessel) are being set at this point.
- Through the Yin/Yang dynamic of the Heart and Kidneys, which in the 5-element correspond to the internal dynamics of Fire and Water; Yin and Yang. For health these opposites need to constantly circulate and balance each other (one warming, one cooling, and the combination bringing life) or there’s a tendency for either (or both) an too much heat agitating the Heart and a lack of heat reducing the energy of the Kidneys. The menstrual cycle relies on the regular rhythm of alternating follicular and luteal phases (which are Yin and then Yang) and this can be unbalanced if the Heart is in a state of excess, deficiency or stagnation. Any of these can affect the mutual relationship between the Kidneys and the Heart and reduce a person’s fertility. Many of us know of someone who got pregnant when they stopped trying, or adopted, and this is probably because the balance of their Heart Qi suddenly got a whole lot healthier!
- The Heart relates to intimacy and love and for many people the ability to have sex relies on the ability to be physically close. Sex requires confidence and relaxation (especially for men) and sexual desire and performance can suffer when emotions run high, are repressed or joy is absent. Unfortunately difficulty getting pregnant, being asked to perform ‘on demand’ (or any relationship problem) can stress the Heart and unsettle its Qi movement and be a major obstacle to getting pregnant, which is why it’s so important for couples to take a break and focus on enjoying themselves.
“The Heart stores the Spirit”
Because of the Heart’s Spirit it makes interpersonal relationships, closeness, sensitivity and issues of love the most likely things that will disrupt Heart Qi (rather than the drive to get somewhere and achieve goals which are more Liver issues), but constraint of either the Liver or Heart Qi creates physical and emotional disharmony:
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i From “Statements of Fact in Traditional Chinese Medicine” by Bob Flaws. ISBN 0-936185-52-X