Regardless of where you are at in your fertility journey a thorough investigation and thoughtful treatment plan from a knowledgeable doctor should be your first step. They can help you optimize your health and realize your dream of getting pregnant, having a healthy pregnancy and a creating a healthy family.
Fertility specialists will often say: “you must prepare the soil before you plant the seed.” The 3 months before conception, or the “pre-mester,” is a critical time for both partners to detoxify, balance hormones, and optimize body composition and health. Studies indicate this window in time may impact not only your fertility potential, but also the future health of your children, and their children. Conventional and naturopathic testing during this period can help identify imbalances that need to be addressed prior to conception. Ask us for more information about any of the following testing available:
- Standard blood work
- Food sensitivity testing
- Hormonal testing
- Thyroid testing
- Nutrient testing
- Adrenal stress tests
- Autoimmune screening
- Sperm testing
Natural fertility treatment
Natural fertility treatment is a drugless, noninvasive, approach to infertility that identifies and treats the underlying cause of the your fertility struggles using herbs, acupuncture, vitamins and minerals, nutrition and mind-body medicine. Common conditions that can be addressed through naturopathic treatments include:
PCOS and other ovulatory disorders
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition affecting 4-6% of reproductive age women. Polycystic ovaries develop when ovulation is absent or irregular for a length of time. Because there are many reasons for irregular ovaluation, there are many causes of polycystic ovaries. PCOS is a complex disorder, where a number of genetic variants and environmental factors interact, combine and contribute to the pathophysiology.
Many women with PCOS suffer from obesity, insulin resistance and difficulty with weight loss. They are often plagued by acne, hair loss, and unwanted facial and body hair due to excess androgens. Because ovulation is disrupted or absent, many women diagnosed with PCOS have difficulty conceiving if left untreated. These symptoms are often masked by birth control pills and are only discovered after the pills are discontinued.
Naturopathic medicine is ideally suited for the assessment and treatment of PCOS. Furthermore, the first line therapy for treatment of PCOS includes diet and lifestyle modification. Because the syndrome affects every level of the reproductive system, a thorough investigation regarding the root cause of the ovulatory dysfunction is often key to successful treatment. While diet and exercise programs are an important step in the recovery process, many people with PCOS are unsuccessful in the long term until the underlying cause is addressed.
Male factor infertility
Despite decades of declining sperm counts, men (and their doctors) tend to neglect the male contribution to infertility problems. As most “male factor” infertility is silent the only way to diagnose the issue is through testing.
The first step is often a semen analysis. This analysis evaluates the count (number, movement and shape), motility, and morphology. For those attempting natural contraception or intrauterine insemination (IUI), advanced testing such as the DNA fragmentation test is useful as this test will help diagnose idiopathic infertility even when semen analysis is normal.
Oxidative stress, the stress on the body that is caused by the cumulative damage of free radicals that is not adequately neutralized by antioxidants, is a main contributor to sperm DNA fragmentation. Sperm DNA fragmentation can be linked to infections, drug use, cigarette smoking, exposure to environmental and occupational pollutants, advanced age, varicocele, illnesses with high fevers, elevated testicular temperature (laptop computers, hot tubs), chronic diseases, diabetes, cancer and cancer treatment, obesity, and poor diet. Optimizing sperm function through nutritional supplementation, diet and lifestyle changes can improve conception probabilities in as little as 3 months.
Advanced Maternal Age
The birth rate for women in the 40-44 range doubled between 1988 and 2008. There are many reasons for the trend in delayed child bearing: more women are pursuing higher education and career advancement; many don’t find love until later in life; and, some don’t decide to add to their family until later in life.
Regardless of the reason, women find it particularly distressing to hear there is no cure for old eggs when their advancing age is listed as a cause of their infertility. It is well documented that increasing age results in a decline in response to ovarian stimulation, reduced embryo quality and pregnancy rates, and an increased incidence of miscarriages and chromosomal disorders.
Traditionally, the leading explanation regarding age-related decline in egg quality has been that the highest quality eggs are selected first during early reproductive years, leaving the poorer quality eggs for more advanced age. However, recent research suggests an alternative theory that provides hope that our fertility potential is not determined solely by our chronological age. It suggests that the process of aging itself may exert an unfavourable influence on the eggs that remain dormant in the ovary before being selected for ovulation. Aging and age-related diseases are frequently associated with mitochondrial dysfunction. This is thought to be the same process that ages the ovaries.
Mitochondria can be thought of the battery pack found in all of the cells of the body and are concentrated in oocytes. As women and their ovaries age and oocyte mitochondrial energy production decreases, many of the normal processes of the oocyte become impaired.
Dietary interventions and supplementation that support mitochondrial function may have a positive impact on pregnancy outcome for older women that have been diagnosed with either low ovarian reserve, high FSH or been told they are poor responders. Several promising studies published in recent years suggest an important role for these new supplemental therapies when used in conjunction with conventional assisted reproductive technologies.
There is no doubt that chronological age matters; however, it is becoming increasingly evident that our biological age (determined by diet and lifestyle factors) matters too.
Recurrent pregnancy loss
Recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) is traditionally defined as three or more consecutive miscarriages occurring before 20 weeks. Imaging and blood testing are commonly used as diagnostic tools; however, in nearly half of all cases the underlying cause remains undiagnosed by conventional medicine. The known causes of RPL include:
- Anatomical – structural uterine abnormalities
- Genetic – chromosomal abnormalities
- Hematological – thrombophilias including low folate status and anti-phospholipid syndrome
- Endocrinological – luteal phase deficiency, hyperprolactinemia, PCOS, uncontrolled diabetes, insulin resistance and thyroid conditionsImmunologic – autoimmune and inflammatory conditions
- Infectious – various bacterial and viral infectionsEnvironmental – diet, obesity, emotional stress, and exposure to environmental toxins including hormone disruptorsMale factor infertility
- Male factor infertility
The infertility cause cannot be determined by conventional diagnostic procedures for up to 30% of couples. Such cases are referred to as "unexplained” or “idiopathic” infertility. Naturopathic medicine can diagnose and treat some common causes of unexplained infertility including:
- Cervical mucus abnormalities
- Endometrial lining issues
- Immunologic causes
- Hormonal Imbalances
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Environmental toxic exposures
- Sperm DNA fragmentation
There are many reasons couples choose assisted reproductive technologies. An integrative approach that uses traditional medication in combination with evidence based, natural products has been shown to improve the success rate of ART. Support through an IUI/IVF cycle involves stress reduction, optimizing egg and sperm quality, and preparing the uterus for implantation.
Acupuncture may be especially helpful to support IVF treatment. Studies suggest that treatment leading up to, and specifically pre and post embryo transfer, may help improve success rates of IVF. Ideally, treatment is commenced 3 months prior to treatment in order to best prepare your body.
Ask for more information about our IUI/IVF acupuncture treatment packages.