Common Reasons for Fertility Difficulties
Advanced Maternal Age
As long as women are menstruating and ovulating we can support the body in fertility. Treatment involves supporting conception by using supplements to support egg quality, stress management, and supporting the bodies progesterone levels that typically decline with age. Additionally, we will focus on preventing miscarriages and pregnancy complications, which are a higher risk with age.
Amenorrhea and Anovulation
The presence of normal menstrual cycles with ovulation occurring every cycle is very important when looking at fertility. Many women do not realize they are not ovulating (anovulation) until they begin trying to conceive. Amenorrhea (no menstrual period) and anovulation (lack of ovulation) are symptoms for which we must determine there cause. For example is there a Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome presentation? Thyroid imbalances? Stopped oral contraceptives in the past year? Stress? Weight loss or over-exercise? These can all cause amenorrhea or anovulation and once they are corrected you will restore your fertility.
Autoimmunity refers to when immune cells react against other cells of the body. This can play a role in fertility by: impeding embryo implantation, causing a reaction against sperm as well as disruptive with hormone regulation. Before we treat we need to understand what specifically is causing the immune system to react against itself. This could involve looking for food sensitivities or supplements to support optimal immune function. When the immune system calms down, the autoimmune component to infertility will calm down and conception can occur. This is a common cause of ‘unexplained’ infertility whereby the body’s own immune system is blocking conception.
Endometriosis is an inflammatory condition that can cause severe menstrual pain, scarring and adhesions within and around the reproductive organs that may effect fertility. Treatment for endometriosis involves reducing inflammation, calming the overactive immune system, correcting high levels of estrogen, reduce scarring and adhesions by supporting the body’s healing markers and addressing the emotional component that is often present with this condition. By treating the underlying cause associated with endometriosis, pain is reduced and fertility can follow. Note: the process of reducing inflammation may take longer as there are often more complex factors involved that are impeding fertility.
Many types of hormone imbalances can affect fertility. For example low estrogen, high estrogen also known as estrogen dominance, low progesterone, thyroid imbalances, high testosterone and cortisol (stress hormone) imbalances. Hormone testing can be done to have a thorough understanding on how to best support your fertility.
Ovulation Dysfunction Concerns
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Premature Ovarian Insufficiency/ Failure
There can be many reasons for couples to experience recurrent miscarriages, below are some of the common causes that require further investigation particularly if there have been 2 or more pregnancy loses and no live births.
- Autoimmune markers
- Thyroid disorder (including borderline levels)
- Increased Stress levels
- Structural abnormalities (shape of uterus)
- Clotting disorders
- Egg qualities issues
- Endometriosis or Fibroids
Ways to increase Your Fertility with Naturopathic Medicine
- You will receive a detailed assessment of your case with a thorough and in-depth history-taking, which may include additional lab tests to evaluate factors inhibiting fertility. This testing may include, but is not limited to: standard hormone assessment, stress hormone testing, thyroid panel, food sensitivity testing. If testing has been done by another practitioner, they do not need to be repeated and should be brought to your initial consultation if you can obtain a copy. These results can also be requested with your consent.
- Naturopathic doctors will take a comprehensive look at your overall health and review factors that may be influencing your fertility such as: nutritional status; toxic exposure; stress management; presence of a chronic disease or autoimmune condition; use of coffee, alcohol, nicotine, over-the-counter medications; weight loss and body fat distribution; digestion disturbances; age; hormonal imbalances.
- You will be provided with nutritional recommendations which are the building blocks for creating an optimal environment for growing a baby.
- Through an individualized detoxification plan, Naturopathic Doctors will help you reset your hormone levels and remove toxins from the body. Toxins can accumulate in fat cells and over the many years of living in a polluted environment and consuming certain unhealthy foods and inflammatory foods we can inhibit fertility.
- Specific recommendations are given about proper supplements and herbs to support the individual couples' fertility concerns such as: supporting ovulation, balancing hormone levels, improving egg quality, reducing oxidative damage, etc... It is strongly recommended not to self-prescribe as supplements/herbs can have adverse effects. Any supplementation/herbal intake should be done under supervision of a health care practitioner. The quality of the supplement is very important as we don't want to be ingesting harmful substances during this period.
- Stress management during fertility treatments is critical. Your Naturopathic Doctor will assess your stress hormones and determine the most appropriate treatments to help you body cope with the increased response.
- Lifestyle factors influencing fertility including: smoking (including second and third hand), alcohol consumption, caffeine intake, type of exercise, eating habits can all have an effect on fertility. Naturopathic Doctors counsel couples on how to make appropriate lifestyle modifications by providing tools and resources to improve fertility.
Acupuncture for Fertility
Fertility acupuncture can be effective during many phases of your fertility journey. An individual acupuncture protocol is developed to help prepare your body for fertility and focuses on balancing hormones, stress reduction and creating an optimal environment for a baby. Acupuncture can also increase the success rate of assisted fertility therapies such as the procedures associated with IVF and IUI.
IUI and IVF Support
For those undergoing assisted reproductive therapies such as IVF (in vitro fertilization) or IUI (intrauterine insemination), there can be great benefit to increasing the probability of conception through the use of acupuncture and naturopathic medicine. Through optimizing health and by removing obstacles to infertility with nutrition advice, acupuncture and other strategies, a couple can improve their rate of success with IUI and IVF treatments.
Goals during IVF or IUI treatments are to:
- Optimization of immune system function
- Improve implantation
- Stress Reduction – very important for success
- Improve overall health and nutrition pre- pregnancy
- Improve semen analysis
Pre/Post IVF Transfer Acupuncture
Acupuncture given pre and post and IVF embryo transfer may increase success rate of implantation. Acupuncture also lowers stress levels, enhances response to artificial hormones and promotes blood flow to the uterus to support implantation.