Fertility problems can be heartbreaking. Over the past few decades, fertility problems have increased dramatically. At least 25% of couples planning a baby will have trouble conceiving, and more and more couples are turning to fertility treatments to help them have a family.
Approximately 40 years ago, the average age of females giving birth for the first time was 20 years. Couples are now starting their families in their early to mid-thirties. Many of them are turning to naturopathic medicine to improve fecundity and increase the potential to conceive a healthy baby.
Naturopaths have the capacity to enhance and improve the effectiveness of fertility medical treatments through the use of complementary therapies. Healthy eating plans, specialised nutritional supplements and herbal remedies that have been proven to improve insulin resistance, regulate menstrual cycles and pregnancy outcomes. Naturopaths can help you to improve your diet and lifestyle, and given that fecundity depends on the correct balance of a symphony of factors in both your body and your partner’s, it is worth considering such advice.
Causes of Infertility
- Couples who decide to have a baby later in life are more likely to experience problems conceiving. Older women are at a greater risk for complications during pregnancy such as low birth weight babies, stillbirths and Down Syndrome.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an ovulatory disorder whereby follicles do not always mature. When they don’t mature, the follicles sometimes develop into ovarian cysts. Women with PCOS may not ovulate for months. There are many and varied reasons why PCOS can prevent ovulation. One theory suggests that the high levels of Luteinisng Hormone (LH) found in women with PCOS contribute to lack of ovulation.
- Fibroids are benign tumours (non-cancerous growths) of the uterus (womb) and present in 30-50% of women. Fibroids are responsible for 30% of all gynaecological hospital admissions. They can cause cause heavy and irregular bleeding, miscarriages and premature labour.
- Endometriosis is gynealogical condition of reproductive age where the tissue of the lining of the uterus, called the ‘endometrium’, is found outside the uterus, affecting other organs such as the ovaries and bowel. 30-40% of women are infertile because of endometriosis.
- Thyroid gland problems such as Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are diseases of the thyroid gland and both can affect fecundity. Hypothyroidism means a person has an underactive thyroid gland and does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Whereas, hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone. Proper thyroid function is necessary for ovulation to occur and to prevent miscarriages.
- Amenorrhoea and Hypothalamaic amenorrhoea can both be a result of excessive weight loss, over exercising, eating disorders, post-pill use (OCP) and stress. Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and LH are usually low, and the GnRH generator/rhythm is suppressed. Women with either condition have no menstrual cycle – no ovulation and no period.
- Premature ovarian failure is a very sad and distressing cause of infertility. Women are born with all of their eggs already within their ovaries. With each menstrual cycle, hundreds of eggs die because only one of them can become a mature follicle. Women who have premature ovarian failure lose more eggs each cycle than normal women. Therefore, these women may reach menopause early. Premature ovarian failure is thought to be due to a genetic abnormality.
- Hyperprolactinaemia is a condition affecting the pituitary gland. Prolactin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland, required to produce breast milk. Too much prolactin (hyperprolactinaemia) causes a decrease in FSH and LH. A decrease of these hormones prevents maturation of the follicle thereby causing lack of ovulation. High levels of prolactin also interfere with other hormones that are necessary for ovulation.
- Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia contribute to lack of ovulation by altering the normal activity of LH. LH levels continually fluctuate throughout a normal menstrual cycle. However, in anorexic and bulimic women LH does not fluctuate as it should and causes irregular or absent periods. As these women return to normal weight, healthy cycles hopefully resume.
- Excessive exercise – female athletes that exercise excessively often stop having menstrual cycles. One of the reasons is that that oestrogen requires a minimum of 18% body fat to circulate. These women can develop Hypothalamic amenorrhoea.
- Stress can cause conception problems! There is no question about it regardless what you may have heard. Stress also reduces progesterone levels. The reason for this is cortisol, the stress hormone, is made from progesterone. The stress response is a survival instinct, so the body will use any available progesterone and convert it into cortisol to overcome the stress, be it acute or chronic.
- Medications – some medications used to treat inflammation and pain can interfere with ovulation. Birth control pills (OPC’s) also prevent ovulation, and shouldn’t normally contribute to conception problems after a woman stops taking them, although not uncommon. Some medications cause an increase in prolactin, which may then lead to hyperprolactinaemia. These medications include anti-psychotics and opioids. Illicit drugs affect ovulation because their actions can affect the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, leading to hormonal imbalances.
- Gluten allergy/intolerance can be a cause of ‘unexplained infertility’. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. The connection between ammenorrhoea/fecundity problems and gluten is poorly understood, however one theory is that of an autoimmune reaction to gluten affecting reproductive hormones. Interestingly when PCOS sufferers go gluten-free they often see a marked improvement in both their PCOS symptoms including weight loss and pregnancy.
Natural fertility support
I provide comprehensive natural treatment advice that is safe and effective for both you and your partner during preconception and pregnancy, leading to the birth of a healthy baby. I provide couples with practical and successful advice on:
- Natural medicines including supplements and herbs for fecundity
- Dietary recommendations
- Lifestyle recommendations
- Cycle and timing strategies
- Stress management
I provide naturopathic and bioresonance treatments that have been proven in traditional and modern medicinal use for their ability to relax and de-stress, balance hormonal changes, nourish and tone the uterus and create optimum chances of conception and resilience for the rest of the body. This valuable information is also found in my published book, The Holistic IVF Diet Guide to Making Babies.
I look at various strategies to improve male fertility. It is important to ensure the man is not lacking in any vital nutrients that support sperm health and assist detoxification and protection from environmental factors that can reduce sperm viability. Men may be asked to take essential supplements that strengthen sperm parameters, overcome issues and decrease the chances of birth defects. This valuable information is also found in my published book, The Holistic IVF Diet Guide to Making Babies.
By preparing in advance for your IVF cycle you will able to support your hormone and reproductive system, nourish your body, be nutrient-rich during the crucial early stages of foetal development and have stress management techniques on board to help you deal with the emotional rollercoaster ride.
There are many different options you can explore to help you increase your IVF success rates such as nutritional therapy (diet and supplements), acupuncture and mind/body therapies. Detailed information is found in my book, The Holistic IVF Diet Guide to Making Babies.