One’s fertility journey is seldom easy or predicable. Whether as a couple or as a single person, the way in which you eventually conceive can be so varied from person to person. Some conceive easily, ‘without trying’, some within 6-12 months, some unfortunately find falling pregnant difficult and fraught with stress and heartache. It is one of those things in life we have little control over. This often leads to feeling like you may have failed or your body has failed you. You can, however, exercise control over how well and healthy your body is before you try to conceive and of course, your health during your pregnancy and beyond. I am a strong believer in the notion that knowledge is power’. I strongly urge anyone considering or trying to fall pregnant see both your GP for a full fertility screen which involves assessing some nutrient levels such as iron, B12, folate and Vitamin D as well as a full STI screen as well as some other standard pre conception pathology. I also urge you to consult with a naturopath who specialises or has particular interest in fertility. Even if you are both seemingly ‘healthy’, young and have no menstrual issues, there are often, if not always areas to improve and work on in with the aim to get your bodies functioning optimally before you fall pregnant.
In 2009, The Fertility Society of Australia released some figures which may come as a huge surprise to most of you. In 40% of Infertility cases, infertility is due to male factors (i.e. damaged or absent sperm or systemic health conditions), 40% were due to female factors (i.e. egg quality, menstrual irregularities, hormone imbalances or diagnosed reproductive conditions), 10% were due to joint factors and 10% fell into the ‘unexplained’ category.
The full life cycle of the female egg is approximately 120 days and the male sperm cycle takes around 76 days to produce fully mature sperm. Therefore, when I am treating couples for fertility support and or pre conception care for at least 3-4 months before you conceive. It is really important that you are in fact, undertaking some preparation in the form of healthy diet, abstaining from known toxins such as cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine and recreational drugs and in most cases, some adequate nutritional or herbal supplementation that is imperative in giving your body the best chance to produce healthy eggs and sperm that will ultimately lock in the health of your child’s DNA at the very moment of conception.
People often ask me, ‘What should I be taking to try and fall pregnant?’, and to be honest, there is no single formula, the regime is as varied as each person. However, it is essential that the female takes an activated folinic acid supplement ideally 3 months prior to conceiving to reduce your baby’s risk of developing Spina Bifida. Folate available from pharmacies and health food shops etc, is not ACTIVATED folate, and thus, as high as up to 10% of women don’t have the gene to convert the folate into folinic acid, which is the form that the body recognises and absorbs. Track down an activated Folinic acid supplement through your naturopath or pharmacy who may have a naturopath on staff. They are strictly practitioner only and only available through health care practitioners.
The other huge area of focus is on managing patient’s stress levels. Whether they are specifically related to their fertility struggle or completely unrelated, the fact remains that stress has a huge impact not only at a nutritional level, but also at a hormone level. Our stress hormone, cortisol, has the capacity to change your reproductive hormone levels, crazy hey! A big part of my focus on fertility patients, and for those of youthat may be struggling to conceive, managing your stress and being aware of the origin or your stress can go a long way in reducing its impact on you and your body.
The usual suspects are valid here……. Regular exercise that you enjoy! Nothing too high impact that may be taking too much of a toll on your adrenal system, further stressing your body, knowing how to eat well and adopt a clean diet i.e.: Avoid eating too many processed carbohydrates, excess dairy, caffeine, alcohol a and of course, everyone favourite, sugar! Just removing sugar alone can have a hugely positive affect on your hormones, digestion, liver function, mood and energy. IF you do one thing, flick the sugar and watch you intake of hidden sugar like too much dried fruit, honey and other ‘healthy sweeteners”, at the end of the day, they all break down to the same simple carbohydrates in the body and have the same energy content.
In term of treatment, naturopathic management can come in the form of hormone balancing herbs, nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes and antioxidants as well as diet and lifestyle considerations.
Given the reality that many of use are starting families later in life, and the fact that the average sperm count had decreased by over 50% on the last 4 decades, the reality is, we must take care to look after our bodies and seriously consider incorporating some of these suggestions above. But the most important thing of all is to feel as though who ever is on your team whether it be your GP, naturopath, or fertility specialist or all working together (which is ideal) make sure you are being heard and that you feel everything possible is being done for you and your partner.
If you have to undergo IVF, although there some restrictions with herbs, it is even more important that you have some complimentary strategies in place to balance the extra stress and medications that can impact your body. You still need good quality egg and sperm regardless of whether you conceive naturally or via IVF.
I have been a qualified naturopath for 10 years and have been specialising In fertility, pregnancy, women’s and children’s health for the past 5 years, but my door and ears are open to all. I am also mum to 2 beautiful boys aged 18 months and 3.5.
I adopt an approach that there is always a reason for everything, it is just about digging around enough to find it and knowing where to look. I wish you all the very best on your fertility journeys and welcome any enquiries or questions you may have via my website or email address, there is no question too small.