This week is "Infertility Awareness Week"; to bring awareness to a greatly stigmatized topic I want to share some information about fertility.
Infertility is described as the inability to conceive after 1 year of trying for women under the age 35 years old or 6 months in women over 35 years of age. Roughly, 1 in 6 couples in Canada are dealing with infertility. Infertility can affect females and males. Below are 10 must-know facts about infertility:
- Just because you are physically fit or overall healthy doesn’t necessarily mean you are fertile.
- Female infertility can be due to previous pelvic infections or STIs.
- It is a myth that men’s fertility doesn’t decrease with age; men have biological clocks too.
- Other conditions and factors such as endometriosis, uterine abnormalities, environmental chemicals/toxins, and chemotherapy can all contribute to infertility.
- Couples who have not conceived after 12 months of trying should be evaluated as soon as possible and referred to reproductive endocrinologists if necessary.
- Weight is a factor for fertility. Being over- or underweight can contribute to infertility. It is important to maintain a healthy body weight.
- Mental health plays a key role in fertility; depression, stress, and anxiety all contribute to a higher likelihood of not conceiving.
- Acupuncture can increase pregnancy rates in women undergoing fertility treatments.
- Medications such as colchicine, chemotherapy, cyclosporine, erythromycin, tetracycline, spironolactone, and sulfasalazine can contribute to male infertility.
- Smoking, caffeine (even decaf), and alcohol have been linked to decreased fertility.
How can naturopathic medicine support individuals or couples dealing with infertility?
There are a variety of ways in which a naturopathic doctor (ND) can support both females and males experiencing infertility. First, naturopathic doctors will conduct a thorough assessment of the patient’s medical history, including family medical history, stressors, diet, and medications. Next, the naturopathic doctor will work with the patient to determine the underlying cause of infertility; this may include ordering blood work. Naturopathic doctors will also assess contributing factors such as stress, mental health, diet, exercise, weight, chronic illness, exposure to environmental toxins/chemicals, medication use, and substance use. An individualized treatment plan will be developed by the ND to address all factors playing a role in the patient’s inability to conceive. Modifying lifestyle factors to optimize overall health and wellbeing can improve fertility greatly.
Naturopathic doctors will often look to address nutritional deficiencies, which may be contributing to a patient’s infertility. Using nutraceuticals/supplements such as zinc, selenium, or CoQ10, under the direct supervision of a naturopathic doctor may improve fertility outcomes.
Acupuncture, in conjunction with fertility treatments, has been greatly researched and has been shown to improve pregnancy rates. Acupuncture treatments work by improving pelvic blood flow, and it may also have an effect on the secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (this hormone triggers our reproductive hormones - luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone). Acupuncture is also helpful in improving sperm count, regulating the menstrual cycle, ovulation induction, and decreasing stress, depression, and anxiety.
You do not have to be alone in this difficult time; there are numerous support groups, resources, and health care providers who can support you in your journey. Finding someone you can talk to is key in managing your emotional well-being in this stressful time.
For more resources related to infertility check out:
- Conquering Infertility by Alice D. Domar (Penguin, 2004). A mind/body guide to enhancing fertility.
If you would like more information or support in dealing with infertility please feel free to contact us at www.durhamnaturopath.com or 905-683-1616
Yours in health,
Dr. Kate Klein, ND