I prefer to call it ‘fertility’ rather than ‘infertility’ when I’m working with soon-to-be moms. I view it as a cooperative effort to create the healthiest, most fertile body possible in order to increase the woman’s chances of raising a healthy, happy baby. I really enjoy working with my fertility patients as they are gung-ho to lay the foundation for a fertile breeding ground, and I’ve had a lot of success working with women who come in with fertility complaints.
The first thing I will do is look for imbalance in the body – physical symptoms or indications of dis-ease on the mental, emotional, or spiritual levels. All of these need to be addressed. I assess for inflammation, gastrointestinal distress, hormone imbalance, nutritional deficiencies, toxicity overload, blood sugar irregularities and an imbalanced immune system. Much of this can be assessed for during our initial consultation but I will also send a patient home with several questionnaires if I am suspecting specific issues like hypothyroidism or stress-related adrenal fatigue. I will also recommend testing depending on the circumstance. These may include regular blood tests to look at the health of the red and white blood cells and iron status, a comprehensive thyroid panel, stool testing for parasites, yeast and an imbalance in the protective bacteria in our colon, heavy metal testing, nutritional panels to assess for vitamin and mineral status, and hormone testing. I will also provide a Pap exam and suggest testing for sexually transmitted infections if warranted.
After the initial assessment and receiving the results of any testing we have done, it’s time to put a plan into action. Food sensitivities will be identified and removed and education on eating for the weather and the body’s constitution will be discussed. A frank and honest chat about addictions such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar, cigarettes, drug use, and workaholism will occur. Eating to prevent blood sugar swings and to help balance hormones is chatted about at some length. Detoxification is generally an important piece of the puzzle and, depending on the state of health of the individual, I’ll recommend a one-to-three-month detoxification program where we focus on the health of the colon, liver, kidneys and blood. A clean digestive tract filled with the right types of bacteria and a well-functioning liver are key to ensuring proper balance in hormones upstream for the gastrointestinal tract (thyroid, adrenal, and reproductive). Supplements and herbs are used to balance progesterone, estrogen and testosterone and support cortisol and thyroid hormone production. Techniques are taught that will help the individual embrace a more balanced lifestyle – stress management, body movement exercises, eating and sleep hygiene. Through the process, we watch for signs that the body is becoming healthier – clearer skin, sharper memory and eyesight, abundant energy, regenerative deeper sleep, a painless period, and the best bowel movements ever! These stand as encouraging sign posts that we’re headed down the right path.
If there is a history of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), endometriosis, sexually transmitted infections, miscarriages, irregular or abnormal periods, or other conditions that could be affecting the ability to get pregnant, these will be addressed once the detoxification process is well underway.
At this point I will generally recommend acupuncture as an adjunct to the program as the subtle energy shifts that come from dispersing blockages and harmonizing Qi are a highly effective tool to completing the ground work for a fertile body.
I will also advise that the woman’s partner be fully checked out by a fertility clinic – sperm motility, quality and count can often be a complication or cause of infertility. Ideally, the male partner would also seek out naturopathic care and be going through his own protocol for the health of his body and in support of his partner. We have the best success when both partners are working with conventional medical and integrative practitioners. Fertility clinics may help with functionality testing that I don’t provide, such as the postcoital test, hysterosalpingography, and laparoscopy. Working with a team of practitioners provides the woman the best opportunity to become pregnant.
It doesn’t stop there. Once pregnancy is accomplished, we now shift our focus to ensuring the mom’s body maintains the pregnancy through to completion and that the growing baby has everything he or she requires to come out into the world with an abundance of health.
The length of the above protocol may take 3 to 6 months (or longer) and it is encouraged that the woman hold off attempting to get pregnant until at least the detoxification stage is finished. By laying the foundational groundwork for optimal health in the mother and father, we are able to provide the best opportunity for healthy future babies!