I had a great time connecting with holistic nutritionist and owner of Thrival Nutrition; Lahana Vigliano today. We recored podcast episode 52 for her website on the topic of "Infertility" where I outlined the common causes of fertility challenges couples have, the medical assessments that can help uncover these challenges and options for how couples can optimize their fertility from a naturopathic perspective using botanical medicine, nutrition, lifestyle modifications and naturopathic care.
Dive in with me for more information!
Infertility is such an important health topic that doesn’t always get enough attention and education. I’m really happy to be able to share information and bring some light to it. Many of you know that the definition of infertility – is a couple that has been trying to conceive with regular unprotected intercourse for 12 months or more unsuccessfully. Before which you are technically not considered "infertile".
From that definition thought; I’d like to change the way we talk about infertility – I think that word ‘infertility itself often brings with it negative thoughts or feelings that can be a stressor to couples trying to conceive. I want people who have struggled in this area to not hold fast to this term but rather come at this topic from a viewpoint that their fertility has a challenge that’s waiting to be overcome.
To look at the common cause of fertility challenges, we first have to understand how a healthy conception occurs. We can look at the process as 3 steps that need to occur for pregnancy to happen and then look at which point do challenges factor in:
First step - a sperm must be available
Second step - an egg must be available
Third step – the sperm has to meet the egg at a time and place conducive to fertilization
I know the steps sound obvious but at each step there can be certain things that don't line up well and are getting in the way of your healthy conception.
THE 3 STEPS TO CONCEIVE
Here are areas where your healthcare practitioners will be assessing you:
Is there any clues in your medical history?
Is there a hormonal imbalance?
What are the menstrual cycle characterisitics?
How long is your cycle, is it regular, how long do you bleed for, whats the flow and color, are there any clots? Do you see fertile signs of cerical mucus changes mid cycle? Are there PMS symptoms like breast tenderness and irritability? Are your periods very painful? These are all questions we need to know answers too when thinking about hormones.
We can can check for underactive thyroid both from blood tests but also from tracking basal body temperature on waking throughout the month.
We can checks levels of estrogen and progesterone in blood or saliva samples. When blood tests don’t give us enough information, a month-long salivary test kit where women collec their saliva samples every 2nd day of a full cycle – and off it goes to a lab in Alberta thatmeasures their estrogen, progesterone, testerone and DHEA levels to look for those monthly fluctuations. So that’s a great specialized test that’s not available through OHIP but is available through naturopathic doctors.
Checking the blood test for high prolactin to catch if there’s potential issues at that pituitary level.
Is ovulation occurring?
Tracking basal body temperature can give us an idea of whether ovulation occurred,
Getting ultrasound imaging to monitor the ovaries around ovulation and looks for signs of it is a great tool often used by fertility specialists but can be requisitioned by your family doctor.
Checking for levels of leutinzing hormone around ovulation – so this is when ovulation predictor kits from yoru local pharmacy are great to check a urine sample and give you the confirmation that you are ovulation. They can be of course if your using multiple tests each month but a great tool.
Checkcking levels of progesterone day 20-23 of the menstrual cycle seeing that it’s elevated in response to an egg having been released and that corpus luteum producing progesterone.
Are the fallopian tubes blocked?
Is there a history of infections, a congential abronoamlity they can see on imaging, a previous ectopic pregnancy (which may have ruptured a tube), a history of lower abdominal surgery (for example for a rupture appendix which may cause a block)
Is there endometriosis, firboids, adhesiosn or scarring.
A hysterosalpinogogram – xray of the uterus and fallopian tubes can be taken after your period and may show structural abornoaltiies that we mentioned previoculy.
Were there any previous infections?
Is cervical mucus friendly to sperm?
Are there any immune-mediated caused?
For the men - what is the quality and quantity of there sperm?
Are there emotional factors like stress causing the subtle hormone imbalances that can a huge impact
What is the person's nutritional status?
OPTIMIZING YOUR FERTILITY
CONNECT WITH ME
If you're actively trying to get pregnant and having trouble, wondering where fertility challenges may be factoring in, or simply wanting to understand your fertility signs better, then consider working with a naturopathic doctor near you!
For those local to the GTA - book a 15 minute free introductory appointment at either of my clinic locations to meet each other and get to know how a naturopathic doctor can help you optimize your unique fertility.