| The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning.
|— Ivy Baker Priest
Women's Reproductive Wellness and Natural Conception Clinic
One of the most common health issues seen in my private practice is the need for reproductive hormone balancing. There is much that herbal medicine and a holistic health program can offer for supporting optimal fertility in both women and men while assisting all the stages of a women’s health for optimal conception, including: prenatal care, creation of a birth plan as well as post birth support and healing, infant health and lactation support.
To best support the body for a healthy pregnancy and to optimize healthy conception, I recommend that parents to be reach out for an appointment 3-6 months prior to trying to conceive, to receive the most optimal holistic care program. This provides ample time needed for cleansing, building and toning and to address any possible hormonal imbalance or underlying health issues which may be barriers for successful conception; that said guidance can be sought during any state of the conception process.
Herbal medicine and a holistic health consultation can also benefit women and couples who are considering or undergoing assisted fertility options, like intrauterine insemination or in vitro fertilization. Some herbal medicines can enhance the activity of commonly used IVF medication.
Be well first. Infertility is nature’s way of ensuring survival of the fittest. Through focusing on cleansing and detoxification, uterine tonics used to balance hormone levels and regulate the menstrual cycle, addressing other possible blocks to reproduction and improving overall health we can increase the likelihood of successful conception and a healthy pregnancy.
Despite the increasing amount of scientific research identifying numerous underlying health issues leading to issues with fertility; these hidden hindrances are not often addressed by allopathic (mainstream) medicine. As the body attempts to self regulate and only conceive when most healthy, it is essential to address the full picture.
There are many underlying causes of infertility in both women and men. Some frequently overlooked causes of infertility include:
- Elevated and extended periods of stress can significantly reduce the probability of conception. Infertility can lead to stress and similarly stress can lead to infertility. Stress may affect our bodies’ production of LH, interfering with ovulation; the stress response can tell our body that it is not a favorable time for conception to occur.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), is an increasing health problem and one of the most common causes of infertility in women, currently affecting up to 1:10 women. It is caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones leading to improper egg development or release, missed or irregular menstrual periods and a lack of ovulation. Irregular periods can lead to: an inability to get pregnant and development of cysts in the ovaries. PCOS is also linked to metabolic resistance where blood sugar deregulation and insulin imbalances as well as weight issues can further complicate the conception issue as women and men with obesity [body mass index (BMI) = 30 kg/m2] have a higher risk of infertility. Herbal medicine, nutritional changes and some key vitamin supplements can play a positive role in addressing polycystic ovarian syndrome.
- Other underlying reproductive issues include: uterine fibroids, endometriosis, anovulatory cycles, previous infection or scar tissue, thyroid imbalances and irregular menstrual cycles.
- Structural changes: pelvic injuries can lead blocked nerve impulses and interrupt blood flow to the pelvic region
- Low sperm count due to environmental pollution, radiation and other endocrine disruptors
- A tough coating on the eggs can make the egg inpenetratable to sperm.
- Changes to cervical mucous. The vaginal mucous pH is generally acidic; a diet high in sugar, white flour products and starch can create alkaline mucous that is hostile to sperm.
- Infertility linked to a poor diet: Studies have shown that certain dietary factors are linked to infertility. Diets higher in saturated and trans fats, animal protein, and high sugar foods are associated with decreased fertility in both women and men, while diets higher in mono-unsaturated fats, a high consumption of vegetables and vegetable protein, and low glycemic load, are associated with increased fertility.
- Nutritional deficiencies: from possible lack of absorption and assimilation of nutrients through faulty digestive function, an underlying candida infection, increased intestinal permeability or poor nutrition. Omega 3 fatty acids and certain key vitamins and minerals are essential for women trying to get pregnant. Folic acid, Vitamin B12 and a high quality prenatal vitamin (read the non medicinal ingredients on the label) are required for normal ovulation and a healthy reproductive system. Extensive research on Folic acid supplementation can reduce the risk of brain and neurologic problems in the developing fetus, reducing the risk for spina bifida and anencephaly by 50% or more. Folic acid supplementation may also lower the risk of preeclampsia and early labor.
- Environmental pollutants, also known as xenoestrogens: endocrine disrupting chemicals (or estrogen mimickers) that can lead to fertility issues in women and low sperm count in men, including PMS, heavy periods, mood swings, PCOS, fibroids, obesity and thyroid imbalances; thus it is important to reduce exposure in all areas of one's life.
Some xenoestrogen agents include heavy metals, pesticides and chemicals hidden in food or food preparation: Glyphosphate, Bisphenol A, Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), Phthalates, found in flexible soft plastics, Plastic wrapped foods, especially when heated in the microwave. Hidden chemicals found in commercial body care products are hidden culprits: Triclosan (found in hand sanitizer), Siloxanes, Parabens found in lotions, shampoos, soaps, toothpastes, cosmetics and numerous personal care products are known endocrine disruptors.
It is interesting to note that xenoestrogens (potent estrogen mimickers) entering the skin are absorbed directly into the bloodstream without first passing through the liver for detoxification. So topical absorption of xenoestrogens can be 10 times more potent than those orally ingested.
A certain level of estrogens are needed for reproductive hormone development and estrogen is known to promote cell proliferation and tissue growth. Too much estrogen in the body, (also known as estrogen dominance) can interrupt the intricate balance of the entire endocrine system and promote unnatural tissue growth such as fibroids, cysts, tumors and weight gain.
- Addressing HPA imbalances: The hypothalamus, pituitary adrenal axis (HPA Axis) functions to oversee the balance of neuroendocrine hormones (regulating adrenal health, immune function, digestion, blood sugar and thyroid hormones) and play a role in the health of the entire body, mediating the bodies general adaptation ability as well as impacting reproductive hormone levels.
- Certain over the counter pharmaceuticals and prescription medications have been linked with primary infertility as a result of directly affecting the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis or by having a direct toxic effect on hormones. Medications such as Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs,( like Tylenol, Aspirin and Aleve), Methotrexate, Glucocorticosteroids and Hormonal Steroids (including diethylstilbestrol, medroxyprogesterone acetate, estrogen and extended use of oral contraceptives), Antibiotics (sulfasalazine and co-trimoxazole), thyroid supplements, spironolactone, cimetidine, colchicine, marihuana, opiates, and neuroleptic agents are known to contribute to drug induced infertility.
- Immune dysfunction: Individuals who are suffering from various autoimmune disorders, asthma, and other diseases that are characterized by body-wide inflammation may experience difficulties in conceiving.
- Allergies can create an immune response to foreign proteins, such as sperm.
For women and couple who are investigating In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), a holistic health program can still be considered. Some herbal medicines used concurrently, can enhance the effectiveness of fertility prescription medication. Clomid (or clomiphene) is one of the first pharmaceuticals used in the treatment of infertility. It binds to estrogen receptors, inhibiting the action of estrogen on the hypothalamus. Studies have shown that the concurrent use of black cohosh, in specific dosages, can significantly impact estradiol and LH concentrations in patients taking clomiphene therapy; raising serum progesterone. Clinical pregnancy rates in patients were significantly higher in the black cohosh group as compared to control groups in the studies.
Having specialized in women’s health issues for the past 2 decades, I have observed successful pregnancy outcomes through the ongoing use of herbal medicine and specific nutritional and lifestyle modifications for ones unique health picture. Regardless of that state of fertility planning you are in, there are non invasive, supportive options available through a holistic health program.
These health issues affecting a successful conception and additional underlying concerns can be addressed through a consultation at my Vancouver or Port Moody office.
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