The World Health Organization (WHO) defines “infertility” as an inability to become pregnant after one year of trying.
Infertility is multi-factorial and there is no magic pill that works for everyone. The common physiological causes of infertility in females include hormonal disorders that hinder or prevent ovulation, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), cervical abnormalities, fallopian tube blockage, endometriosis, primary ovarian insufficiency (early menopause), and physical restrictions in the pelvis. Thyroid problems—either too much or too little thyroid hormone—can interrupt the menstrual cycle and lead to fertility issues as well. About 40% of infertility cases area actually attributed to the male partner, with problems including low sperm count and suboptimal movement.
While most couples generally believe that physiological problems are the cause of infertility, lifestyle and environmental factors are often overlooked. Stress is thought to play a role here, affecting the hypothalamic pituitary axis. Nutritional deficiencies, body weight, emotional distress, cigarettes, alcohol, and environmental pollutants—including heavy metals—all have an effect on a couple's ability to conceive and the female partner to carry a baby to term.
“Each couple needs to address the underlying issues contributing to infertility, and ensure that all the necessary building blocks are in place for a healthy pregnancy,” says IMI Naturopathic Doctor Ardyce Yik, who has helped many couple with fertility issues with a combination of naturopathic medicine and lifestyle counseling.
Harvard researchers have found a clear link between diet and lifestyle habits and fertility.1
Frustrated couples unable to conceive may consider ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) such as IVF (in-vitro fertilization) or IUI (intra-uterine insemination), which aim to increase the odds of success by increasing the number of eggs produced. However, the technique does not aim to affect the quality of the egg, and it pays little attention to the general health of the woman trying to conceive. As the above research indicates, IVF alone only yields a 30% pregnancy rate.
IMI offers options in natural therapies to effectively boost fertility. We recommend an integrated approach that addresses the underlying causes. Many of our clients have fallen pregnant using a combination of Naturopathic medicine, Homeopathy, Chinese medicine, Acupuncture, Osteopathy, and Integrated Manual Therapy. HypnoFertility therapy and BodyTalk may also be an integral part together with balancing the internal physiology.
The Naturopathic Approach
A study conducted at the University of Surrey followed the progress of 367 couples that followed a health improvement program2. The program included appropriate supplements, removing heavy metals, improving diet by increasing the amount of organic food, curing infections, and correcting lifestyle issues. By the end of the study, 89% of the couples had given birth. Within the group, 37% had a history of infertility, and of these, 81% had a healthy child by following the natural health program. In addition, 38% of the couples in the group had experienced miscarriage in the past, and of these, 83% gave birth with no miscarriages.
Dr Yik is experienced in helping women improve the chances of becoming pregnant by using natural methods similar to the Surrey study.
IMI offers medical tests to assess underlying issues like PCOS or heavy metal toxicity, as well as screening for hormone profiles, ovarian reserve, toxicity levels and nutrient status. Appropriate supplements and botanical medicines are then used to address hormone imbalances and ovulatory disorders.
Dr Yik also provides nutritional and lifestyle counseling to address nutrient deficiency, fertility awareness, stress management, emotional factors as well as guidance in reducing heavy metal toxicity and environmental toxic exposure prior to attempts to conceive, and the natural ways to support the body's detoxification mechanisms.
If couples decide to receive assisted reproductive procedures, Dr Yik can provide adjunctive therapy before/ during IVF or IUI to improve the chances of a successful pregnancy.
The Homeopathic approach to infertility involves the holistic analysis of the individual patient. Homeopathy takes into account the symptoms of the infertility diagnosis along with the unique physical, mental and genetic make-up of each person.
The Homeopath prescribes the closest matching remedy to the individuals’ case, following the fundamental principle of Homeopathic medicine of “like treating like”. The tiny pills or drops prescribed assist by triggering the patients’ self healing response.
IMI’s Registered Homeopath, Mina Weight, is both passionate and experienced in helping clients to get a better chance in conception.
“Many different types of symptoms related to infertility can be helped with Homeopathy, such as irregular menstruation, endometriosis, polycystic ovaries, fibroids, and miscarriages amongst others,” explains Mina. “The earlier a patient seeks treatment generally the better the outcome.”
Depending on the cause of the infertility, the correct, individualistic medication can have a profound effect by:
- regulating and balancing the body's hormones and menstrual cycle thus improving the ovulation process in women;
- improving the condition of the uterus to help prevent miscarriages;
- improving the condition, mobility and number of sperm;
- helping with the stress, anxiety and depression often experienced by those who are trying to conceive;
- helping to treat any side-effects from other fertility treatments;
- helping to support patients who are undergoing other fertility treatments since Homeopathic medicine does not interfere with conventional medication.
Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture
Research suggests that Chinese herbal medicine is twice as effective as conventional drug therapies to help women conceive due to its ability to improve the quality of a women’s menstrual cycle.
A study published in the December 2011 issue of the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine showed that women who received Chinese herbal medicine treatments had been twice as likely to get pregnant than women who received conventional drug treatments for infertility or IVF3.
“In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the kidneys, liver, heart and uterus form the core of reproductive activity and together they help regulate the menstrual cycle,” explains IMI’s registered TCM practitioner Gianna Buonocore.
“Acupuncture and herbal medicine can increase the chance of getting pregnant by improving the function of these organs, which in turn promotes qi (energy) and blood flow to critical areas of the body.”
The aim of TCM therapies is to reestablish balance in the body. It can be used alone or in combination with IVF or IUI treatment to increase fertility.
Japanese Acupuncture and Reflexology
Structural problems can have a huge impact on fertility. The female pelvic area is highly sensitive and even minor tension can disturb its function. “Legs turning in or turning out can affect the uterus and the ovaries positions,” explains Japanese Acupuncturist and Reflexologist Gait Cohen Nagar, who works with both male and female on fertility issues. "Tension in the groin will indicate bad blood supply to the pelvic and the organs."
In Japanese Acupuncture, great importance is placed on palpation and stimulation of reactive points. As acupuncture points are distal, abdominal palpation will help finding blood stagnation and other organs disharmony.
“Sometimes the problem can be with the pituitary gland, the adrenal gland, or the thyroid gland. After all, the endocrine system is all connected. There is also an important connection between the womb and the heart,” says Galit. "Reflexology and Japanese Acupuncture can help to resolve many of these issues and allow the body to resume normal function, thus making it easier to conceive.
Osteopathic treatments can help remove stress on the uterus by making sure the pelvis is aligned properly, the muscles are balanced and strong, and all unwanted tensions are released.
It is all done by gentle soft tissue technique and manipulations,” explains Osteopath Jodi Waugh. By restoring freedom in the tissues and normalizing fluid flow, the inherent physiologic function resumes, and chances of pregnancy improves.
If all the tests results are normal and you still have difficulty getting pregnant, you should consult a qualified Osteopath for a complete assessment.
Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT)
Integrative Manual Therapist, Jennifer Lewin, also recognises that fertility issues stem from multiple sources—diet and lifestyle, congestion and inflammation within the pelvic bowl, hormonal imbalance, toxicity, structural issues of the joints, organs and tissues within the pelvis and stress and anxieties.
IMT is a unique compilation of diagnostic and treatment methodologies that assess and treat a range of dysfunction, including infertility. While IMT diagnostics and treatment modalities are predominately hands-on, IMT also integrates a wide range of healing techniques and nutritional programs.
“I always start with diet and lifestyle changes,” says Jennifer. “I find that the most impactful dietary change from a fertility perspective is to eliminate gluten from the diet, as it cuts down on so much congestion and inflammation in the pelvic bowl.”
“Eating a nutrient dense organic real food diet is also essential in order to cut down on toxicity coming in from food.”
From a treatment perspective, Jennifer integrates IMT structural work and acupuncture to normalize blood and lymph flow in and out of the pelvic bowl, to strengthen the liver's ability to detox and aid in hormone balancing, to normalize the joints, organs and tissues within the pelvic region and to strengthen one’s ability to deal with stress and anxieties.
“Hypnofertility® is a therapy to help you to conceive naturally, and support and increase your chances with ART and IVF”, explains Jennifer Halley, Hypnotherapist, HypnoFertility® Therapist and HypnoBirthing® Instructor.
The therapy is a 12-session personalised step-by-step program that aims to identify and remove conscious and unconscious blocks.
In the program, you can expect to find peace of mind by reducing stress and other factors that could be hindering conception.
BodyTalk is a consciousness-based, non-invasive therapy that works with the body in its healing process. BodyTalk sees that the liver is responsible for movement of blood and therefore plays a significant role in the regulation of the female cycle. If unchecked, anger, the natural emotion of the Liver meridian, can cause pain, stagnation and impact the fertility rate.
Many people find BodyTalk helpful with fertility and hormonal issues. “BodyTalk treatments address cellular memory, which can hold on to resentment, lack of forgiveness, and guilt from past or current intimate relationships,” explains Angie Tourani, IMI’s BodyTalk practitioner. “It’s in an environment of stress and anger that you usually see health problems and dysfunction.”
“With BodyTalk, I’ve helped many clients with fertility issues,” says Angie, “some of them have tried to conceive over a number of years without success.”
“One client of mine was carrying a lot of guilt about past events, which made her feel incredibly anxious, to the point she was talking anti-anxiety drugs.”
“She was struggling to get pregnant for the last few years and had tried IVF and IUI without much success. After a few BodyTalk treatments, she was able to conceive and actually happy to be pregnant.”
1. Chavarro, J.E. et al., 2007. Diet and lifestyle in the prevention of ovulatory disorder infertility. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 110(5), 1052-3.
2. Ward, N., 1995. Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, 5, 205-208.
3. Ried K, Stuart K, 2011: Efficacy of Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine in the management of female infertility: A systematic review; Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Vol 19 Issue 6, 2011; 319-31