Whether you have just started to plan for a family, or have been trying to conceive for some time, naturopathic medicine can help you optimize your health, and by doing do improve fertility and pregnancy outcomes! Naturopathic fertility care involves natural non-invasive treatment strategies that target the underlying cause of your fertility struggles. Treatment plans are individualized and include the use of vitamins and minerals, herbs, acupuncture, and diet and lifestyle counselling.
Preparing for optimal fertility and a healthy pregnancy starts in the preconception period, ie. 3-6 months prior to conception. Dr. Meghan van Drimmelen’s fertility program will help you start out on a healthy path by incorporating some basic lifestyle changes and natural health solutions to get your mind and body ready for the exciting new stage ahead!
Preconception Planning Includes:
• Optimizing nutrition • Decreasing toxin load • Discontinuing hormonal birth control or IUD • Stress management • Optimizing BMI • Basal body temperature charting • Preconception laboratory tests • Regulating menstrual cycles • Addressing and treating any underlying health concerns
During this stage the goal is to help you feel as vibrant and healthy as possible before moving into the exciting new stage of pregnancy. If the mind and body are in balance it is easier to conceive, and maintain a healthy pregnancy to term. It is important to recognize that it takes two to get pregnant, so a healthy lifestyle program should be incorporated for both partners!
Naturopathic Fertility Treatment
If you are having problems achieving or maintaining a pregnancy, Dr. Meghan van Drimmlen’s natural fertility program can help restore balance to your reproductive system, and naturally treat the underlying factors that may be impeding positive fertility outcomes. A comprehensive health intake, assessment, and laboratory work will help to uncover the root cause of your fertility struggles.
Common fertility concerns that can be addressed through naturopathic treatments include:
• PCOS and anovulatory cycles • Endometriosis • Poor Ovarian Reserve • Thyroid disorders • Luteal phase defect • Male factor infertility (low sperm count, motility or morphology) • Recurrent pregnancy loss • Unexplained infertility
‘Unexplained Infertility’ is a term used when conventional diagnostic procedures cannot determine the underlying cause of fertility concerns. Naturopathic medicine can diagnose and treat some of these factors that impede a couple’s fertility including:
• Stress hormone imbalance • Food intolerance or sensitivity • Heavy metal toxicity • Nutritional deficiencies • Immunological factors • Sex hormone imbalance • Infection
Assisted Reproductive Technologies
If you are seeking IVF or IUI, an integrative approach that uses a combination of conventional medicine, and evidence based natural medicine will help to improve your success rates. The use of natural medicine during ART helps to reduce stress, improve blood flow to the uterus to optimize implantation, reduces side effects of medications, and enhances egg and sperm quality. Acupuncture in particular has been shown to significantly increase IVF success rates when performed regularly leading up to IVF treatment, as well as immediately pre and post embryo transfer. For optimal outcomes, treatment should start 8-12 weeks leading up to IVF treatment to best prepare the body.
Fertility and healthy pregnancy can be both exhilarating and emotionally taxing. My goal is to make your fertility journey as easy as possible for you. I will take the time to listen to your concerns, provide thorough assessments, laboratory testing and education, and will create an individualized holistic program to optimize your fertility and pregnancy outcomes. I encourage couples to come to visits together so there is a thorough understanding of each partner’s health status and concerns.
I look forward to meeting with you and supporting you throughout your fertility journey.
1 in 6 Canadian experiences fertility issues. During Canadian Infertility Awareness Week, I wanted to talk about the 3 main ways to improve the IVF journey many couples are embarking on. Although IVF may not have been their first choice in conceiving a child, future parents may able to conceive through this procedure.
If you have any questions regarding acupuncture in the support of IVF protocol, feel free to contact me.
Clara Cohen Registered Acupuncturist Healing Cedar Wellness
What is endometriosis? Endometriosis is a gynaecological disorder effecting millions of women worldwide. This disorder occurs when the endometrium, the inner lining of the uterus, implants abnormally outside of the uterine cavity. The most common sites of endometrial implants are the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the bladder, the intestines, and the ligaments and muscles in the pelvis. The tissue outside of the uterus responds the same way to the menstrual cycle as the lining of the uterus. For instance endometrial tissue will grow and proliferate in response to an increase in hormones (estrogen), and will degrade and bleed when hormones decline (progesterone). The endometrial implants that bleed outside of the uterus cause inflammation and swelling of the surrounding area, scar tissue formation, and pain.
Endometriosis typically occurs in women of reproductive age, and is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 25 and 35. For symptomatic women, diagnosis is confirmed with pelvic laparoscopy, a minor surgical procedure that allows for the examination of your pelvic organs and identification of endometrial lesions.
Symptoms of endometriosis:
Chronic pelvic pain
Low back pain
Pain with intercourse
Painful bowel movements
Gastrointestinal upsets such as diarrhea, constipation and nausea during menstruation
Because these symptoms can look like a variety of different diseases, diagnosis of endometriosis can be difficult and often delayed.
Causes of endometriosis: We unfortunately don’t know the exact cause of endometriosis, but several theories do exist.
Retrograde menstruation. This is where menstrual blood or endometrial cells flow backwards through the fallopian tubes and land on pelvic organs where they start to grow.
Coelomic Metaplasia. This theory suggests that the cells that line the peritoneal cavity transform into endometrial cells.
Immune system dysfunction. Reduced cell mediated immunity prevents the detection and eradication of misplaced endometrial cells.
The displacement and redistribution of endometrial cells though the blood or lymph fluid, or during pelvic surgery.
Genetic. Women that have a first-degree relative with endometriosis have a 6 fold increased risk in developing the disease in compared to those that do not have the family history.
Diet. There is a decreased risk of endometriosis in women that eat higher amounts of vegetables and fruit, and an increased risk of developing the disease when eating diets high in red meat. High intake of caffeine and alcohol also contribute to an increased risk of developing the disease.
Hormone imbalance. Because endometrial tissue grows and proliferates in response to high levels of estrogen, higher levels of estrogen in relation to progesterone may increase the risk of developing endometriosis.
Exposure to xenoestrogens. These are environmental toxins that act as estrogens in the body, and thus contribute to hormone modulated diseases. Examples of xenoestrogens are phthalates found in plastics and toxins in herbicides and pesticides.
Most likely the cause of endometriosis is multifactorial. Because of this, the naturopathic approach to managing endometriosis includes taking all of the risk factors and causal theories into consideration when developing a treatment plan. In addition, because chronic pelvic pain and infertility can trigger emotional stress, stress management is also an integral part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
Goals of naturopathic treatment:
Prevention of excessive endometrial tissue escape
Shrinkage of endometrial lesions
Decreasing exposure to environmental toxins
Treatment modalities used to reach goals:
Nutritional medicine – lifestyle and supplementation
Bioidentical hormone therapy
General naturopathic treatment plan:
1- To prevent excessive back flow of menstrual blood and endometrial cells through the fallopian tubes, head stands, certain yoga poses such as shoulder stands should be avoided on heavy flow days.
2- Pain management revolves around controlling inflammation, and decreasing muscle spasms associated with chronic pain signals.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Herbs such as curcumin and boswellia
Limited refined sugar, and saturated fat (red meat, dairy, egg)
High intake of vegetables and fruit
High polyunsaturated fats – nuts, seeds, fish, olive oil
Food sensitivity testing – to determine individual food triggers that contribute to systemic inflammation.
Decreasing muscle spasms:
Pelvic flood physiotherapy
Note: Acupuncture is a great adjunct therapy for calming any type of pain in the body.
3- To shrink endometrial tissue hormone balancing, immune modulation, and antioxidant support is key.
The goal of hormone balancing is to decrease estrogen – the hormone that is responsible for endometrial growth and proliferation. This can be achieved by supplementing with:
Indole-3-carbinol, and diindoylmethane, which helps with the metabolism of estrogen through the liver
What are LH Ovulation Strips, and why should I be using them? The LH Ovulation Strip is a fast and easy home-use test to predict when you are having your LH (Luteinizing Hormone) surge. This test is a preferred method of tracking when the most fertile days of your cycle occur, and is one of the most reliable predictors of ovulation.
Besides their common use for timing of intercourse, LH strips are used in a few other applications. They can help determine when eggs are at their prime for surgical removal in IVF procedures, and they can conversely help verify a lack of ovulation to assist in diagnosing polycystic ovaries, premature ovarian failure, and menopause.
In terms of helping you track your fertility, the best way to explain the strip is to explain a bit about what biological event it is measuring, and why this makes it a preferred method.
The old way of monitoring your most fertile days for intercourse was to tediously chart your basal body temperature, to see when you were ovulating. This involved taking your temperature every morning before getting out of bed, and charting it to observe any fluctuations. A definite spike meant you probably ovulated. Unfortunately there were a few short-comings with this method. Firstly, there are a few things that could cause a temperature spike (stress, fever, poor sleep, etc). But more importantly, the temperature spike usually occurs 12-24 hours after you ovulate, and herein lies the issue with using this to monitor your fertility.
You are actually considered to be at peak fertility in the 2 days preceding ovulation, which is why you may have noticed your body producing cervical mucus before the event. Sperm can survive inside your body for about 3-5 days, and so having intercourse in these 2 days before egg release can make for the best chances of having sperm and egg meet. After being released, an egg lives for about 12-24 hours, after which it will dissolve if it isn’t fertilized. So if you are getting your important message indicator 12-24 hours after the fact, as with basal temperature monitoring, you can see the problem!
In contrast, the LH ovulation strip is monitoring your LH surge, which is a much more timely (and therefore much less stressful), prediction. When your body is getting ready to release an egg, your hormone system is triggered to release a surge of Luteinizing Hormone (LH). This is a consequence of the changing hormone levels in a maturing egg signalling the pituitary to increase LH production (basically telling the body -“I’m ready to go!”). It is the increased LH that actually triggers ovulation, which occurs about 24-36 hours after the surge. Important to note that nothing other than this “impending ovulation” should trigger a LH surge, so it provides a clear message that your most fertile days have arrived.
Luckily, this marked increase in LH is detectable in the urine, and in steps your home-use LH Ovulation Strip test. For complete instructions on how to use your strips and interpret your results, please clickhere
Please note that some drugs can affect the test, and you should talk to your practitioner if you have any questions regarding this. Although using the LH ovulation strip is a great way of finding out when your “best chance” intercourse may be, having regular sex (i.e. a few times per week, or every other day) is always the most reliable way of maximizing your chances of conception.
As of a 2009 CDC survey, Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) births represented 1.4%of total US births, or 60,190 infants. It is now estimated that over 5 million births worldwide have been the result of medical reproductive intervention, a long way to come after the birth of the very first “test tube baby” in 1978. However, these advances have not come without their own concerns.In the same 2009 survey, it was also stated that 33.4% of ART births were born preterm, compared to a 12.2% rate found in natural births, and 47% were multiple births, compared to a general rate of 3%.
In two recent reviews published in Fertility and Sterility Journal (a publication of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine), the relationships between the use of ART and certain perinatal risks were examined. The observed increased rates of preterm delivery, low birth weight, and the prevalence and severity of preeclampsia were discussed. The authors referenced the effects of ovarian stimulation, embryo culture in vitro, and something called an “underlying infertility factor” as possible mechanisms. Interestingly, it was hinted that this underlying infertility may be the factor with the greatest influence. Although somewhat vague in description, this factor could be summed up as what the contributions of sub-fertile, and therefore perhaps sub-healthy parents, could be lacking.
What should hopeful ART parents-to-be glean from these findings? Probably what a lot of them already know, and the reason why they are increasingly turning to holistic therapies to help them maximize their health potentials in preparation for parenthood. For while it may seem that you do not have much control over the many intricate workings of an IVF or IUI procedure, you do have some control over this very thing which may be the greatest factor – your health. Indeed, the very last line in one of these articles was: “Reproduction effects health, health effects reproduction”.
The focus of ART is egg production and fertilization, but the preparation and readiness of the woman’s body, which includes all facets of her overall health and well-being, are largely left out of the equation. It is not surprising that we should start to see this side of the equation become more apparent as a possible causative factor in the risks associated with ART. Building a human is no small job, and unaddressed disharmonies in the body should not be underestimated for being able to distract vital energy from the task. The analogy of attempting to sow seeds in poor soil is easy to understand. One cannot expect the best yield if there are not the proper conditions to nourish and support the seed.
It has been pointed out that one of the drawbacks to using Traditional Chinese Medicine in fertility is the time it takes, but this is really its strength. By taking the time to acknowledge, address, and nurture the aspects of your health that may be holding you back, you provide for the much more efficient possibility of creating a stable and sustainable environment for success. Perhaps we can influence these risks and factors more than we know. Studies such as these take a long time to show results, but with a proactive approach, hopefully we will enjoy a positive shift in the research findings of the future.
Our fantastic team of practitioners contribute to our blog articles. Together we aim to restore balance within the body, educate each patient and guide them on their journey to optimum health. Our clinic offers natural health for the entire family, from babies to older adults and everyone in between.
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