Infertility

woman sad about infertility

Infertility to Healthy Baby

The Definition of Infertility

Infertility is the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected trying or the inability to carry a pregnancy to live birth.  Statistics show that about 10% of couples are dealing with fertility problems.

What Causes Infertility?

The most common causes of infertility are hormonal imbalances, PCOS, fibroids, endometriosis, male factor, age related and “unexplained”.

Hormonal imbalances

The hormone imbalances involved are usually:

  • male hormone (androgen) excess in women with PCOS
  • estrogen dominance in women
  • poor or no progesterone production in females
  • excess pollutants acting like estrogen (xenoestrogens), in either gender
  • not enough estrogen or testosterone in men

PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)

PCOS leads to a lack of ovulation (anovulation), poor egg development and hormone imbalances including low progesterone.  As a naturopath, I will work with you to correct the hormone imbalances and improve fertility.

Fibroids

Fibroids are benign growths that can protrude into your uterine cavity.  In some instances, they prevent implantation of the fertilized egg.  They are usually a sign of estrogen dominance although some fibroids grow in response to progesterone as well.  Very large fibroids often require surgical removal, small ones either don’t pose a problem or can be shrunk through naturopathic treatment.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition where lumps of the uterine lining attach to structures outside the uterus, inside the abdominal cavity.  These growths enlarge in response to increases in hormones and cause severe pain.  They can also block ovaries and fallopian tubes leading to infertility.  This is also related to estrogen dominance.  If both tubes are blocked, IVF becomes a necessity.  In this case, I will work with women to improve IVF outcomes.  If only one tube is blocked, naturopathy helps address the cause of both endometriosis and resulting infertility leading to healthy conception.

Unexplained

This “diagnosis” causes a great deal of sadness, and stress because of the uncertainty of not knowing why you are having difficulty. Factors that cannot be adequately measured fall into this category. Unexplained infertility may be due to:

  • poor uterine lining quality
  • antibodies rejecting the fertilized egg
  • very early recurring miscarriages

As a naturopath, I find that “unexplained” infertility means there needs to be more digging to reveal the cause so that the root of the problem is addressed. Natural treatments can enhance lining quality, normalize immune system function, and address the cause of recurring miscarriages.

Age-Related

Prospective parents of advanced age (older than 38) encounter more difficulty with conception.  A longer lifespan means more exposure to environmental toxins and pollutants for eggs.  As we age, oxidative stress increases that can damage egg and sperm.  Naturopathy offers solutions to these phenomena through enhancing efficiency of liver detoxification and vitamins, minerals and other antioxidants to counter oxidative stress.

Male factor

Male factor infertility means that there is high DNA fragmentation, poor sperm shape, low sperm count, or poor sperm movement (motility).  What influences each of these is the hormonal environment in a man’s body as well as his overall health and wellness.  Excessive heat, smoking, caffeine, oxidative stress and alcohol damage sperm.   As a naturopath, I can counsel people on the best ways to improve sperm count and quality.

Natural Treatment for Infertility

As a naturopath, here’s how I would address fertility issues:

  1. Correct hormone imbalances through herbs, proper diet and exercise
  2. Aid liver detoxification of excess hormones and toxins (not through the kits found at health food stores!)
  3. Herbs to enhance progesterone production
  4. Anti-inflammatory herbs, hormone balancing and acupuncture to help with fibroids
  5. Hormone balancing and acupuncture to help with endometriosis
  6. Anti-inflammatory herbs and fish oil to help with uterine lining quality
  7. A proper diet to help maintain a pregnancy
  8. Herbs, antioxidants, acupuncture and liver detoxification to help with sperm count and quality in male factor infertility
  9. A thorough investigation to determine the root cause of your infertility issues

Benefits to Naturopathy for Infertility

Aside from the obvious benefits of having a healthy pregnancy and child, naturopathic medicine treatment provides:

  1. Healthier hormone balance
  2. A cleaner system, free of toxins and pollutants
  3. Overall improvement in reproductive health
  4. A healthier uterine lining
  5. Lower risk of miscarriage
  6. A healthier body to support a healthy baby

Does Natural Treatment for Infertility Work?

Absolutely!  70-80% of the people I treat for infertility problems become pregnant within 6-9 months of treatment provided they adhere to the protocol that I provide them.  Even those who had previously unsuccessful IVF or IUI treatments.

What is the process for my natural fertility program?

When we work together to help you achieve your goal of motherhood, here’s what we do:

  • We’ll discuss your entire medical history and every detail related to your fertility
  • I’ll do a brief, non-invasive screening physical exam (check your pulse, listen to your heart and lungs, palpate your abdomen, check your blood pressure)
  • Ideally, you’ll already have a copy of all tests that have been run relating to fertility, if not, we can request the records from your doctor or fertility clinic for you
  • I’ll review all your tests and reports and formulate a natural medicine treatment plan that will consist of scientifically validated diet, lifestyle, vitamins, minerals, and herbal remedies and possibly acupuncture to enhance your fertility and enable a healthy pregnancy
  • 99% of the women that I work with have not had all the fertility-related testing done that needs to be done.  I will provide you with a list of additional testing that should be done. These tests may be done through me (at cost) or through your medical doctor (in which case some of them are covered by OHIP).
  • We’ll follow up 3-6 weeks after the initial visit to review additional testing, questionnaires that I will send you home with on the first visit, your progress and any other new information.
  • Time to pregnancy – this depends on each individual, however, as a guide, it can take 3 months to correct a hormone imbalance. It can take an additional 3-6 months for conception to occur.

My Favourite Infertility Quote:

Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope. – Maya Angelou

For help with this or any other health problem, book an appointment here or call the clinic for more information at 416-481-0222.

Authored by Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Natural Treatment for Infertility: A Sample of the Research

Natural IVF shows potential in women of advanced age

Source: Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics 2008; 25: 163-7
Women of advanced age who have repeated stimulated IVF failure may respond to mature egg retrieval followed by natural, as opposed to stimulated, IVF.

Defects in folic acid metabolism are associated with unexplained female infertility

Fertility and Sterility 2009

Genetic variations in folic acid metabolism may account for some cases of unexplained infertility in women.  The frequency of these genetic variations are estimated at 25-60% of the population, so it is not uncommon.  99% of all folic acid supplements will NOT work for these people.  Supplementation with advanced forms of folic acid with B6, B12, and choline may help resolve some cases of infertility.

Serum IL-6 Level May Have a Role in the Pathophysiology of Unexplained Infertility

Significantly Higher IL-6 levels in women with unexplained infertility suggest that this cytokine may be involved in the pathophysiology of unexplained infertility. American Journal of Reproductive Immunology Volume 62 Issue 4 (October 2009)

Scientists link flame retardants and reduced human fertility

Women exposed to high levels of flame retardants take substantially longer to get pregnant. This indicates for the first time that the widespread chemicals may affect human fertility.  More than 97 percent of the women studied had PBDEs in their blood.  Those with high levels were half as likely to conceive in any given month as the women with low levels.

Dietary Fat & Male Factor Infertility

Omega-3 fatty acids have a positive effect on sperm development and motility.  Whereas, high levels of other types of fats resulted in lower sperm counts. Source: Human Reproduction, Volume 27, Issue 5, pages 1466-1474, March 2012.

Vitamin D & Miscarriage

Vitamin D concentrations do not affect fertility or pregnancy outcomes. However, low vitamin D levels may be associated with an increased risk of late-term miscarriage. Source: Eur J Clin Nutr, 2012 Feb 29

Vitamin E & Male Factor Infertility

Supplementation with vitamin E may improve sperm concentration, mobility, and rate of pregnancy. Source: Zhonghua Nan Ke Xue, 2012 May; 18(5):428-31.

Ubiquinone (CoQ10) & Infertility

Men with unexplained infertility who supplemented with ubiquinone (coenzyme Q10) improved their fertility. Source: J Urol, 2012 Jun 13.

Walnuts & Male Infertility

Ingestion of walnuts improved sperm vitality, motility, and morphology in men. Source: Biol Reprod. 2012 Aug 15.

Vitamins C, E, Zinc & folate & Male Fertility

Daily intake of micronutrients vitamin C, E, zinc, and folate decreased sperm DNA damage in older men. Source: Fertil Steril. 2012 Aug 23.

Exercise & Hypogonadism

Prediabetic, overweight men with hypogonadism show improvement in testosterone levels after reducing calorie and fat intake and increasing exercise. Source: ENDO 2012.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided here may not apply precisely to your individual situation. Diagnostic and therapeutic choices must always be tailored to the individual patient’s circumstances, and consultation with a licensed naturopathic physician should be undertaken before following any of the treatment strategies suggested in this web site.