Infertility

woman sad about infertility because of PCOS, endometriosis, and unexplained infertility
Struggling with 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 so you are definitely not alone.

What Causes Infertility?

There are many possible causes of infertility. The most common causes are hypothyroidism, hormonal imbalances like high prolactin, 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, particularly those with endometriosis
  • poor or no progesterone (anovulatory cycles) production in females
  • high prolactin
  • excess pollutants acting like estrogen (xenoestrogens), in either gender
  • not enough estrogen or testosterone in men, both estrogen and testosterone are involved in spermatogenesis

PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)

PCOS leads to a lack of or irregular ovulation (anovulation), poor egg development, and hormone imbalances including low progesterone.  PCOS is commonly caused by high androgens, but other hormonal imbalances like hypothyroidism and high prolactin levels can also cause cysts on the ovaries. As a naturopath, I will investigate the exact reasons why you aren’t ovulating and then work with you to correct your hormone imbalances and improve your fertility.

Here’s how I would address PCOS-related infertility naturally:

  • A low glycemic index, low glycemic load diet to keep your hormones balanced
  • Minerals like chromium, vanadium, magnesium, and zinc to keep your blood sugar stable and insulin levels minimal
  • Herbs like Saw Palmetto, and Nettle Root to reduce excess androgens
  • Herbs like Peony, Black Cohosh, and Chastetree to balance the female reproductive hormones, support healthy ovulation, implantation, and maintaining a pregnancy

Fibroids

Fibroids are benign growths that can protrude into your uterine cavity.  In some instances, they prevent implantation of the fertilized egg (embryo).  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 for fibroids.

Here’s how I would address fibroids naturally:

  • Low glycemic index, low glycemic load diet to prevent excessive estrogen production
  • Herbs like Chastetree to balance estrogen and progesterone levels
  • Supplements like I3C, glucarate, B6, B12, L-5MTHF, and magnesium to support healthy liver detoxification of estrogen, and estrogen-like chemicals like BPA from plastic

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition where lumps of your uterine lining attach to structures outside your uterus, and inside your abdominal cavity.  These growths change in size in response to variations in your hormones and cause severe pain.  They can also block ovaries and fallopian tubes leading to infertility.  This condition 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 no tubes or only one tube is blocked, naturopathy helps address the cause of both endometriosis and resulting infertility leading to healthy conception. Surgery can clean up endometrial tissue in the abdomen but doesn’t address the root cause, so the problem recurs.

Here’s how I would address endometriosis-related infertility naturally:

  • Low glycemic index, low glycemic load diet to prevent excessive estrogen production
  • Herbs like Chastetree to balance estrogen and progesterone levels
  • Supplements like I3C, glucarate, B6, B12, L-5MTHF, and magnesium to support healthy liver detoxification of estrogen, and estrogen-like chemicals like BPA from plastic

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 (embryo)
  • very early recurring miscarriages
  • or investigations that haven’t been thorough enough to find the root cause. Many times important fertility tests haven’t been done, such as checking total testosterone and DHEAs levels.

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, improve implantation, normalize immune system function, and address the cause of recurring miscarriages.

Here’s how I would address unexplained infertility naturally:

  • Do more in-depth testing for infertility including tests that are almost never done like dihydrotestosterone, DHEAs, and total testosterone levels
  • Low glycemic index, low glycemic load diet to prevent excessive hormone production
  • Intermittent fasting to improve growth hormone levels to assist implantation
  • Supplements like l-arginine, melatonin, vitamin E, and Chastetree to improve implantation
  • Supplements like carnitine, melatonin, vitamins A, C, E, zinc, selenium, CoQ10, and alpha-lipoic acid to improve egg quality

Age-Related

Prospective parents of advanced age (older than 38) encounter more difficulty with conception.  Since you have had your egg follicles since you were born, a longer lifespan means more exposure to environmental toxins and pollutants.  As we age, oxidative stress increases. This also damages eggs and sperm.  Naturopathy offers solutions to these phenomena through enhancing the efficiency of your liver detoxification and the use of vitamins, minerals, and other antioxidants to counter oxidative stress.

Here’s how I would address age-related infertility:

  • Reduce oxidative stress through antioxidants like vitamin A, C, E, zinc, selenium, CoQ10, and alpha-lipoic acid
  • Improve egg and sperm quality through L-5MTHF, l-carnitine, acetyl-l-carnitine, and melatonin
  • Support healthy liver detoxification of a life-time’s accumulation of toxins and chemicals through supplements like I3C, glucarate, vitamin B6, B12, L-5MTHF, and magnesium

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 frequently counsel people on the best vitamins, minerals, and herbs to improve sperm count and quality.

Here’s how I would address Male Factor Infertility issues naturally:

  • Reduce oxidative stress through antioxidants like vitamin A, C, E, zinc, selenium, CoQ10, and alpha-lipoic acid
  • Improve sperm quality through L-5MTHF, l-carnitine, acetyl-l-carnitine, n-acetyl cysteine, and melatonin
  • Support healthy liver detoxification of toxins and chemicals that damage sperm through supplements like I3C, glucarate, vitamin B6, B12, L-5MTHF, NAC, and magnesium

Natural Treatment for Infertility

As a naturopathic doctor, 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. This may include blood work through your GP or fertility clinic, DUTCH testing to get a more thorough picture of how you are producing and processing hormones, and Basal Body Temperature charting.

This may seem like a lot, but I can walk you through each of these step-by-step to put together a program that is both manageable and effective for you.

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 body, free of toxins and pollutants
  3. Overall improvement in your 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 that I treat for infertility problems become pregnant within 6-9 months of treatment provided they adhere to the protocol that I provide them.  My treatment even works for 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 a scientifically validated diet, lifestyle, vitamins, minerals, and herbal remedies, and possibly acupuncture to enhance your fertility and enable a healthy pregnancy. Acupuncture is helpful, but not mandatory.
  • 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. How long it takes to conceive depends on each individual, however, as a guide, it can take 3 months to correct a hormone imbalance. It can then 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

Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), Naturopathic Doctor

Dr. Pamela has been in practice as a naturopathic doctor in Toronto since 1999. She has been the recipient of numerous “Best Naturopath in Toronto” awards. She is registered with the College of Naturopaths of Ontario.

Dr. Pamela Frank uses a natural treatment approach that may include acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition, diet, vitamins, supplements, and other natural remedies to restore balance and provide long-term resolution of almost any health problem.

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.

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