I have the privilege of assisting many couples with achieving conception. I began my general family practice ten years ago with the intention of eventually focusing on prenatal care and pediatrics. Most of my new patients however, were looking for natural treatments for health concerns related to hormone regulation. In time, I began seeing more and more women seeking my help with achieving pregnancy. From a medical perspective, age and quality of eggs are often greatly considered when a treatment protocol is advised. I was soon surprised to have women in their 20’s also seeking my assistance with achieving pregnancy. I then decided to take it ‘back to the basics’ instead of relying on nutritional supplementation early in treatment. I began teaching women about their monthly cycles – what signs to observe when ovulation occurs, optimal conception dates, and how to chart all of this as well as any PMS symptoms that may be experienced. In many cases, I discovered women did not understand the messages their body was telling them. And understandably so! Most of us try to tune out during the one lesson on monthly cycles in high-school Phys. Ed class.
Today, when a new couple sits before me, I explain to them that Natural Medicine has many tools in helping to achieve pregnancy. I am interested in learning about their lifestyle, jobs, stress levels, other relationships, medical history and their fertility journey thus far. As best as possible, I search for any interfering factors and then review some of the less common do’s and don’ts in fertility care. Many couples are shocked to find that caffeine intake can have a role in fertility. I also explain the role of various nutritional supplementation that can be beneficial in raising antixodant levels in the body. I also inform them that one of the most effective tools in this process is acupuncture. There are many research studies that confirm acupuncture’s role in achieving a positive IVF outcome. It is important for couples to know that acupuncture can be combined with assisted reproductive technologies. In addition, I inform them that acupuncture can be performed on many women who are not doing any other treatments. In both cases, timing of the acupuncture treatments is important and a regular schedule is encouraged. Sometimes this can range from once per week to twice per month, depending on the individual. As well, it is often recommended to schedule acupuncture just prior to expected ovulation.
Are there other factors to consider? Just as important as addressing the physical component, I often consider the mental-emotional impact of a fertility journey. Some couples have faced many ups and downs and not to mention, many financial sacrifices when on this journey. This can create a body burdened with stress and frustration, naturally! Fortunately I work with a team of gifted therapists – massage therapists, a nutritionist and psychotherapist – that can all offer their support as well. It can be difficult to maintain a positive attitude when faced with so much stress. As best as possible, this is another aspect that I like to address as it undoubtedly has a role in pregnancy outcome.
Today I wish I could say that I had greater insight into what effects a woman’s fertility. But, there are no common denominators here – I see women in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s all looking to achieve the same goal. They come from various ethnicities, and social and economic statuses. Oftentimes they are also women who are now having difficulty conceiving a second child. Some women are in great physical health and the question of infertility often still remains unanswered. Nonetheless, my goal is to treat the whole person and help them find optimal health and hopefully in doing so, we achieve pregnancy as well.
Written by Dr. Odessa Gill, ND