New Fertility Supplement

Have you been trying to conceive and told there may be a concern with your egg quality? Have you been diagnosed with PCOS? Do you experience menstrual irregularities or anovulation? If you have answered yes to any of the above, read on….

There is emerging evidence showing that a supplement called Myo-inositol can assist with several fertility concerns. Myo-inositol is produced by the human body from glucose, and therefore it is not an essential nutrient. This nutritional supplement, which used to be considered part of the B vitamin group, has been steadily gaining interest by fertility experts. Myo-inositol has been shown to improve quality of embryos, assist in restoring normal ovarian function (re-establishing menstrual cyclicity and ovulation) and increase clinical pregnancy rates in women undergoing ovulation induction for ICSI or IVF.

In our practice, we previously limited Myo-inositol to patients with PCOS but with recent studies, we have begun incorporating this supplement in many treatment plans and have added it to our prenatal supplement regime. With promising research in the area of assisted reproduction treatments, we are eager to see further research on the benefits of inositol in natural fertility treatments. This gap in research has not limited our use of Myo-inositol as it appears to be a promising treatment in cases of ‘unexplained fertility’.

If you or any of your friends have been told they have ‘unexplained fertility’, this supplement may be worth trying. Before this can be prescribed by our Naturopathic Doctors, a thorough health history must be performed. If appropriate, women may be prescribed this at either their first or second visit. Bloodwork and ultrasound reports are helpful if available to bring to initial consults. Any fertility patients would have these tests performed prior to cycle monitoring. This information is not essential but can be helpful. For more information about fertility support, feel free to book a complimentary 15-minute session. Initial visits are 1 hour in length.

It is our wish to guide women with as many natural tools as possible. Besides fertility acupuncture, the addition of nutritional supplementation is very beneficial. We look forward to working with you.

References:

Zheng X, Lin D, Zhang Y, et al. Inositol supplement improves clinical pregnancy rate in infertile women undergoing ovulation induction for ICSI or IVF-ET. Medicine (Baltimore). 2017;96(49):e8842. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000008842

Fertility Acupuncture: Support for Natural Cycles & IVF

Many individuals have tried acupuncture for various health conditions. Did you know acupuncture has also demonstrated in research to be an effective tool for fertility support?

Wondering how this may be?

Research suggests that there are 3 potential mechanisms for acupuncture’s effects on fertility.

  1. Acupuncture may release neurotransmitters which may stimulate the release of GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone) that has an influence on the menstrual cycle and ovulation.
  2. Acupuncture may increase blood flow to the uterus and nourish reproductive organs.
  3.  Acupuncture may stimulate the production of endogenous opioids (which decrease pain in the body) and may therefore inhibit the stress response.

 According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is believed that acupuncture ‘works’ by promoting the proper flow of Qi and Blood in the body. This energy is then directed to the reproductive organs when the focus is on fertility support.

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In practice,  Dr. Erin Enns and I often use acupuncture for assisting with concerns that are often linked with fertility challenges such as anovulation, menstrual irregularities, lack of period, and PCOS. Once regular cycles are achieved, we determine peak ovulation days. At this stage, we then establish an individualized acupuncture protocol. This may include an acupuncture treatment around the time of ovulation and then approximately 2 weeks after this session, depending on cycle length.

The benefits of acupuncture are often experienced  immediately. Patients usually report a feeling of calmness and a deep sense of relaxation. When the body is calm, this impact can also aid in hormonal regulation and a decrease in cortisol levels, the stress hormone. A reduction in frustration and anxiety which is often encountered in the fertility process, is also a valuable side benefit.

Whether you are trying to conceive for the first time, or planning for IVF, consider adding acupuncture to your routine. Dr. Erin and I have privileges around various Fertility Centers around the GTA including but not limited to ReproMed, Hannam, and Create. We can perform onsite acupuncture for Pre- and Post Embryo transfers.

The fertility journey can be challenging. Many of our patients who have had unsuccessful attempts often tell us they wish they had tried acupuncture sooner. It may not be the answer for everyone, but it is one of the best tools we use for fertility support.

 

Fertility Acupuncture: How does it work?

Patients often tell me that they heard or read that acupuncture can improve fertility. Some patients ask how does acupuncture achieve this? This is an important question. I believe that when you understand the ‘why’, you can visualize the positive effects during the process. For first-time acupuncture patients this can also help promote relaxation and a ‘letting go’ during the treatment.

Research suggests that there are 3 potential mechanisms for acupuncture’s effects on fertility.

  1. Acupuncture may release neurotransmitters which may stimulate the release of GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone) that has an influence on the menstrual cycle and ovulation.
  2. Acupuncture may increase blood flow to the uterus and nourish reproductive organs.
  3.  Acupuncture may stimulate the production of endogenous opioids (which decrease pain in the body) and may therefore inhibit the stress response.

   yoga-2176668_1280In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is believed that acupuncture ‘works’ by promoting the proper flow of Qi and Blood in the body. Qi refers to the circulating Life Force or vital energy of the body. When there is stagnation or a blockage of this energy, it is believed that this creates physical ailments and disease.

Acupuncture has addressed fertility concerns for over 2,000 years. Numerous research studies demonstrate its effectiveness in assisting with increased pregnancy outcomes. More research studies are often recommended to provide more ‘concrete’ and ‘reproducible’ results. To any TCM Doctor, this may appear difficult to prove as acupuncture protocols are meant to be individually prescribed. In this way, each patient has its own unique treatment for fertility.

In practice, I often see the benefits of treatment immediately. Patients report a feeling of calmness which is often accompanied by a more optimistic view regarding the fertility process. This is important as many women often struggle with negative self-talk. They wonder ‘why their body is failing them’ or ‘why everyone else is pregnant.’ Reducing the stress response has a positive impact on both physical and mental-emotional health.

Acupuncture has been helpful in menstrual irregularities, in PCOS patients, anovulation and in improving fertility naturally or as an adjunctive treatment to IVF.

Acupuncture is often timed to cycles so I recommend patients have a consultation ahead of their next cycle. This allows for proper timing and more successful incorporation of acupuncture. After a treatment, I usually recommend minimal physical activity. When possible, acupuncture may also be available on site at fertility clinics just prior to embryo transfers. Research suggests this may be helpful ahead of any surgical procedures.

Acupuncture is definitely worth a try if there have been unsuccessful past pregnancy attempts. Besides fertility, acupuncture is a beneficial therapy for promoting health, reducing pain and relieving stress. The goal in TCM is to create a healthy mind and body which thereby increases one’s chance for conception.

 

Fertility Lessons: A Shift in Perspective

Over the years, working with couples to improve their fertility has taught me many lessons. The most important lessons are ones that cannot be found in research articles, textbooks or Dr. Google. Having a positive mindset is more beneficial than any acupuncture treatment or prescription that I can provide.

Every woman on this journey knows quite well all the ups and downs associated with the fertility process. There is hope felt during an embryo transfer, insemination, or a natural timed cycle, and then a feeling of defeat if the attempt is unsuccessful. One woman I work with explained that she felt as if she were experiencing a ‘mini death’ where parts of her had given up and she was mourning the loss of a potential life. I get it. It is devastating, exhausting, and painful. No one else understands this more than other women going through this process. Many self-proclaimed Type-A women often describe this aspect of their life as a ‘repeated failure’ and they take it quite personally! Here is a goal, unlike everything else in their lives, that they are unable to attain.AShiftinPerspectiveDrGill

Is there a magic pill, diet, hormone that can address it all? No, of course not. What I have seen in many successful cases is a belief that pregnancy is possible, even against all odds. I have seen women with low AMH scores, 4.0 and below, conceive naturally. I have witnessed women aged 41 plus who were told IVF was their only chance to get pregnant take a month break and then conceive naturally. Other women have been told that surrogacy or adoption was their only option and these women too had conceived on their own. I have seen couples in the adoption process have a child of their own. I have also seen couples down to their last frozen embryo transfer, be successful! What did these women have in common? I believe they allowed themselves to ‘let go.’ There was a shift in their thoughts from ‘this can’t happen’, ‘why is my body failing me?’, ‘why am I the only one not pregnant?’ to ‘This will happen, when it is the right time’, ‘I love my body and know it can get pregnant’, ‘I am not alone!’

I believe all women are fertile. I believe our bodies possess this wonderful, amazing capacity to bring forth new life. Some women require a little assistance and others need a lot more. Whether it’s the body or the mind that needs balancing, the two must be addressed. I believe this journey can teach us much more about ourselves. When you are at a ‘low’, dig deep and find strength. You are stronger than you know. Have faith and have courage. It is only a matter of time. Be resilient and never, ever give up hope.

7 Tips to for Optimize Fertility:

– Seek support. Feel supported by a comforting friend or therapist.
– Find an outlet. Dance or sing or run out your stress.
– Record your thoughts. Create a journal and let your thoughts find peace.
– Take a break. Don’t hesitate on booking that trip! A quick escape to Niagara-on- the-lake can do wonders for changing perspective.
– Avoid Dr. Google (limit yourself to 1 search on fertility sites per week!)
– Remain positive. Seek the company of others who share your positive thoughts and words.

Good-luck on your fertility journey!

 

 

‘Unexplained Fertility’

medical-563427_640I have practiced Naturopathic Medicine in Bloor West Village for over 12 years now and the most frustrating diagnosis that I encounter is that of ‘unexplained fertility.’  What does this mean? Generally, it translates to a Fertility Specialist informing a couple that there is no specific problem detected in a Western medicine evaluation. In these cases, all hormone levels are in the normal range, ultrasounds reveal no abnormality with the ovarian follicles, and ovulation seems to be occurring properly. It also suggests that all the reproductive organs appear to be functioning normally, and the endometrial lining is building adequately. In addition, there are no male factors at issue; sperm count, morphology and motility are all within normal limits. So for a couple, it means, ‘Now what?’

At this point, many patients come to my office. They hear that acupuncture is a great tool in fertility treatment and can be used in conjunction with IUI and IVF procedures. From a Naturopathic Medicine perspective, I inform patients that reproductive health is not separate from overall health. It is part of a woman’s health and thus should not be treated in isolation. If you are searching for more answers when you are diagnosed with unexplained fertility, consider other options for treatment. For example, if you also have concerns of gas, bloating or heartburn, I would recognize that there is an imbalance with the digestive system. This may also point to nutrient deficiencies. How is this addressed and what does this have to do with fertility? Good question! By increasing the vitality of one’s overall health we can improve fertility outcomes. In this case, I would test for food sensitivities, inflammatory markers and determine vitamin status by doing blood tests. The goal is to reduce inflammation, increase antioxidants, and also create a more favourable internal environment, one that would be more receptive and allow for conception to occur.

Another area of interest for me is that of ‘environmental toxins.’ Did you know that chemicals such as phthalates and bisphenol A have been implicated in the rising rates of miscarriage and male and female infertility? Phthalates are found in many personal care products such as soap, shampoo, hair spray and nail polish. How many of these have you used today? These factors are usually not considered by a Fertility Specialist. As an ND, I believe these external environmental factors require more evaluation. ND’s can test for heavy metal burden and toxic elements.

For many of my female patients, this diagnosis is the hardest to hear. They are told by their Fertility Doctor that there is no immediate solution. I believe this is where Naturopathic Medicine treatment may be beneficial. It helps to create a clear path.  As your health partner, it is my role to help reduce that stress burden. I offer many recommendations. For example, I encourage you to eat healthier, to take that dance class you have been considering, to stop talking to that co-worker who gives unwelcomed advice, to say ‘no’ to that everyday latte. Reducing your stress levels is the key to fertility treatment. Therefore acupuncture and counselling are part of my Fertility prescription.

If you have been told there is no medical reason why you and your partner cannot conceive, I urge you to meet with a Naturopathic Doctor. An ND will work with you to elevate your body to a better state of health.  If you have been told that your age is the assumed problem, I urge you to seek a second opinion. For many reasons, Naturopathic Doctors are in a unique position to be an effective health care provider for the couple with the diagnosis of ‘unexplained fertility.’

 

How to Choose A Fertility Clinic

Couple Discussing Ivf Treatment With Doctor

The fertility journey can be short for some or seem like a marathon for others. When you are searching for a fertility clinic, here are some things to consider.

1) Is the clinic either close to home or close to work? When there are frequent early morning blood draws and consultations this makes the process run more smoothly.

2) Referral, referral, referral. If you have had friends go to a fertility clinic, ask them about their experiences and which doctor they used.

3) Does the doctor listen? On your initial consultation, if the doctor spends more time telling you about his/her research or publication history rather than your medical history, I would look elsewhere! You need a doctor who is willing to listen to your story.

4) IVF anyone? If during the initial consultation you are told IVF is the ONLY option, seek a second opinion!

5) Ask questions about supportive therapies. Many clinics offer acupuncture, psychotherapy, and advice on nutritional supplementation like CoQ10 and prenatal vitamins. A fertility clinic that offers these services (or one that is close by), can assist with improving pregnancy outcome.

And lastly, trust your intuition and choose a clinic that serves your unique needs.

Fertility – A Second Perspective

I believe every woman is fertile.

Fertility Acupuncture
Fertility Acupuncture

My goal as a Naturopathic Doctor is to help the body achieve a state of Optimal Health. When addressing fertility, this is the approach I take.  I look for any interfering factors that affect this goal. Hormonal health, gynecological health, advanced age, diet, environmental toxin burden, genetic factors, stress levels, etc.  When the list can be so long and where many factors may play a role, I cannot help but wonder how any women get pregnant at all. Knowing all of these potential causal agents, I marvel at the reality that some women conceive right away and others do not. What makes these two groups of women different is not always so apparent. Sometimes age is a factor but then I get reminded when I witness a mom at 44 have a healthy baby naturally, that it is not the determining factor. Similarly, I see many women with low AMH (anti-mullerian hormone) scores, achieve pregnancy, despite what statistics suggest or fertility doctors advise. Sometimes pregnancy occurs with very little intervention at all.

I often remind women that sometimes they can conceive naturally without even my assistance.  I enjoy helping couples put the faith back into their bodies. I encourage them to be persistent and to not give up hope. I do my best to help bring the body into balance – mind, body and spirit. It does not work all the time, but it does work a lot of the time.

Woman receiving acupuncture --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Woman receiving acupuncture — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

By far, I have found bimonthly acupuncture treatments (timed to ovulation and 2 weeks later), to work very well. This is my formula. In addition to acupuncture, if indicated, nutritional support, food sensitivity testing and fertility psychotherapy, may also be beneficial. I work with a team of dedicated health professionals who also assist with this journey. Our holistic nutritionist, Linda Heredia, provides detailed menus based on the results obtained through food sensitivity testing (IgG). When there are digestion issues such as constipation, bloating, heartburn, individualized testing is often encouraged. Our psychotherapist, Melissa Moore, supports and counsels women undergoing fertility treatments. She helps women find their way. We often encounter women who lose themselves in the pursuit of pregnancy. They feel isolated, fearful and emotionally drained.  A change in perspective, a shift to nourish and to love one’s body is needed.  And we need to encourage each other in the belief that every woman is fertile.