This one wild and precious life – how we tackle infertility
Imagine you are about to embark on one of the most important journeys of your life. Soon to be a parent to new life, beginning a new chapter of your lives as a family, and fulfilling your dream of being a mother to a beautiful baby. Now imagine this is only possible with the assistance of fertility specialists and medical procedures. Does that make it any less magical?
There’s still stigma around IVF, or other assisted ways to start a family. I see it often in my clients who come seeking help with fertility. “If I can’t get pregnant, there must be a good reason so I won’t go down that path”, or “My husband’s not open to it”, that kind of thing. There’s a general feeling that if it’s supposed to happen it will. That might be true, but I’ve learned there’s more to it than that. Both philosophically, and physiologically.
Take my clients for instance. Most of them believe it’ll be easy enough to conceive into their mid 30’s. They never foresaw a problem, never had the right partner till then, never wanted to take a break from their careers. When they start trying mid 30’s, and find it’s not happening, panic sets in with every passing month, then regret at not trying to conceive earlier.
Luckily, many women will have no trouble falling pregnant in their 30’s, but more and more, a good deal of them will. We have the highest average age for a first pregnancy in the world: 30. Our rates of infertility are rising each year with at least 15% of couples having trouble getting pregnant.
Naturopathic medicine has a long history of treating infertility. The reproductive system finds many solutions in the field of nutrition, specific supplementation, herbal medicine and lifestyle modifications. I’m honoured to be able to help couples on their journey to becoming parents. But for some couples it’s not enough on it’s own.
In orthodox medicine, fertility is a relatively new field. The first child born through IVF arrived in 1978. Three decades on a lot has changed, but there is still so much we don’t know and the success rates for IVF and other techniques are still disappointingly low. Heartbreakingly low. My advice to those who have been trying without success for more than a year is to start gaining information. Sperm counts and morphology, ovarian reserves, fallopian tube health, and hormone testing. Gather all the information you can about your’s and your partner’s health, because information is power. It’s proactive and it gives you choices. Also find a complementary health practitioner with experience in fertility and assisted reproductive technologies. A naturopath/herbalist, and or an acupuncturist.
Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) explained
ART is a term that refers to the various methods of achieving pregnancy, medically rather than naturally. They include the below:
In vitro fertilisation involves the taking of hormonal drugs to stimulate the production of eggs from the ovary. Those eggs are then harvested and put together with collected sperm. The eggs that are fertilised by the sperm will be matured in the lab for a few more days before the best one is transferred into the uterus (the others will usually be frozen).
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection is the same process as IVF with a variation. As the name suggests a single sperm is actually injected into each mature egg. This process is necessary where there is poor sperm quality.
Sometimes used in conjunction with IVF or ICSI. After fertilisation and just before transfer back into the uterus, a small hole is created in the embryo to improve success rates.
Occasionally used in conjunction with IVF and ICSI, this refers to keeping the embryo in the lab for longer than usual till the blastocyte formation stage (usually at days 5-8 after fertilisation). This allows the embyologist to make an even better choice of embryo to transfer into the womb. In theory this should increase success rates but of course even this is no match for the body’s own selection process.
Surgical sperm recovery
When there is no sperm in a man’s ejaculate, it can often be surgically retrieved from the testes or epididymis. It will then be used in either ICSI or IVF.
These are the main techniques used in NZ and Australia. Ovulation stimulation and intrauterine insemination are less invasive techniques sometimes tried before one undertakes the intervention explained above.
Natural Medicine’s role
There are many things you can do to increase the effectiveness of your ART treatment. Everyones needs are unique and finding a practitioner that understands your situation and your treatments is so helpful. Equally, there’s usually a lot we can do to improve sperm health if that’s the main issue.
Now all of this may have the naturally minded among you recoiling at the invasiveness, the medicalisation of what ‘should’ be a natural process. But I would hazard a guess you may be thinking that with a child on your lap, or playing nearby. Those who have had their hearts broken by infertility, may feel differently about a few months, or even a few years of fertility treatment, however ‘artificial’. It’s certainly not the easy route, but for some it’s the only one and the end result is not a dimple less magical.
If you’ like an appointment with Annaliese about your fertility get in touch. Click Here for Appointments