First—take a deep, relaxing breath.
Now ask yourself, have you been having regular, unprotected sex around the time of ovulation for at least 12 months and are under the age of 35? If you have not, keep trying! (See Preconception Care portion of this blog) By definition, you are not considered to be infertile until you have been trying for at least 12 months! If you don’t know if you are ovulating (releasing an egg from your ovary about every 27-31 days), check out Taking Charge of Your Fertility. After you read that book, choose one of the many great fertility charting apps and chart your cycles for a few months. If you’ve been trying for a while and discover you aren’t ovulating, don’t wait any longer to seek help.
The help I would suggest is from an ND from an accredited ND medical school who specializes in women’s health, hormones, and fertility. Ideally the ND can also do your annual well woman care (breast exams, PAP, pelvic exam, blood work, etc.). If you live in a state where NDs aren’t licensed (like Texas), I would seek the help of your OB/GYN as well as an ND from an accredited ND medical school who specializes in women’s health, hormones, and fertility. That is where I would start because it is important at this point to get a diagnosis (the reason you aren’t getting pregnant). The possible diagnosis might be endometriosis, PCOS, hypothalamic amenorrhea, hypothyroidism, diminished ovarian reserve, unexplained infertility, or something else. They may refer you to a fertility specialist for help with diagnosis. Once you aren’t getting pregnant and you realize you are in the midst of trying month after month, you need to know where the issue lies so you can address it.
Just know that to get a proper diagnosis it may take some time (about 1-4 months). Female hormones are complex and complicated and so are lives. You’ve got to get blood work, exams, and imaging. You ideally need to chart a few menstrual cycles to capture hormone labs on proper days. The man needs a semen analysis. At this stage it’s been 9 to 15 months of wanting to be pregnant and not being pregnant. I know you want to act as fast as possible, but patience here is key.
Ok, so you’ve got a clear diagnosis. You understand the problem. Now decide what you are going to do.
Let’s look through your options.
OPTION 1. Take 3 months to a year to naturally rebalance your body…
- start ovulating regularly
- improve egg quality
- decrease inflammatory issues associated with endometriosis
- regulate your thyroid
- lose or gain weight to reach your healthy BMI range
- address abnormal PAP results, with dietary and lifestyle intervention
After diagnosis: This is when I believe appropriate holistic referrals should ideally take place: chiropractor, acupuncture, womb massage, yoga, lymphatic massage, energy work, hypnosis, meditation teacher— the list goes on and on. It can turn into an anxiety-producing full time job—so going to just the specific providers you need can help to not break the bank and also allow you to live life outside of your fertility journey. Living life outside of your fertility journey is so important. If you have all the time in the world and all the money in the world, it can still be too many “cooks in the kitchen” for a body to handle.
OPTION 2. See a fertility specialist and immediately follow their approach—clomid, letrozole, IVF, IUI, ICSI, donor egg, donor sperm, embryo adoption, surrogate etc.
OPTION 3. Decide on option #1 and accept that if option #1 doesn’t lead to pregnancy in 4-12-ish months then:
- Move forward with fostering and/or adoption.
- Move forward with higher force medical intervention offered by a fertility specialist and continue positive lifestyle habits. (i.e. return to option 2)
- Let go of plan/intention to become a parent and move on (decide to not pursue higher force medical intervention, foster, or adopt).
While the decision to start a family was not one you took lightly, you might have skipped a few steps along the way. Getting rid of your birth control pills and your condoms were not the only steps you needed to take. Let’s look at good preconception health habits before talking about infertility. Making sure you have the right health habits in place before you try to conceive is critical.
Preconception care is important to your health and the health of your future child. Preconception care is what you do to prepare yourself to become pregnant. Both parents working to achieve optimal health before conception means the higher the chance of healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. Research shows that preconception and fertility care decreases your chance of miscarriage. Preconception care can increase your chances of a healthy full-term pregnancy. And straightforward labor, rapid recovery, and a decreased risk for postpartum depression. Along with successful breastfeeding. Over the years, we’ve found that women who commit to preconception care experience less first trimester nausea too! All good news!
One way to take care of yourself is to eat healthy meals. Want to read more about diet? We offer a great preconception meal plan found here.1
Besides a proper meal plan, proper supplementation helps to support your health. We recommend a good quality prenatal vitamin.
Of course you’ve probably been taking a prenatal vitamin. It seems everyone knows how important they are these days. But does the one you are taking contain enough iodine? Iodine supports fetus development. The new recommendation from the American Thyroid Association and Council for Responsible Nutrition states you need a supplement that provides at least 150mcg daily. Getting enough iodine is necessary for healthy thyroid production which supports fertility. Your body does not make iodine naturally on its own. You need to eat iodine-rich food. And take the best supplements.2 You also want a prenatal vitamin that contains an active form of folate (5-MTHF). Active folate is important when you are thinking about conceiving. It helps support DNA and other genetic material.
You also need a good balance of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. Remember these are the fatty acids found in fish oil. Recent news has reported on how unsafe some fish we eat have become. It’s really best to get this balance of fatty acids from supplements. If your body is missing these essential nutrients it can affect your own health. Remember you want to be at optimum health to nurture a new healthy baby.
If you are part of Dr. Kate’s wellness programs you already know how important fish oil is. But do you know what part it plays in your pregnancy or your desire to get pregnant? A recent study revealed that the qualities of fish oil are important. Its components help to facilitate the development of the retina, brain, and your partner’s sperm. Your new baby is dependent on getting DHA from you during its formative months and that comes from fish oil. Fish oil also has anti-inflammatory properties. This may reduce preterm births and preeclampsia. The right levels of fish oil also may reduce the risk of your child developing allergies. You want an omega-3 and omega-6 supplement that is high-quality and is easily absorbed. Make sure your supplements are pure—free from additives and heavy metals and purified from contaminants found in fish.
Besides fish oil, you need an active form of folate to help support that new baby that may be on the way. But did you realize 3 out of 5 of us have difficulty converting the traditional form of folate into active MTHF? Studies have shown if you are struggling to convert folate into the active MTHF you may also be struggling to conceive. Want to learn more about MTHF and why it’s important? There is a great article located here on the Throne website. There is a supplement that helps with this issue of conversion. It’s included in this bundle of supplements we recommend. These supplements will get you to the optimal health you need before you try to conceive. Want more info about methylation and MTHFR? Read this.
This combination—the right supplements, the right diet plan for your specific needs, good sleep, and exercise—will put you in the best possible health. Want more info about diet? Read this.
The “Silent Struggle”
So you are at optimal health and you have been trying to conceive for more than 12 months, but it’s just not happening. Infertility is not uncommon. According to this article, it affects 1 out of 6 couples.4 Some communities consider infertility a major health problem.5
Infertility can also affect your stress levels. It is often called the “Silent Struggle.” Studies have shown that a diagnosis of infertility can cause the same level of depression as the diagnosis of cancer.6 It’s important to make sure you take care of your mental health in a natural and holistic way. Try deep breathing, meditation, and yoga. These can help if you are experiencing symptoms of depression.
What Exactly is Infertility?
Infertility is the inability to become pregnant regardless of the causes. Remember what you learned in biology class? Under normal circumstances, you ovulate and release an egg from your healthy ovaries. The egg travels through your fallopian tube to your uterus. On the way it meets your partner’s sperm and fertilization occurs. This meeting forms an embryo that travels to your uterus. There it implants in your healthy uterus to grow.
Sometimes something goes wrong during this process. Infertility is when something in this natural process does not happen naturally.
The Causes of Infertility
There are many things that cause infertility. It could be something going wrong with your partner’s sperm. It could be issues with your ability to ovulate. Or an unknown blockage in one of your fallopian tubes due to pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis. Or it could be physical issues with your uterus.7
Autoimmune disorders can impact fertility. A birth defect that has affected your reproductive tract could be another cause. Diabetes can also impact your ability to get pregnant. Growths, such as fibroids or polyps, in the uterus or cervix are also causes of infertility. Premature menopause in women may also be a cause of infertility.
The most common cause though is PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). You can learn more about PCOS and its symptoms here.8
What Are the Signs of Infertility?
The most obvious sign is that you have been trying to get pregnant for over 12 months with no luck. But there are other signs of infertility that are not talked about as much.
A common sign is an abnormal menstrual cycle. Is your menstrual cycle too long or too short? Irregular or absent? This could be a sign that you’re not ovulating. Lack of ovulation could be preventing you from getting pregnant.
If you have PCOS, as mentioned earlier, you might be struggling to get pregnant. PCOS is the most common sign.
Types of Infertility
You may not have realized that there are two types of infertility. There is primary infertility, the one most of us talk about. Primary infertility is the inability to conceive after a year without the use of birth control.
Then there is secondary infertility. This is when you had a child once before and now you are unable to conceive. Secondary infertility issues are similar to those for primary infertility. Secondary infertility can be just as difficult as primary infertility. But it can feel more isolating as family and friends may not be as understanding. Some risk factors for secondary infertility in this study were lack of prenatal care in the last pregnancy, first pregnancy before age 2, and stillbirths. So if this is your first pregnancy or your third, it’s important to maintain you and your partner’s health.
Infertility in Men
Like most things in life, women have a tendency to assume the reason they are unable to conceive is that there is something wrong with them. This most definitely is false. Men can have infertility issues in equal amounts to women.10 Just like women, men can have a hormonal imbalance. The man in your life may also have a birth defect that has gone unnoticed until now. Some medicines can cause a male to be infertile.
Heavy use of alcohol, obesity, and good old-fashioned old age can cause infertility problems. It’s important to note that male infertility is on rise.11 What was once considered an issue only for women now equally affects the male population. Environmental or nutritional issues are among the suspected reasons.
Can Infertility be Remedied?
Most likely the cause of infertility can be remedied and you will be on your way to parenthood. Checking with your doctor is the best way to increase your chances of getting pregnant. Usually, the earlier you and your partner start taking care of your mind and body in a natural holistic way, the better your chances for a healthy, happy pregnancy! If you want more information, please contact our office for a consultation. If you want to read more, there is more information in this article. We wish happiness on your journey to conceive.