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Fertility and Naturopathic Medicine

By Lisa Doran N.D, May 2007.

I've been wanting to share will all of you some of my clinical successes in various areas of my practice and so I've decided to add a new column to my newsletter highlighting various areas of my practice in which we've been getting some wonderful clinical successes.

This month I would like to share with you the success that we've seen at the clinic in the field of Fertility.

More and more people are experiencing fertility issues today. Part of the reason for this diagnosis is lifestyle, part of it is environmental toxicity affecting our fertility and part of it is delayed parenting, where both parents are waiting until their mid thirties or later to begin a family. The average age at IVF clinics for women undergoing treatment is 39 years.

I began developing pieces of this program in 1996 as a student at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, and for the past 11 years I've had a wide range of clinical experience with the many manifestations of infertility. Recently I've been fortunate enough to be able to complete a course with Jane Lyttleton, one of the foremost Traditional Chinese Doctor authorities on fertility - where I studied the most recent research coming out of China on fertility and the use of acupuncture protocols and botanical medicine.

As a fourth year clinician at CCNM I had a number of patients come to me with the desire to conceive. The diagnoses for the reasons of infertility ranged from repeated miscarriages to endometriosis and poly cystic ovarian syndrome to functional concerns to unknown reasons to male low sperm count and low motility. So a wide range of underlying causes and possible treatment protocols. This was a great lesson for me as a new clinician just stretching her legs on research and the development of resources. It was here that I developed the first principal of my approach to optimizing fertility.

1. Every patient is an individual - so what this means is that there is never really any one common reason that a woman is having difficulty conceiving - even within the same diagnosis, say endometriosis, each persons presentation is different, the expression of symptoms is different, her biochemistry is different and with all those differences, each treatment plan must be tailored to the individual rather than being a standard approach for each disease diagnosis.

2. Get to know your cycle and what affects it. One of our first goals of treatment with fertility will be to help to regulate your cycles so that conception is more possible. A healthy follicular phase, a healthy ovulation and a healthy luteal phase are all vital to achieve a healthy pregnancy. One of the most informative things patients can do before they come to see me for help with fertility is to start charting their cycles for me. I've posted a good chart here for you to use. This is a basal body temperature chart - which means that you record your oral temperature after you've had a good 4-5hr sleep each morning at the same time (so if you get up at 6am during the week, please take your temp at 6am on Saturday) and before you get out of bed and start moving around. Simply from these temperatures and the graph that results you and I can sit down together and define your follicular phase, your ovulation and your luteal phase - all of which must work together in delicate balance to achieve a pregnancy. Other things that are very useful to note on the chart are: any disturbances to temperature such as sleeping in, being sick or drinking alcohol before bed. Intercourse is useful to note as is your days of bleeding, days when you feel abdominal pains and breast tenderness or moodiness. One of the most important things to note is the quality of your fertile mucous. Notice the days that it occurs, the days you have vaginal fluids and the days you are dry. This tells us what days your body produces the important cervical fluid that assists sperm through the cervix. For many women I will recommend a 21 day saliva female hormone profile test - which will tell us your changing levels of hormones over your individual cycle and will give us a very accurate and individual idea as to how your hormones are working currently and how we need to work with your body to regulate your cycle. More information about this test here.

3. Take 6 months to prepare your body for conception. If you are considering pregnancy and you feel you have some time to thoughtfully prepare your body before you conceive this is a very important step. Getting to know your cycles, stopping bad habits such as alcohol, coffee and tobacco use and loosing some weight are all things that can be accomplished in this period. Remember, it takes about 120 days for a follicle to mature, and if we can give your body a long phase of preparation, rest and attention that follicle will be at optimum health. I recommend that anyone considering a pregnancy should undergo a 6-8 week whole body cleansing program under my supervision. During this cleansing program we will pay careful attention to your liver function, your kidney and bowel function - all organs which experience stress from a normal, healthy pregnancy. Post-cleanse we can implement healthy lifestyle choices such as optimal nutrition, gentle exercise, achieve good sleep and choose good supplements that will optimize prenatal health and balance any hormonal irregularities. After your cleanse I also recommend a series of testing to assess nutritional status and detoxification health within the body. More information about these tests here.

4. Don't forget the health of your partner. Not only is it important that your partner is healthy and supporting your in your journey in health and wellness but studies clearly show that nutrition and lifestyle habits such as exercise or the use of toxins such as nicotine, cannibis, caffeine, and alcohol definitely influence the number (count), health and motility of sperm. An intensive wellness program is important for both partners. We now understand that in 40% of all couples who are experiencing fertility issues that the fertility issues are within the functionality and health of the mans sperm. A preparation program is important for any male partner who is attempting to conceive so that his sperm are at optimum health and will pass on his very best genes. Naturopathic Doctors will work with both partners to achieve optimal health, make good lifestyle choices and will use modalities specific to male fertility to optimize sperm count, sperm health, sperm morphology and sperm motility.

5. If you have been diagnosed with a primary cause of infertility such as Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, Endometriosis or repeated miscarriages, often the gentle, non-invasive techniques of Naturopathic Medicine, which focus on treating your body as a whole unit and not simply a grouping of organs, will help to bring balance, health and very often a resolution of the primary issue.

6. If you are currently undergoing conventional Fertility Treatment.

Naturopathic Medicine can offer supportive therapies to assist recovery from hormonal treatment. We can also offer specific acupuncture protocols which have been well documented in the literature and shown to increase the effectiveness of conventional fertility treatments in clinical trials.

Over the past 11 years of clinical practice I have created a wholistic, effective program to treat primary fertility issues as well as increase general health, wellbeing and vitality of both male and female partners. Entering into an effective and wellness based fertility and prenatal programs is one of the most important early parenting decisions you make. Healthy moms and dads grow healthy babies!

Click here for some You-Tube videos about Fertility and Acupuncture

My collegue Dr. Nora Pope and I are giving a series of fertility workshops beginning this summer. These workshops are an effective introduction to approaches to enhansing fertility with a Naturopathic Doctor. See the flyer here.

For more questions, please don't hesitate to contact me and we can book in a consultation.


Naturopathic Doctors are experts in natural health and wellness

Naturopathic Medicine is an exciting way of looking at health and wellness that takes its roots in many ancient-healing traditions. In this way, we see health as the normal state in the body, which is easily influenced by environment, every day experiences and emotions.

bullet Treat the whole person; mind, body and spirit
bullet Discover the underlying causes of illness
bullet Trust the body's innate ability to heal ourselves.
bullet Do No Harm. Naturopaths opt for safe, gentle and effective means of healing.
bullet Prevention. Naturopathic health care is for those who want to understand which actions and attitudes contribute to better health.