As more and more women and men struggle with fertility issues, I thought it would be helpful to cover some fertility basics. If you’re out there reading this and thinking about having a baby, trying to conceive, or going through some medical intervention to help you along, this is for you.
Infertility is technically defined as the inability to conceive after 6 months to 1 year or longer, depending on the woman’s age and previous pregnancies. Unfortunately for women, the older we get, the more challenging it can be to get pregnant. Or that’s what your doctors tell you. However, I truly believe that depending on a mix of genetics and how well you take care of yourself, anyone can defy the odds!
First off, there are a number of issues that can cause infertility in women including ovulatory functions (whether you’re ovulating or not and the quality of your eggs), blockages (like tumors, fibroids, cysts, or adhesions), hormone dysfunction, endometriosis, and unfavorable cervical mucous (aka. a hostile environment). For men, they’re seeing a decrease in sperm count and morphology of sperm that really contributes to the inability to conceive. Side note: guys, DON’T keep your phone in your front pocket of your pants. They’re discovering that that might be contributing to the drop in fertility rates.
On average, 65% of couples conceive within the first 6 months of trying and 90% at 12 months of so. The numbers are in your favor! If you’ve been trying for a while and aren’t able to get pregnant, it’s always a good idea to go see your OB/GYN and get some blood tests run. They give us SO much information to work with and more accuracy in how we treat you with acupuncture and herbs. Here are some of the main tests we look at just to get a gist of what’s happening in your body:
TSH (Thyroid stimulating hormone). If these numbers are off, it could be a signal higher in the hormone cascade that you aren’t ovulating. So get your thyroid checked! This should fall between at 1.0 and 3.0 Iu/ml.
FSH (Follicle stimulating hormone): This is a hormone released by the pituitary gland close to the brain and can indicate the quality of the eggs. 10 mIU/mL or less is the magic number. Any more than that can indicate that some might have an issue conceiving.
AMH (Anti-Mullerian hormone): predictor of ovarian reserve. So the smaller the number, the less functional the ovaries are. Greater than 1.0, you have good ovarian reserve. Borderline numbers are around 0.7-0.9 and low AMH is considered to be down to 0.3 ng/ml.
Depending on several factors, like the results from the tests above or after a certain amount of time trying naturally without any luck (or if you’re in a same-sex partnership), often doctors will recommend using protocols such as Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to help the process along. IUI is less invasive and is less expensive than IVF. Both processes function by engineering impeccable timing. For IUI, doctors place sperm inside the uterine cavity at the exact moment of ovulation to ensure the best shot at conception. Two weeks later you test and see if it worked! IVF is a much more invasive and lengthy process. It’s usually incredibly expensive and not covered by most insurances. Typically this process is 3-6 months in length and involves taking hormones, retrieving eggs, fertilizing them and re-implanting them inside the female to see if they take. For both IUI and IVF, some couples might have to go through multiple rounds of each in order to have a successful conception. Others have success in the first try.
PHEW! That’s most of the scary stuff… but the reality is, SO many of the women we see don’t have anything “wrong” at all. Lots of times, numbers and lab tests come back “normal” and yet they still aren’t getting pregnant naturally as quickly as they thought or hoped. We as acupuncturists and others in the alternative medical field, look at other factors that could contribute. Stress being the most prominent; but hormone disruptors/chemicals, diet, exercise, and sleep are all part of the picture. Bottom line: our goal is to bring your body into harmony and balance! From there, nature takes its course and you’re able to conceive and maintain a healthy pregnancy as it should be.
We live in a society that relies on instant gratification and that is NOT the case when it comes to fertility. When I see a new fertility patient, I tell them to give me 3-6 months of treatment with acupuncture and herbs in order to affect the new, complete cycle of follicles (which turn into eggs to be fertilized). There have been incredible studies done that prove that acupuncture and herbal medicine have had significant effectiveness in treating a plethora of fertility-related issues, including boosting the chances of pregnancy with IUI and IVF procedures! Heck ya!!
Things to remember when trying for a baby: don’t get frustrated and stressed! That will only work against you. I know, I know… easy to say, hard to do. The most important thing is to HAVE FUN during this process and be patient. Think about it- that’s how it should be! Watch the diet, remove toxic chemicals from your household, exercise a few times a week, and make sure you’re sleeping soundly throughout the night. If you or family or friends are having issues with fertility, please don’t hesitate to reach out! We are here to answer any questions and help you through your journey!