For an individual or a couple, starting a family can be one of the most exciting times in life, but it can also be a very frustrating time if month after month you suffer disappointment in your effort to become pregnant. If that is your situation, rest assured you are far from alone, for as many as one in seven couples struggle to conceive a child naturally.
Unfortunately, the problem of infertility advances with a woman’s age. If you’re a healthy female in your 20s to early 30s, the chance of conceiving each month is 25–30 percent, but by the time you’re 40, the chances are 10 percent or less. Additionally, women over 35 have remaining in their bodies only about 6 percent of the eggs they had at birth, and the quality of a woman’s eggs also decline over time. At age 20, about 20 percent of eggs are abnormal, while by age 40 the rate of abnormality has climbed to 80 percent.
The basic message conveyed by these statistics is that if you’re a woman dealing with infertility, time is not on your side, and you should seek medical assistance in your fertility journey at the earliest opportunity.
Causes of infertility
One of the leading causes of infertility is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a nutritional and metabolic problem that adversely affects insulin and other hormones. The symptoms of PCOS include irregular or heavy periods, acne, growth of facial hair, loss of scalp hair, belly fat and increased levels of testosterone.
Other factors contributing to infertility include:
- Chronic inflammation throughout the body and digestive tract
- Chronic stress
- Too little or too much exercise
- Nutrient and mineral deficiencies
- Autoimmune disorders
- Endocrine-disrupting toxins found in the environment, household products and personal care products
Conventional treatment of infertility
One of the best known conventional methods of addressing infertility is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) where a woman’s eggs are surgically removed from her ovaries, fertilized with sperm in a petri dish, and then surgically replanted into her endometrium.
The cost of one IVF treatment can easily run $12,000 or more, and if the first attempt is not successful, you can easily see how expensive conceiving and having a baby can become.
Functional medicine’s different approach
Conception is a far more complicated process than you might think, and conditions have to be exactly right for it to occur. The timing must be right for a woman’s egg to accept the sperm, and that sperm has to be healthy enough to work its way into the egg once it reaches that point.
Anything you and your partner can do to improve your overall health and reproductive function will increase the chances of conception, and that’s where functional medicine can make a difference.
Functional medicine looks at the patient as a whole, and those of us in the medical profession practicing functional medicine seek out the underlying causes of a condition or disease, rather than simply offering you a quick-fix to address your symptoms.
In the case of infertility, functional medicine uses a pro-active process to get your reproductive system — and the rest of your body — as healthy as possible. It is essentially a holistic way of focusing on underlying conditions that may be keeping you from becoming pregnant.
Four areas addressed by functional medicine in treating infertility
This is a good place to start in trying to correct hormonal imbalances that may be affecting fertility. Nutrient deficiencies can have a major impact on how your body functions, including its ability to regulate hormonal function affecting a woman’s capability to conceive and carry a pregnancy.
A way to address nutrient deficiencies is to avoid inflammatory trigger foods that include:
- White flour and sugar
- GMO Soy
- Animal products
- High fructose corn syrup
Blood work can be used to determine deficient nutrient levels, and those can be addressed using personalized IV nutrition therapy and supplements.
- Gut health
Many do not realize the extreme importance of gut health to your overall health. A compromised gut can lead to chronic inflammation throughout the body, affecting all the body’s systems, and can lead to autoimmune disorders. It can also interfere with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Introducing probiotics, live organisms that support a healthy gut, can help balance an inflamed immune system and contribute to your overall wellbeing.
Every day we’re exposed to pollutants and chemicals that can disrupt the endocrine system, impacting hormone levels and fertility. Dietary and lifestyle cleanses can be helpful, as well as IV therapy to detoxify the body and support the endocrine system.
- Stress management
Many of us live at a hectic pace and deal with chronic stress every day. It is absolutely essential to find ways to balance your hormones and improve your chances of conceiving. The regular practice of stress management techniques such as yoga, regular exercise and meditation can be extremely helpful.
Even if you are not yet thinking of having children, now is a good time to make positive changes in your life to improve your overall health and wellness, and I am here to help you from a functional medicine perspective. I can perform food sensitivity, micronutrient and microbiome testing to see what the status of your individual situation is. With that knowledge, we can come up with a personalized treatment plan to try to optimize your health and get your body primed to conceive.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out and call us to schedule your initial consultation.
To your health, happiness … and parenthood.