Welcome. Here we go, another voice in a sea of many talking all things fertility, natural conception and IVF. I’m sure you have heard many opinions by now and been on a rollercoaster of a journey. Many women come to me in a state of confusion, desperation and despair due to the countless jabs, pins, drugs, hormones, pessaries, thermometers and pee sticks that have seemingly taken over their lives and their bodies. IVF is the treatment option of choice for fertility problems. For many, a total blessing and for some a curse. The short lived hope, the disappointment, the excitement, the loss and grief is more than a person should have to handle in one lifetime. Then there is the financial stress of tens of thousands of dollars pouring out, never knowing if it will bear the fruits of your efforts. IVF is no longer a whispered tale but a common reality for a lot of women and couples. It is a remarkable treatment, being able to collect a woman’s egg, facilitate the conception process, grow an embryo and then transfer it to the womb for implantation and growth. How incredible. How lucky we are to live in a time that this is an option for those who need it. But why do we need it? And why so many of us? Do we really need to go down that road so fast? Are there other options? And if we really do need IVF what can we do to support the process and enhance its effectiveness?
I endeavour to answer your questions. Not with the voice of the highest authority, but from the heart and from personal and clinical experience thus far. I certainly do not know all the answers, but I love women, all things women’s health and hormones and have spent the best part of the last decade exploring and researching this area and coming back to the wisdom of the womb via Fertility Massage Therapyô (more on that later!). Firstly, let’s unravel the proposed questions…
WHY DO WE NEED IVF?
What is happening to our fertility? Why are so many couples struggling to conceive naturally? Woooh big topic. No one can answer this definitively, however here are some possible factors impacting modern day fertility…
- Having babies later (in our 30’s and 40’s)- missing our “prime time” for conception and healthy pregnancy (our 20’s)
- Oral contraceptives– in those susceptible and extra sensitive to hormonal changes, this can cause complications such as post-pill amenorrhea and ongoing anovulation or irregular cycles. The pill may also cause changes to blood quality and the health of the endometrial lining.
- Poor sperm quality– sperm quality and count is plummeting due to poor diet, stress and pollutants. Without healthy sperm, the embryo cannot form properly and grow into a healthy baby.
- Stress– short lived stressors are normal, but chronic ongoing inner tension and stress are not to be considered normal. I see stress as the number one factor to address when I see fertility clients. 9/10 of my fertility clients are type A, striving, workaholics (one or both partners).
- Environmental pollutants– such as hormone disrupting plastics, pesticides, parabens etc.. Unfortunately we have no control over the pesticides that are sprayed on weeds in our residential streets and parks so we can only do the best we can with what we can control. Cleaning up skincare, cosmetics and going organic is important. Exposure to wifi also needs to be minimised (esp laptops or phones near reproductive organs!).
- Hormonal/endocrine disorders– such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, thyroid disorders, diabetes mellitus etc. These conditions are largely diet, lifestyle and environmentally driven so unravelling them can take some time with a skilled practitioner. Not impossible and pregnancy despite these conditions is very likely.
- Chronic infections– reproductive infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, urea plasma, mycoplasma and others have a negative impact on fertility and pregnancy outcomes. Intestinal infections such as parasitic, bacterial or fungal overgrowths also interfere with hormone health and nutritional status thus impact fertility.
- Immune infertility– considered to be the number one cause of infertility. We have to look a bit deeper and ask why the immune derangement? Once again, stress, diet, lifestyle and addressing chronic infections in the reproductive system and gut.
- Celiac disease and other auto-immune conditions– can be underlying culprits behind “unexplained infertility”
Another point that deserves its own paragraph (and book), is this big disconnect between mind, body and spirit. Despite all the factors above, we are bigger than that, we are greater and more powerful than these influencing factors. That is possibly why some people can live in the same world, eat a similar or worse diet, expose themselves to more pollutants and yet have healthy babies. Perhaps it’s the surrender to what is, being rather than doing, salt of the earth nature that makes all the difference. I often explain to my clients we need to become a grounded anchor for our children to choose us. We need to reconnect with ourselves and the earth. Come home again to who we really are. Connect mind to heart, heart to womb.
A little note on feminine vs masculine
From an energetic perspective polycystic ovarian syndrome (one of the top causes of “infertility”) is a condition marked by masculinity. The female reproductive hormones are usually out of whack, progesterone (our baby making and pregnancy hormone) low and the male hormones such as testosterone are high. Masculine features may arise, excessive male like hair growth, male pattern hair loss/thinning, and testosterone driven teenage acne (even into adult years).
So I ask my PCOS clients questions around being a woman, whether they embrace or deny their femininity, whether they are taking on masculine roles, trying to be it all (the breadwinner AND the mother, carer, homemaker etc). Have they become striving, competitive, aggressive, impatient and controlling towards themselves and/or others? We then explore how we can embrace our feminine side more by surrendering to softness, intuition, patience, trust, creativity, calmness and a nurturing nature.
WHY ARE SO MANY OF US EXPERIENCING REPRODUCTIVE ISSUES AND NEEDING IVF?
It may be waiting longer to have kids (than previous generations), meaning more estrogen, less progesterone, less protection against reproductive disorders. With modern medicine there is also more detection of reproductive issues therefore increased prevalence and increased early intervention (IVF). It may be the increasing toxicity of our environment and our highly refined diets. It may be the continuous disconnect with the real world and the zombie like follow of social media and culture. It may be gluten, pesticides, plastic and the pill. It may not be any of them. There may be a greater force at work, shifting and shaping our world beyond anything we can imagine. All we know is that the need for fertility support is increasing, and as individuals and as a community we need to provide well-rounded holistic services to support the psychological, physiological, emotional and spiritual needs of our people.
THE IVF ROAD, DO WE HAVE TO?
If you have been to the GP and have had some preliminary tests that show your fertility is compromised, you may be sent down the road of investigation for IVF treatments almost immediately. This largely depends on your GP and how familiar they are with other options. There ARE other options. MANY other options. That’s not to say don’t chose IVF first- that is entirely your choice and a good one. BUT there are a lot of other avenues to explore that may improve your chances of natural conception or enhance the effectiveness of IVF treatments.
Yey you have choices! What’s the best for you? Start with what resonates with you the most, what gets you excited to try…then read practitioner profiles, do your homework on them to see if they are right for you. In no particular order…
- Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine– I can vouch this work is amazing! Magic pins and herbs help regulate your body fast.
- Naturopathy– an investigation process to make sure no stone is un-turned and you receive holistic care addressing mind-body-spirit, diet, lifestyle and chronic underlying health issues. This is the core of my work.
- Fertility Massage Therapy– as a practitioner of this healing art I am quite biased but I can tell you what my clients say! “deeply relaxing” “healing bliss” “alchemy of the womb”. 60 mins of neck, shoulders, back, sacral, abdominal and womb massage complete with heat packs and aromatherapy.
- Kinesiology/ energetic healing– ever wanted to tap into the deepest darkest parts of yourself and uncover the emotional reasons of your health issue?…try this!
- Psychologists- hugely underrated for fertility, we need these experts! No one practitioner can do and be it all for you, having an emotion centred psychologist on board through your fertility journey…a must.
- Physical therapy– I’ve bunched this together as there are way too many to mention. In some cases if there are structural misalignments of the spine or pelvis, blood flow to the repro organs may be impaired. Not uncommon. See an osteopath or cranio-sacral therapist. I’m sure there are many other body workers who are amazing too!
- Yoga/fertility yoga– based on yin postures, fertility yoga (or even attending regular yin classes) could help open your hips and move blood and energy to where it needs to go for healthy conception and pregnancy. The cortisol reduction itself is hugely beneficial!
If you have chosen the IVF road, don’t go it alone. The health industry is full of experts and healers that can help you on your journey. The support is essentially the same for natural conception…
- Acupuncture is highly regarded by top IVF centres and is commonly recommended to patients undergoing IVF
- Fertility Massage pre egg collection and pre-embryo transfer to thicken the endometrial lining and improve blood flow to the ovaries and uterus. FMT is also brilliant for emotional support and stress reduction. Home care is provided for self-healing support.
- Naturopaths for dietary and lifestyle support, herbal medicine and energetic work
- Emotional support- psychologists, kineasiologists, counsellors to manage the rollercoaster ride it can be
There is a world of practitioners, women and communities out there ready and waiting to hold your hand through your fertility and conception journey. A good place to start is opening up the conversation, being heard, weighing up your options and implementing tools you can use right away.