I hesitate to use the word “infertility”, even with my patients who are in the midst of IVF treatments. It seems like such a negative word, which is why I prefer to use the term “fertility care”. It may be semantics, but I believe that words matter, so I choose to use
After almost 11 years of practice, I still feel honoured when asked to be part of patient’s journey to become a parent. As a parent myself, I understand the desire and drive to nurture a child, and have the utmost respect for those who travel great distances (emotionally, financially and geographically) to become parents. I have worked with patients in various stages of this journey, and thought a post outlining the various naturopathic options might be helpful.
As Naturopathic Doctors, we strongly believe in preventative medicine, and being prepared. A visit to an ND 3-6 months before trying to conceive is a good idea. This allows ample time to discuss fertility awareness, start basal body temperature monitoring, and address any cycle irregularities that may come up. If you are recently coming off of the birth control pill, this allows time for proper hormonal balance to be achieved. Our pre-conception care package includes 3 visits, with an emphasis on dietary analysis/interventions, potential herbal and dietary supplements and menstrual/BBT analysis.
Basic Fertility Care
The generally accepted definition of (in)fertility for those under 35 is lack of pregnancy after 12 months of intercourse without contraception. For those over 35, 6 months is the recommended cut off. Most women who I see have recently met these criteria, and are either in limbo (waiting to see a reproductive endocrinologist) or are starting ART (assisted reproductive technologies).
For those waiting for a referral, we proceed on a path similar to those seeking pre-conception care. We review diet, health history, menstrual and basal body temperature charts. We take an in depth look at all aspects of health. In some cases, we may suggest saliva testing to complement any bloodwork already available. We then attempt to correct any underlying issues (luteal phase defect, high FSH, long follicular phase, etc) and hope that the referral is never needed. Many women respond very well to a combination of herbal medicine and acupuncture, so the two are often combined. As long as you aren’t taking clomiphene (or other similar drugs), there are no contraindications to using herbal medicine as part of your treatment plan.
Fertility Care and IUI/IVF
A number of patients who are undergoing IUI or IVF seek acupuncture support during their cycle. A number of studies (more here) have highlighted the benefits of acupuncture, especially with IVF cycles. Ideally, a course of acupuncture is started 6-12 weeks before the cycle begins. But, we often get calls from women who are days away from egg retrieval, and will always do our best accommodate couples in these circumstances. But, if you are considering acupuncture during your IVF cycle, it’s best to give us a call as soon as you know the details so we can schedule you in. Our ART package may be of interest to you. Typically, visits are once a week. Special attention is paid to the pre-retrieval and post-transfer visits, as these are very important. Once embryo transfer has taken place, we like to see patients within 24 hours. Often, patients come to our clinic directly after transfer.
Not sure where you fit in?
Some patients have had the referral to a fertility specialist, but aren’t sure if proceeding with ART is right for them. In these situations, we would do our best to present you with alternatives, which would be along the lines of our pre-conception care plan. Naturopathic Medicine emphasizes balance, and sometimes a little balance is all that is needed.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us for more information.