Ask The Expert: Exploring Naturopathic Medicine for Fertility Treatments
Ask The Expert is a health & fitness advice column. If you have a question for one of our Fitness Goop experts, please email [email protected]. This question was asked on the topic of naturopathic medicine and fertility.
My husband and I want to explore naturopathic medicine (we don’t want to try IVF) as a way to help with our infertility issues. Can naturopathy help?”
Naturopathic medicine offers fertility treatments as alternatives to in vitro fertilization (IVF) and fertility medications. Before starting treatment, it is important that both you and your husband be assessed for causes that may be contributing to why you are not getting pregnant. Both partners should have basic blood work done, as well as modify their diet and lifestyle to ensure they are producing the healthiest possible egg and sperm.
For men, a semen analysis can be done to see if there are problems with the number, motility, and normal morphology of the sperm. For women, a pelvic ultrasound and hysterosalpingogram should be conducted to rule out structural abnormalities that may be causing infertility.
Once the patency of your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus have been confirmed, it is important to find out if you are ovulating and if the length of your luteal phase is long enough to sustain implantation.Â An easy way to find this out is to start charting your monthly cycles. Your naturopathic doctor can explain to you how taking your waking temperature on a daily basis and assessing for other signs of ovulation can help you track when you are most fertile. By charting your cycle, you can find out if lack of ovulation or a luteal phase defect are factors preventing you from becoming pregnant.
Most naturopathic doctors offer salivary female hormone testing. Estrogen and progesterone levels can be measured over the course of your monthly cycle to assess for sufficient levels of these hormones at different times throughout the cycle. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and lutenizing hormone (LH) can also be measured to monitor for ovulation.
If a problem exists with ovulation or hormone levels, hormone balancing herbal medicines such as Vitex agnus castus, Mitchella repens, and Chameleirium luteum can be used, depending on whether there is insufficient estrogen or progesterone. ND’s who are licensed to prescribe medications can also offer bio-identical hormone therapy to balance a hormone defect. Male hormone testing can also be conducted if indicated.
If an underlying condition such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts, or uterine fibroids exists, estrogen-lowering treatments such as ground flax seeds, indole-3-carbinol, and calcium-d-glucarate can remove excess estrogen burden.
If all lab testing points to normal hormone cycling and normal ovulation, testing can be done to check for heavy metal accumulation in your body. Heavy metals may include mercury, lead, and cadmium, and can accumulate even without overt exposure. Metals are difficult for the body to excrete, and they cause excessive oxidative stress. Oxidation forms free radicals that can damage DNA, especially the fragile genetic information within your egg or your husband’s sperm. Damaged DNA can lead to a non-viable embryo. Heavy metals can be removed by a process called chelation. An appropriate chelator is chosen by your ND, depending on which metals are found in your body. Usually chelation is administered orally or intravenously. Natural chelators such as chlorella powder may also be recommended.
It is important that before starting any herbal medications, supplements, chelators, or hormone therapy that you consult your naturopathic doctor. Please be advised that most treatments are contraindicated during pregnancy and should be discontinued immediately after you become pregnant, or if you think you may be pregnant.
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