Diet, naturopathy and acupuncture can play a supporting role in the fertility journey.
Natalie Pickering, who specialises in fertility naturopathy at Perth Natural Medical Clinic, believes the right foundations can make a fertility journey less stressful and increase the chances of success.
She says time spent preparing the body before trying to conceive is time wisely spent and, for those already trying, a three-month break to “reset and reclaim fertility is a powerful way” to increase your chances when it’s time to try again.
Ms Pickering personalises treatments by first understanding the issues before embarking on a mixture of homoeopathic or botanical medicine, nutritional supplementation and specific diet, and lifestyle advice to overcome obstacles to conception.
“My approach to natural fertility blends traditional holistic health care with evidence-based medicine, balancing and optimising the whole system, not just the tissues and hormones of the reproductive system,” she says.
Ms Pickering says natural fertility care can be used in conjunction with couples using IVF to conceive and, in her experience, “it can be very effective to integrate the two models for a higher rate of healthy, full-term pregnancy”.
Through her 24 years working in fertility, Ms Pickering has designed a 90-day program for couples who have been struggling to conceive for more than a year, who are 38 and over, or who have diagnosed issues such as polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, high follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), recurrent miscarriage, male factor fertility issues, poor egg quality or failed IVF cycles.
Research has shown strong links between diet and fertility. A major factor of a good preconception diet is ensuring nutrient levels, in particular folate, iodine and vitamin D, are met.
Fertility and prenatal dietitian Melanie McGrice says a body in optimal health can help optimise fertility. She is a fan of the Mediterranean diet, full of fish such as salmon and sardines which are high in omega-3, and eating low-GI (glycaemic index) foods.
She says freshly squeezed green juice is a great way to get folate, which the mother needs not only to make DNA, form red blood cells and grow and repair cells and tissues but, when she does fall pregnant, is critical for a developing foetus which needs it for growth and the formation of the neural tube during weeks five and six of pregnancy.
Ms McGrice says recent research also suggests full- cream milk can be beneficial for fertility.
“Weight really plays a role as well. If we have too much body fat, or too little, that can influence hormone levels that influence fertility hormones, which have a role in our chances of conceiving.”
Just as important as what you put in your mouth, is what you don’t. Women’s wellness coach Bianca Langstaff of Alchemy of Wellness says refined sugar is a no-go as she says it has a poor impact in terms of energy levels and on inflammation and hormone levels.
She says those trying to conceive should live as if they are already pregnant, recommending no caffeine or alcohol.
It’s not just the women but the men too that should watch their diet.
Folate is significant for healthy sperm and Ms McGrice says, like women, men should avoid alcohol too.
Male fertility has also been shown to be sensitive to low nutrient levels.
Acupuncture is used by many looking for alternative medicine or complementary therapies to boost fertility.
While studies have shown varying degrees of effectiveness, some suggest acupuncture can resolve hormonal imbalances and stimulate blood flow to the uterus, assisting menstruation and ovulation and reducing stress and anxiety.
Andrash Bodonyi took on his first IVF case in 1999, the success initiating his research and development of a treatment method before establishing the Fertility and IVF Support Centre in 2006.
Working in conjunction with Perth’s fertility centres, Mr Bodonyi and his team like to start acupuncture sessions three months ahead of an IVF procedure in an attempt to improve egg quality for an egg collection.
“For an embryo transfer cycle we closely follow blood test and ultrasound results, interpret them in the context of traditional acupuncture diagnostics, and select the appropriate points accordingly,” Mr Bodonyi says, adding while traditional acupuncture may work for general fertility support, modern day fertility acupuncture methods need to address the various issues with IVF.
If you opt for acupuncture, it is advised you choose an accredited acupuncturist specialising in fertility and let your fertility specialist know about the therapy.
Preconception preparation: Allow time to prepare for conception before starting to try. If you are already trying, a three month break to reset and reclaim your fertility is a powerful way to increase your chances when you try again. The right foundations can make your journey less stressful and increase your chances of success.
Learn your fertility index: Find out your fertility index early to discover if you have obstacles to overcome. A natural fertility specialist can help you discover your fertility index and support you to resolve any concerns.
Find the right support: Find someone with experience and training specifically in fertility. You should expect to feel heard and treated with empathy, that your questions will be answered thoroughly and that your practitioner is invested in supporting you to reach your goal.
Learn body awareness: Body awareness is fundamental, looking for and noticing your body’s signs and symptoms will help you discover your unique fertile window and any obstacles to conception.
Develop a healthy mindset: Your fertility mindset is a powerful factor in your fertility journey. Your thoughts create your emotions, those emotions direct your actions, learning to reset your fertility mindset will help you optimise your fertility.Written by: Angie Tomlinson - The West Australian