by Georgia Hartmann
Women’s Health Expert
When it comes to starting or expanding a family, many individuals and couples face various fertility concerns. These concerns can be overwhelming and emotional, but understanding the underlying factors and available solutions is the first step toward overcoming them. In this article, we will explore common fertility concerns, including recurrent pregnancy loss, low AMH, PCOS, endometriosis, thyroid dysfunction, ovulation irregularities, male factor infertility, weight, unsuccessful IVF, poor egg or sperm quality, and the importance of preconception care. Let’s dive in!
Recurrent Pregnancy Loss
Experiencing pregnancy loss, be it one or many, can be devastating and often leaves couples questioning their chances of having a successful pregnancy. Various factors can contribute to recurrent pregnancy loss—including genetic abnormalities, hormonal imbalances, structural issues, immune system disorders, vaginal microbiome dysbiosis, nutrient status, and lifestyle factors. Working closely with one of our naturopaths is important in understanding and developing a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs.
Low AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone)
Low AMH is a common concern experienced by women on the fertility journey. (So much so, we dedicated a whole podcast episode on it). The one thing to know about AMH is that it does not necessarily mean pregnancy is impossible. Rather than focusing on the quantity of eggs, we must focus on the quality. We just need one good quality egg. That’s where nutrition, stress management, adequate sleep, appropriate exercise, and supplementation specific to supporting mitochondrial function comes in.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a hormonal and metabolic disorder affecting many women of reproductive age. It can lead to irregular menstrual cycles, anovulation (lack of ovulation), weight gain, acne, and more. Understanding the role of insulin in PCOS can help us better understand what specific nutritional and lifestyle modifications need to be made to ultimately manage the condition and improve fertility.
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus, causing pain and potential fertility issues. The presence of endometrial tissue in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or pelvic region can lead to inflammation, scarring, and adhesions that affect fertility. Surgical intervention, such as laparoscopy, can help remove endometrial tissue and improve the chances of conception. So too can adopting nutritional and lifestyle modifications and taking specific supplementation that works to reduce inflammation, support healthy oestrogen metabolism, and optimise antioxidant status.
The thyroid is a little butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the base of the neck and when it comes to fertility, pregnancy and postpartum, the thyroid can be quite sensitive. Whether the thyroid is underactive, subclinically underactive, overactive, or in a state of autoimmunity, there are many things we must do to support thyroid function as it can not only affect ovulation but also cycle length, heaviness of menstrual bleed, pregnancy loss, and foetal development.
We know that regular ovulation is step number one in achieving pregnancy. When we ovulate, we release an egg that can then be fertilised by sperm to make an embryo. Often if we see women who have irregular menstrual cycles and show no signs of ovulation, including cervical mucus changes and a rise in basal body temperature, it is likely that they are experiencing ovulation irregularities. The good news is that naturopathic medicine can work wonderfully to restore ovulation. We must first understand why it is not occurring: factors such as underlying PCOS, thyroid dysfunction, hypothalamic amenorrhoea, as well as dietary and lifestyle factors can contribute to ovulation irregularities.
Male Factor Infertility
It’s important to remember that fertility challenges are not exclusive to women. Male factor infertility contributes to around 40% of cases. Issues such as low sperm count, poor sperm motility, or abnormal sperm shape can impact fertility. Undergoing a semen analysis can provide insights into the underlying causes. Lifestyle adjustments, including maintaining a healthy weight, reducing stress, avoiding excessive alcohol and tobacco use, and ensuring proper nutrition, can also contribute to improving male fertility alongside appropriate supplementation to support mitochondrial function.
Weight plays a crucial role in fertility for both men and women. Being underweight or overweight can disrupt hormonal balance, impair ovulation, affect sperm quality, and increase the risk of pregnancy complications. Achieving a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can help regulate hormonal levels, improve fertility, and increase the chances of successful conception. When it comes to optimising weight, our team of naturopaths develop a personalised plan that suits your individual needs.
Unsuccessful IVF (In-Vitro Fertilisation)
Too often we think of IVF as a ‘magic bullet’ when it comes to conception. And while that may be the case for some, for many it simply isn’t the truth. For successful IVF (and other Assisted Reproductive Technologies for that matter) we must optimise the health of those undergoing the treatment. This helps to improve egg quality, sperm quality, mitochondrial function, nutrient and antioxidant status, and can help those manage feelings of stress and anxiety that often accompanies IVF–all of which can ultimately influence IVF outcomes.
Poor Egg or Sperm Quality
More times than not we hear people and couples say their fertility problem is that they have poor egg or sperm quality. While there are many components of sperm that we can test to understand its quality, unfortunately we cannot gain such an in-depth understanding of egg quality. (Hopefully one day there will be a simple blood test). What we do know though is that to support egg and sperm quality, we must support mitochondrial function. We must optimise nutrient status, antioxidant levels, weight, environmental health including exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and generally the health of the individual. Naturopathic medicine can work wonderfully here.
Importance of Preconception Care
Preconception care is a vital aspect of fertility optimisation for both women and men. It involves taking proactive steps to prepare the body for pregnancy and maximise the chances of not only a healthy conception but also a reduced risk of pregnancy loss, pregnancy complications, and adverse child outcomes. Preconception care includes ensuring proper nutrition, managing existing health conditions, getting regular check-ups, and addressing any potential fertility concerns. It is best followed for at least 120 days which works alongside the egg maturation cycle.
While facing fertility concerns can be challenging, understanding the underlying factors and available solutions can provide hope and direction. Whether you are experiencing recurrent pregnancy loss, low AMH, PCOS, endometriosis, thyroid dysfunction, ovulation irregularities, male factor infertility, difficulty managing weight, unsuccessful IVF, poor egg or sperm quality, or are considering preconception care, know that there is a lot we can do to optimise your chances of conceiving the healthy baby of your dreams. With the right support and tailored treatment plans, many individuals and couples can overcome these hurdles and embark on their journey toward parenthood.
Remember, fertility challenges are unique to each individual and couple, and what works for one person may not be applicable to another. Obtaining personalised guidance and following a comprehensive plan based on individual circumstances is key on the path to parenthood.
Take comfort in knowing that there are resources, treatments, and solutions available at Hormone Health Studio to support individuals and couples on their fertility journey. With patience, perseverance, and the right support system, the dream of starting or expanding a family can become a reality.
by Georgia Hartmann
Women’s Health Expert