What is infertility? 
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse (with attempted conception). The term infertility also includes recurrent miscarriage or pregnancy loss. The causes can range from simple to multi-factorial and complex and can involve one or both partners. Forty percent of infertility is attributable to female causes, another forty percent is due to male causes. The other twenty percent is due to a combination of male and female causes.

 

What is naturopathic fertility care?
It is my belief that restoring the foundations of health, while applying simple, natural methods to enhance and promote fertility, should be the first step when offering fertility care. While it is true that some patients will need assisted reproductive technology (ART), many can achieve pregnancy from much less invasive methods. It is also my belief that all patients will benefit from addressing and improving factors contributing to their inability to conceive. Establishing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential to continued vitality; a good physician motivates patients toward long-term wellness. Part of my philosophy in supporting reproductive health is to help patients maintain focus on the larger goal of a long and healthy life.

The conventional medical approach to infertility often fails to address the underlying issues. One of the inherent principles of naturopathic medicine is Tolle Causam: treat the cause. For example, hormonal imbalances contributing to irregular menstrual cycles can be improved with botanical medicine and nutritional support. Male factor infertility issues such as low sperm count can be improved by simple changes to basic health habits.

Conventional medical approaches to infertility have other limitations: Methods of ART like ICSI (intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection) bypass the very valuable process of natural selection, where the most successful (fastest, strongest) sperm fertilizes the egg. IVF treatments are expensive and invasive and have limited success. Perhaps more importantly, the mental-emotional toll that fertility issues can have on individuals and on relationships is rarely tended to. Naturopaths are trained to approach health from a holistic framework- one that views the emotional plane as an integral component of health and wellness.

Moreover, naturopathic physicians have the training and expertise to approach reproductive health with evidence-based integrative care that offers the most natural and least invasive treatments possible for a healthy pregnancy.


What to expect at your appointment:
During your first appointment we will discuss your medical history with a particular focus on your reproductive health. I will perform any necessary physical exam and order lab work to give us the information we need to identify the contributing  issues. If a diagnosis has already been established, we will discuss supportive treatment options. If you are undergoing IVF or other ART methods, we will discuss the most effective means to optimize the success of these therapies.

 

Some of the common causes of infertility:
(*Some of these causes will overlap with other conditions.)

  • Female:
    • anovulation
    • sexually transmitted infections
    • endometriosis
    • fibroids
    • hypothyroidism
    • PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
    • recurrent miscarriage
    • anatomical or congenital issues
    • environmental exposures
    • obesity or anorexia
    • hyperprolactinemia (elevated prolactin levels)
       
  • Male:
    • low sperm count
    • poor sperm motility and morphology (shape)
    • varicocele
    • anatomical or congenital issues
    • sexually transmitted infections
    • environmental factors


Environmental toxins:
Environmental toxins are unavoidable and ubiquitous; these toxins (chemicals like benzene in our gasoline, carbon monoxide from car exhaust, cleaning products, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, etc.) accumulate in our bodies and can wreak havoc on our cells and our reproductive system. Our gametes (sperm and egg) are single cell structures that are very susceptible to environmental damage. Sperm are especially sensitive to such damage and we have seen a dramatic decrease in sperm counts over the past few decades. 

While these exposures can be scary to expectant parents, my aim is to help patients feel a sense of agency during a vulnerable time- in other words, the best defense is a good offense. Reducing exposure is a vital part of optimizing fertility and is one of the components of a well-rounded treatment plan. I am also passionate about helping parents create a safe, low-toxin home environment for babies and children and offer assistance in this process. 


Preconception care and prenatal nutritional guidance:
A friend once told me that her pregnancy was the healthiest time of her life. It is true that there are few periods when we treat our bodies so well. During pregnancy a woman's health has a direct impact on the health of her child. Preconception care can begin at any time. If you are planning to conceive within the next year (or two), you can begin laying the foundation for a healthy pregnancy now. I help expectant parents (in all stages) figure out ways to improve health in a way that fits within their lifestyle.