Fertility Friday: 4 Things I Wish More Women Knew About Their Fertility

By Alexandra Vander Baan

1. Difficulty Conceiving is Common. You are not Alone.

One in eight women experience infertility, defined as “the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after 12 months of trying to conceive.” If you are over the age of 35, the time of trying to conceive is reduced to six months. The silver lining in this statistic, is that if you are experiencing infertility you’re not alone.

What you can do: If you are struggling to conceive, you may find comfort in joining a local or online support group, such as RESOLVE, where you can connect with others who are going through the same challenges, frustrations, and disappointments, as well as foster hope and agency to find resolution. Support groups offer the opportunity to decrease your sense of isolation, express negative emotions, develop effective coping skills, and enhance self-esteem.  Not only do they provide a highly supportive community, a 2000 study found that those who attended RESOLVE support groups had higher pregnancy rates than women who didn’t attend a support group.

2. Fertility is Not Binary.  Fertility is a Continuum.

I don’t like using the word “infertility” because it gives the impression that fertility is something you either have or you don’t. When in reality, fertility is a continuum, in which you may be less fertile or more fertile. When I begin working with a woman (it’s almost always exclusively women whom seek treatment for fertility), I explain that there are certain markers throughout a menstrual cycle that indicate fertile potential. An optimally fertile cycle is 28 days long with ovulation occurring on cycle day 14. There is notable clear, stretchy cervical fluid present around ovulation (to help the sperm reach the egg).  Menstruation occurs for four days without pain, PMS, clotting, or spotting. In clinical practice, I’ve observed that the more closely a woman’s cycle reflects this cycle, the more likely she is to conceive.

What you can do: Become more inquisitive about your cycle.  Take note of how long it is (from the first day of your period to the first day of your following period); how many days of bleeding you experience; any symptoms you experience throughout your cycle, especially premenstrually, during your period, and around ovulation.  Note any discharge – texture, color, and when in your cycle you notice it.  In addition, I find Basal Body Temperature charts very effective tools for tracking and quantifying your progress, and empowering women to become more attuned to their bodies.

3. Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine Can Help.

Stress can significantly hinder your ability to conceive. Not only can chronic stress disrupt the production and regulation of sex hormones critical to reproduction, it can also cause constriction of blood vessels that supply the ovaries and uterus. Acupuncture can help restore the delicate balance between stress and sex hormones, facilitating ovulation and implantation. It can also promote circulation to the ovaries and uterus, improving egg quality and thickness of the uterine lining, and creating a more favorable environment for egg development, ovulation, and embryo implantation.  In addition to being effective tools for increasing natural conception, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have been shown, in numerous studies, to increase the success rates of IVF by 40-50%.

What you can do: Find an acupuncturist, preferably one who also prescribes herbs, who specializes in fertility.  As a reproductive acupuncture specialist, I take an integrative approach to fertility, combining biomedical and Eastern medical knowledge to inform clinical practice. This includes a thorough consultation in which we discuss your fertility journey and overall health, as well as the results of blood tests and any IUI or IVF cycles.  Based on our conversation, I develop a customized acupuncture and herbal medicine protocol, in addition to offering dietary and lifestyle modifications to address underlying imbalances affecting your fertility.

To learn more about how acupuncture and herbal medicine can help you conceive and deliver a healthy baby, click here.

4. Acupuncture Isn’t Just for Infertility.

By the time most of my patients come to see me they have already been trying to conceive for months or years, and many have been given a diagnosis of “infertility.”  While acupuncture is an effective treatment for “infertility,” many couples could potentially avoid significant distress if they began receiving acupuncture treatment as soon as they have decided they are ready to conceive (or ideally three months before they begin trying to conceive). Preconception care helps regulate any hormone imbalances or irregularities in the cycle and optimize your overall health, to facilitate faster conception rates and decreased risk of miscarriage.

What you can do: If you are considering becoming pregnant, start your preconception care now to prime your body for a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby.

More posts by Alexandra: http://yintuitionwellness.com

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