Stay in the Wellness Loop | Health and Wellness Articles
Dr. Kathleen Mercer BSc ND
Health For Life
Fertility, the ability to conceive, is something that most people do not give much thought to. It is in most cases an assumed process that will occur quite easily and naturally. It is also what most young adults are trying to prevent for the early parts of their adult lives. However, for about 20% of Canadians, being able to have a child becomes a huge part of their awareness and focus due to having difficulty conceiving. Usually after one year of trying to conceive, a doctor can refer to a fertility specialist. Once you enter this phase of care there are tests, assessments, health history and physical exams performed to try to find out why things are not happening as expected. This should be for both partners. From here, treatment options are reviewed and considered including drugs to balance hormones, influence ovulation, improve general health and enhance conception (IUI, IVF, sperm donor, egg donor…).
Let us take a step back for a moment.
In Naturopathic Medicine, we believe it is beneficial before considering conceiving for individuals and couples to take some time to cleanse and then tonify their bodies. These things are often overlooked in western culture. In Chinese medicine, we believe that our “qi” (chee) or vital energy comes from two main sources. Through conception we obtain the first half of our qi from our parents' qi and the other half comes from our environment (the air we breathe, the water we drink, the stress we experience…). Therefore, before conception, it is recommended for couples looking to conceive to take good care of themselves, so that they can give their best qi to offspring. This can be done through principles of Naturopathic Medicine such as nutritional counseling, acupuncture, botanical medicine and lifestyle counseling.
A Naturopathic Doctor will work on cycle regulation, weight management, improved energy, removal of food intolerance, stress management and other individual health concerns. It is also important for the couple to have a good understanding of what is happening during the woman’s menstrual cycle, for example in the regular 28 day cycle, when is ovulation occurring and what that means for which days are most fertile, what signs to look for during ovulation, as well as what a healthy menstrual bleed should be. Visits with a Naturopathic Doctor pre-conception will almost always involve a number of treatments of acupuncture for both partners to help improve qi and balance hormones.
If fertility becomes difficult then a Naturopathic Doctor can be included on the team of health care practitioners to support fertility. This can be before considering assisted fertility through IUI or IVF, while taking a break from fertility treatments, as well as during the process of assisted fertility. The visits with your Naturopathic Doctor will be at least 45 minutes and will allow for time to go over any issues or stresses that are occurring during the whole process. Acupuncture is usually performed at strategic times to coincide with any fertility treatments, especially in the weeks before an IUI or IVF.
Through my experience of working with patients dealing with fertility, I have found some key elements need to be included in the process of encouraging conception. I help individuals work through the stress of social expectations and pressures around having a baby.
I encourage my patients to:
get in tune with their bodies to be able to get a sensation of the changes that occur during the menstrual cycle.
connect with their mental emotional and spiritual perceptions and beliefs about conception and having a child.
sometimes move away from the calendars, the fertility predictor kits and the thermometers and get back to making love.
Sometimes in life we need someone’s help to just “press pause” and “take a moment” to re-frame where we are and then move forward again with a new perspective and a new plan. This will often help when we are welcoming a new life into the world.
Kathleen Mercer is a Licensed Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine.