Guest Blog by Dr Amanda Waaldyk, fertility expert and director of Angea Fertility Clinic.
What do you do when you find you are one of the one in six couples struggling with fertility?
My best advice for couples struggling to conceive is for a woman to treat her body as if she were already pregnant. However, studies show natural therapies can increase your chance of having a healthy baby by up to 75 per cent. Here are some that can improve your chances of success and increase your health and fertility:
Foods to avoid are preservatives, processed foods, refined sugars, caffeine and alcohol. Research suggests that alcohol intake is associated with a longer time to conception and an increased miscarriage risk, reduces the chances of success with IVF and can cause acute drops in sperm count. Caffeine may increase risk of clotting and miscarriage.
VITAMINS AND HERBS
Men and women can improve their fertility with royal jelly, CoQ10, maca, vital greens, vitamins B and E, zinc, selenium and magnesium. It is best to take supplements under the advice of a health professional.
Recent studies show acupuncture can increase a woman’s IVF success rate by 65 per cent. Acupuncture also works in several ways to increase the likelihood of natural conception, including increasing sperm count and motility, improving uterine health, and reducing risk of miscarriage. Acupuncture increases the chances of having a healthy pregnancy beyond 12 weeks by 87 per cent, and nearly doubles the chance of a successful live birth, increasing that by 91 per cent.
MEDITATION AND MINDFULNESS
Mind-body treatment of infertility patients has been shown to increase pregnancy rates as well as reducing psychological distress. There are several mind-body meditation apps, which are ideal for women trying to conceive. Circle + Bloom offers a daily meditation for each day of the menstrual cycle or each stage of the IVF treatment, and works by using deep relaxation, therapeutic visualizations and emotional awareness exercises (the audio program takes 15 minutes a day). Headspace is another great meditation app. This is a general meditation app that is free to download on iTunes. It provides a user-friendly introduction to meditation with 10 minutes of guided meditation over 10 days.
Recent research has shown that for many women infertility can create levels of anxiety and depression equivalent to women with cancer, HIV or heart disease. High levels of stress have been shown to alter the function of the hypothalamus gland, which controls ovulation; contribute to irregular menstrual periods; produce high levels of cortisol; decrease reproductive hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone; and divert blood flow away from the ovaries and uterine lining, thereby affecting egg quality and successful implantation. Observation helps to change thought patterns, and both meditation and yoga can aid relaxation and reduce stress. Sex is a great stress-reducer too, as long as it isn’t overshadowed by the pressure to ‘‘make a baby’’!
Yoga should be tried by those struggling to conceive. Yoga for fertility has achieved some outstanding results in the US, with some studies reporting a 75 percent success rate within six months. Fertility Yoga uses specific postures to nourish and stimulate the reproductive organs, enhancing the chances of conception. It has also been found to lower blood pressure and stress levels; regulate the menstrual cycle; balance hormones and calm the mind, while increasing a sense of well-being.
Breathing patterns carry distinct physiological and psychological effects. The belly breath—slow, deep, rhythmic abdominal breathing—promotes fertility. Using this breath shifts the hormonal milieu in the body from ‘‘fight or flight’’ to ‘‘rest, digest and nest’’. Lie on the floor with your legs extended, place your right hand on top of your left hand on your lower belly and close your eyes as you begin to breathe in and out of your nose. As you inhale, feel your belly expand. Breathe into your belly. As you exhale, feel your belly contract, gently drawing the belly to the spine. This can be repeated for just five to 10 minutes a day.
Amanda is the Director of Angea Fertility Clinic, a qualified Chinese Medicine doctor, an acupuncturist and the founder of Angea Yoga Studio. As Amanda’s clinical focus is on hormonal health and reproductive wellness, she also has extensive experience treating women’s and hormonal conditions ranging from endometriosis and PCOS to menopausal concerns. She approaches her clients with compassion, an open mind and integrates the theory of two medical systems represented by Traditional Chinese Medicine and modern Western Medicine.