Experiencing the ups and downs of pregnancy and childbirth is something many couples dream of. For most, pregnancy happens with minimal difficulty, but for approximately 10% of women in the United States, fertility issues interfere with that dream.
There are ways, however, to support your body during attempts to conceive. Conceiving and bearing a child is possible for many who are struggling with infertility; this is not hopeless. And one of the first vital steps to conception is to understand fertility so that you know when it is time to schedule that romantic date.
What does normal fertility look like?
Healthy fertility in a woman encompasses several components:
- Ovulation, or the monthly release of an egg from the ovaries
- Travel by the egg through the fallopian tubes to the uterus
- Implantation of the fertilized egg into the lining of the uterus
Under normal circumstances, ovulation occurs roughly every 28 days, with each ovary releasing an egg every other month. If a sperm does not fertilize the egg upon reaching the uterus, your body eventually sheds the thickened uterine lining during your menstrual cycle. This is the regular system when all is functioning as planned.
If there is a problem in any of these reproductive areas, however, a woman is likely to experience infertility.
What is infertility?
For women up to age 35, most doctors agree that it is time to seek help if you’ve been unsuccessful getting pregnant after a year of trying. If you are over 35 years old, fertility experts suggest seeking help after six months of trying unsuccessfully.
Additionally, women who can conceive but struggle to maintain the pregnancy also benefit from seeking help from practitioners who specialize in women’s health and fertility.
What causes female fertility struggles?
There isn’t a simple answer to this question. At its most basic level, infertility is caused by a glitch somewhere in the reproductive system, but the key is determining which component isn’t functioning as it should. Struggles with conception or maintaining a pregnancy could be related to any of the following:
- Lack of regular ovulation. If your menstrual cycle is highly irregular or absent, it is likely that you are not ovulating, or that you are ovulating at very irregular intervals.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Although the exact cause of PCOS isn’t yet clear, it is a hormone disorder that impacts your body’s levels of androgen, insulin, and progesterone.
Women with PCOS tend to have too much androgen, the “male” hormone, and not enough progesterone, the “female” hormone. This imbalance can lead to facial hair and acne, as well as irregular or missed periods. The name is a bit misleading, however, as not every woman with PCOS has cysts.
- Damage to the fallopian tubes or uterus. Problems with the transport and implantation of the egg can arise from several possibilities. Endometriosis occurs when part of the uterine lining attaches itself to organs that are outside of the uterus.Fibroids in the uterus are masses that are typically non-cancerous but interfere with a fertilized egg’s ability to implant. Polyps, scar tissue, and infection can also impact a woman’s fertility.
How is female infertility treated?
Typical western medicine tends to start immediately with pharmaceutical treatments, usually with a medication such as Clomid. It can induce ovulation and attempts to balance hormone levels. Surgery to address endometriosis and fibroids is sometimes a choice as well.
At Balanced Care, we work to get to the cause of a woman’s infertility and then help her body do its own healing and regulating whenever possible. Fertility and reproductive health are very complex, and it may take time to get your body on the right track, but here are some of the natural methods for addressing infertility
Dietary changes: Women may experience extreme weight loss or weight gain, both of which can make it difficult to conceive. Eating plans such as the Mediterranean Diet are linked to higher chances of conception. Opt for fruits and vegetables, fish, plant-based proteins, and healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.
Avoid processed foods, plastics, and items with added sugars or refined grains. Choosing grass-fed beef and free-range chicken helps reduce your exposure to added hormones.
These dietary changes can help get your weight and hormones back into proper balance, increasing your chances of getting pregnant.
Lifestyle changes: Aside from the obvious and well-documented no-nos of smoking and drug use, many other lifestyle factors can hinder your chances of conceiving.
Sleep problems, stress, environmental toxins, and poor exercise habits can all impact a woman’s ability to achieve and maintain pregnancy. And keep in mind, poor exercise habits include both too little exercise and too much.
Women who work out so intensely that their body fat percentage drops lower than is healthy often find it hard to conceive.
Supplements: The proper use of vitamin and mineral supplements can do wonders in helping a woman’s body regulate its reproductive system and hormones. Herbs and nutritional supplementation can help regulate hormones and a good quality multi-vitamin can improve fertility as well.
Dr. Katie and Dr. Rachel take a close look at your hormones to determine what the best treatment is for your body.
How do I know when I’m fertile?
One of our goals at Balanced Care is to help you understand your body and its processes. Learning to recognize the signs of fertility will help you to know when your body is at its most ready to support conception and pregnancy.
- Temperature changes: Once an egg is released from an ovary, your body temperature starts to rise. Charting your temperature each day, before getting out of bed, will help you see your body’s patterns. A rise in your temperature may signal that you are ovulating.
- A change in cervical mucus: As your progesterone levels go up with ovulation, your cervical mucus increases in volume and becomes stretchier and more slippery to allow the sperm a better chance of reaching the egg.
- Regular periods: One of the best signs that your body is ready to conceive is the regular arrival of your menstrual cycle. If your periods are coming about every 24-35 days, the odds are you are ovulating regularly midway through your cycle.
A woman’s body is designed to do amazing things, and with the right support and treatment, many women can reverse infertility and get their bodies ready for pregnancy.
The doctors at Balanced Care take a natural, holistic approach to your reproductive health. We understand that your journey toward parenthood is unique to you, and we are here to support you.