FERTILITY PROBLEMS: Why This Is Happening to 1 in 6 Couples

A definition of foolishness is: “Do the same thing in the same way, yet expect different results”. Another folly is to consider only the immediate nature of a problem and not fully examine it for causative factors.

Years ago if clients presented with troubling skin conditions, practitioners had to work hard at convincing them that somehow this related to deeper, systemic issues such as liver function or low nutrient levels. Now this relationship is readily acknowledged. Yet often when couples have difficulty conceiving they rush to achieve their desired outcome through applying the mechanical and chemical force of IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) or similar forms of ART (assisted reproductive technology). This is similar to taking steroids for eczema. Drugs may work by aggressively – and briefly – achieving the goal of clear skin, but because systemic cause was not addressed, the initiating problem remains and the symptoms return.

With IVF the woman takes drugs (orally or injected) to stimulate the number of eggs growing. Then another medication is administered to mature those eggs. Side effects include nausea, bloating, headache, hot flushes – and the risk of ovarian cancer and multiple births. The eggs are aspirated by needle from the ovary. Egg and sperm (taken from semen or testis, from partner or donor) are cultured together in a Petri dish and selected for uterine transfer.

Healthy Parents = Healthy Baby

It is about 30 years since the first ‘test-tube’ baby in Britain. Over a million babies world-wide have now started life in a lab. An Australian study has shown that such babies are twice as likely to be born underweight or premature. This puts them at risk for developing diabetes, cardiovascular and other diseases, which shorten quality and length of life. Other studies indicate that ART babies are 2-4 times as likely to have major birth defects (heart, rectal, esophageal, cleft palate), cancer, epilepsy, mental retardation and cerebral palsy. They are 4 times as likely to have autism. Researchers suggest this may be due to the parents’ medical problems and/or the fertility treatment itself damaging the fetus.

Doctors are not trained in natural fertility products and services. Their training is in drug and surgical responses. Global, multi billion dollar pharmaceutical companies fund medical schools; fund published research proclaiming their products; fund journals and exotic jaunts as promotions. All science is now highly specialised. Transformative discoveries in one area are often missed by research-swamped, time-poor experts even in adjacent fields. Medicos can conveniently hear what’s new from drug reps instead.

Fertility problems are defined as the inability to conceive after one year of trying; or the inability to carry a baby to full term. In working successfully with many such couples, one factor dominates. The #1 reason for fertility problems is the couple’s unaddressed systemic health issues. The poor or low sperm count, or pelvic inflammation may not be the central problem – just an indicator of the central problem.

Unless there is sterility or a similar insurmountable component, most couples are readily fertile when they become healthier. The improvement can happen in a few months, which is how long it takes new (and improved) sperm to develop. Importantly this means that the baby will be healthier too. Not being able to conceive could be viewed as a compassionate mechanism to prevent a damaged child. The development of minor or major health frustrations is not the malicious caprice of fate. It is your body’s only means of communicating “System is malfunctioning! Address situation now!”.

We Live in a Factory of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

Since the second half of the twentieth century male and female fertility – particularly in the industrialised world – has shown a marked and consistent decline. In New Zealand, male sperm quality has halved since the 1980s. This suggests factors related to the modern lifestyle, such as humanly produced toxins. In every home, car, workplace, school, soil and waterway are chemicals from plastics, paints, dyes, bleached paper, resins, agrochemicals, standard cleaning agents and toiletries. You breathe emissions; eat treated food; clean your home; anoint your body; wear, sit and sleep on material suffused with endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC). It is akin to living since birth in a toxic factory with heavy smokers 24/7.

We are all lab rats in the most global, uncontrolled experiment ever known. No wildlife or tribe in the most distant reaches of the planet remains uncorrupted to be monitored as a control group. Any new, individual chemical product receives testing, but as a distinct entity. Except that no one has contact with them in this way! These substances interact in complex synergy and at minute concentrations.

The endocrine system comprises about a dozen glands including the pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, ovaries and testes. These produce and release hormones which govern how cells, organs and systems behave and communicate. Each hormone wants to dock on a particular cellular receptor to deliver its message. In contrast an EDC is a synthetic compound. When it is absorbed (via skin, inhalation, swallowing) it mimics hormones and lands on the docking site instead. It can turn on, off or alter cellular instructions completely – from suppression to excessive activation. Many of these substances are stored in fat so women are more at risk – as are any non-organic, high-fat animal foods anyone might eat. Toxins can accumulate for decades and during pregnancy transfer across the placenta into the developing fetus, and breast milk.

A Whole System Solution to a Whole System Problem

For couples who find it difficult to conceive, a complete health profile must be taken. By accurately assessing sub-optimal conditions, personally tailored strategies can then maximise the health of both partners, as well as future children.

• EDCs: no one is free of them and similar toxic compounds but you can limit intake (see TIPS: Chemicals) and improve how efficiently you detoxify and eliminate them. Liver, digestive and bowel function can be optimised through diet, supplements and other practical strategies (see TIPS: Liver; Digestion).

• Food and environmental sensitivities need to be tested for, as they are a major source of systemic inflammation linked with conditions such as: endometriosis (cause of 20% of infertility), pelvic inflammatory disease (20%), and blocked fallopian tubes (10%). Contact this office for an allergy test. Many natural, anti-inflammatories can also come to the rescue.

• Vitamin and mineral deficiencies (common to poor quality sperm and erratic ovulation) need to be determined by questionnaire and through assessing a wide range of sometimes small, telltale indicators such as the characteristics of your skin, hair, nails – and the pattern of your sleep.

• Endocrine health is essential for balanced hormone levels from the thyroid, adrenals, ovaries, testes, and pituitary (see TIPS: Thyroid; Adrenals). Tailored lifestyle advice, lignans and other specialised phytonutrients can assist.

• Abnormal cell growth (eg fibroids, cysts, polyps, breast lumps, family history of cancer) calls for more antioxidants, and less free-radicals (eg from smoking, damaged fats; see TIPS: The Fats of Life).

• Metabolic body-typing indicates whether your diet is best served by more or less carbohydrate, fat or protein and which food sources are ideal for you (the SENSUALIST body-type is most prone to low fertility when imbalanced, and high fertility when healthy). Determining your body-type (see The Shape Diet) also helps you balance blood sugar and insulin levels to easily achieve your ideal weight (being too low or too high affects estrogen levels and ovulation in women; testosterone levels in men).

• Evaluate additional lifestyle factors that can disrupt ovulation and diminish sperm health such as stress, caffeine, alcohol, street drugs – and for men ‘hot balls’ that weaken sperm due to prolonged sitting, certain forms of clothing or exercise.

And don’t forget the obvious. Age matters. However you look and feel, the quality of both sperm and egg declines with age. By age 40 about 90% of a woman’s remaining eggs will be abnormal. Even at age 34 (on average, the last year of peak fertility) your chance of conceiving any given month is 25%. This reduces to 15% by age 38, and 4% at age 42. Even if you achieve conception Lotto, the embryo may be abnormal and spontaneously abort or fail to implant. Don’t leave it too late and you can expect a windfall result for all concerned when the fundamentals of good health have first been achieved.

Maria Middlestead Reg.Clinical Nutritionist, Auckland Call Today!

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