Chinese Medicine has documented treating fertility issues for centuries. Natural fertility or pre-natal care has long been a part of the Chinese lifestyle and in Chinese Medicine, it really comes down to an entire mind - body - spirit journey.
Essentially natural fertility support is about providing the space for the body to work optimally: with the likes of exercise, diet, mindset, Acupuncture, Herbal Medicines and more. This process is specific to the individual requirements and applies to both Men and Women.
We see in this day and age that time is of the essence for people and so IVF is commonly the preferred option over natural fertility. This is unfortunate as it poses the risk of not addressing issues that could be passed down generationally, having complications during pregnancy such a threatened miscarriage or experiencing undesirable post-natal recovery short and long term. Check out this podcast about how dirty genes affect your fertility by Dr. Ben Lynch: https://tinyfeet.co/my-podcast/35
IVF is an obvious choice for those who have congenital or genetic concerns however it's evident that IVF is a first choice for most individuals or couples regardless of the absence of pre-existing health conditions. According to the NSW IVF initiative, experts say that 1 in 22 babies born in Australia are conceived using some form of assisted reproduction. That's a lot of intervention involved!
The concept I find the most important to ask is: Why is the prevalence of unnatural conception occurring more often?
There are a few lifestyle factors to consider here
1. High stress and lack of sleep
When the body is stressed and tired, reproduction goes on the back burner.
In women, a lack of sleep and high stress hormones circulating in the body, can inhibit optimal ovulation, this is evident with altered HPA axis. Similarly, studies showed in men that there was a significant dose–response relationship between level of perceived job stress and poor sperm quality. (Bigelowet al.1998)
Visiting your medical doctor for a check up is the norm and that is no different to seeing a psychologist for your mental health too. Other forms of de-stressing vary but Acupuncture is definitely a good option for that.
In Austria, all IVF patients are required to undergo psychological counselling prior to commencing. (how amazing is this!) This preceded to have a 56.4% success rate in pregnancy occurrences of the 1156 patients documented. (Poehl)
2. THE FOODS WE EAT AND DRINK
Welcome to my crash course in 'cleaning up your diet'. Fertility support or not, the following are all causes of inflammation and so we should avoid and change for better alternatives.
Alcohol: opt for kombucha, soda water and lime or a smoothie
Smoking: breathe in fresh oxygen instead and do things that inspire you and make you feel worthy of love
Pesticides & Herbicides: eat organic food or grow your own (chemical free of course)
Processed foods: eat real foods from nature
3. RADIATION EXPOSURE AND ENDOCRINE DISRUPTING CHEMICALS
According to the National Cancer Institute: 'Radiation therapy to the reproductive organs as well as radiation near the abdomen, pelvis, or spine may lower sperm counts and testosterone levels, causing infertility. Radiation may also destroy sperm cells and the stem cells that make sperm'.
Yep radiation is that strong.
I could write an essay on the list of endocrine disruptors and their link to certain fertility issues, neurological development, cognitive degenerative diseases and hormone mimicking alterations, but I'll keep it simple.
Look into changing your exposure to plastics & BPA, heavy metals from industrial chemicals or even cooking pots and pans and preservatives in skin care and foods.
5. MOST OF US ARE MAKING BABIES LATER IN LIFE (aged 35+)
We have our careers, travelling, romance and all life experiences that comes before babies do (for some of us anyway). In general, we are living longer so ultimately we want babies later in life.
Women who started IVF before they turned 35 had the highest success rates. For example, women under 30 had a 44% chance of a live birth in their first cycle, and a cumulative live-birth rate of between 69% (conservative) and 91% (optimal) after six cycles; women aged 30-34 had only marginally lower rates than these. (ref: TheCoversion)
This is due to the biological fact that fertility rates drop after the age of 35 for women.
In men, sperm volume drops from a median of 2.80 mL in those aged 45 to 47.8 years to 1.95 mL in men aged > 56.6 years (D Harris et. al)
There are plenty more factors but I wanted to keep these main 5 in mind. So to answer the question of:
Q. Why is the prevalence of unnatural conception occurring more often?
A: Modern society
Back in the old Chinese Medicine times we didn't have as many modern day factors as we do today.
If you are on your journey to wanting to make a baby- a lot goes into it this process and you can look after your fertility and reproductive health by living a lifestyle that is fulfilling to your mental health and rich in nutrients and low in chemicals. This can start as early as your childhood or adolescence.
Starting this journey can be really hard for some as changes may need to be made to their lifestyle that they are not willing to give up or compromise.
Something I always tell my patients is that you have to value something enough to warrant change. Values and priorities are so important when it comes to Natural Fertility Support.
So knowing what we know, when is the best time to start your journey to making a baby? The answer is mostly obvious: sooner rather than later OR if it's applicable to you, before you start the IVF process.
We recommend beginning earlier to work on balancing your system and preparing your body for the process. Not only would this require Acupuncture, but it could require lifestyle and diet changes, a prescription of herbal medicine or essential vitamins and minerals. Not only optimising fertility, but just making you feel like a healthier human being all round. Who doesn't want that?
Even if you are beginning your fertility support journey, half way through the IVF process or finding Chinese Medicine after failed IVF it's never too late to begin the holistic journey to optimising your own wellbeing and creating better opportunities for your future.
Until next time,
Dr. Alana Green (Chinese Medicine)
Poehl M, Bichler K, Wicke V, Dorner V and Feichtinger W (1999) Psychotherapeutic counseling and pregnancy rates in in vitro fertilization. J Assist Reprod Genet 16, 302–305.
Bigelow PL, Jarrell J, Young MR, Keefe TJ and Love EJ (1998) Association of semen quality and occupational factors: comparison of case-control analysis and analysis of continuous variables. Fertil Steril 69, 11–18.