This year alone, nearly ten million women will seek evaluation and / or treatment for suspected infertility. Approximately six million of those women between ages 15 and 44 will be diagnosed with some kind of impaired ability to have children. Over two million couples will be unable to create or maintain a pregnancy. The result for most will be heartache.
Due to a wide variety of factors, folks are waiting longer to have children, and as a result, are experiencing fertility challenges. In addition, the increasing amount of stress to which we are exposed on a regular basis further inhibits our reproductive function.
Infertility comprises a wide variety of issues. Individuals and couples want to both resolve or reduce the symptoms of infertility, but they also need to manage the overwhelming feelings associated with the process. Both goals can easily be managed in the outpatient setting.
Fertility challenges may include, but are not limited to:
Male Factor Fertility Issues
Male factor infertility refers to the inability of a man’s sperm to fertilize an ovum.
Male fertility depends on three primary elements:
there must be adequate spermatozoa production by the testes
the sperm must be able to travel unobstructed through the seminal duct and
the sperm must reach the ovum without fail.
These elements often go awry and produce the following fertility challenges:
Low sperm count: this is defined as less than 20 million sperm per milliliter (the “normal” sperm count is 200 million per ejaculate)
Low sperm motility: this is defined as less than 50% of the sperm have purposeful forward movement towards the ovum.
Poor sperm morphology: this is defined as less than 30% of the sperm having normal form and shape.
Female Factor Fertility Issues
There are many conditions associated with female factor infertility. Some of those medical challenges include:
Uterine and Pelvic Abnormalities
Abnormal uterus due to birth defects, uterine fibroids, insufficient endometrial lining, and endometriosis.
Pelvic abnormalities such as anatomical problems with the vagina or cervix, disease and/or damage to the fallopian tubes, endometriosis which compromises the fallopian tubes, or is present in the pelvic cavity, and adhesions and/or damage to the pelvic cavity.
Hostile Cervical Mucus and issues with “sperm allergy”, excessive thickness, and inadequate estrogen.
Primary amenorrhea – lack of a first menstrual cycle
Secondary amenorrhea – lack of menses after initial menstruation
Polymenorrhea – more than one menstrual cycle within a 26-day period
Hypomenorrhea – significant reduction in the length and volume of menses
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome PCOS is the most common metabolic disorder affecting women today, and goes undetected in approximately 75% of the women who have this disorder. While women of all ethnic groups may suffer from PCOS, there is an increased incidence in women who are Hispanic, Native American and Asian. It occurs in as many as 10% of women in their childbearing years and can wreak havoc with fertility.
The mechanism in PCOS is an excessive production of androgens, or “male hormones” (although we all have them), that inhibit normal ovulation. Instead of producing and ripening one large ovum, or egg, each month, women with PCOS may develop many, tiny, fluid-filled, non-cancerous cysts on their ovaries (which, in turn, increases the androgen level even further).
Typical signs and symptoms associated with PCOS include:
Irregular menses (when not taking Oral Contraception)
Extremely light menstrual periods
Overweight, even if only by 5-10% of body weight
Excessive hair growth (on the face, pubic region, and abdomen particularly)
Increased levels of testosterone
Other challenges associated with PCOS include:
Insulin Resistance Syndrome (IR)
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
High blood pressure
High cholesterol and
Treatment for PCOS is grounded in lifestyle change. By improving nutrition, increasing exercise, lowering cholesterol and avoiding tobacco and other toxins, the impact of PCOS may be significantly diminished. In addition, treatment with medication such as Metformin (Glucophage) may improve hyperinsulinism, menstrual regularity, and fertility.
Unexplained Infertility – or Yet to be Explained Infertility
“Unexplained infertility” is the term which describes a couple’s inability to conceive, despite healthy reproductive function, and in spite of repeated and varied efforts to conceive and maintain a pregnancy.
It is this “diagnosis” which is most responsive to Integrative Medical efforts. These interventions move outside the “normal” fertility box and explore the impacts of all elements and systems on fertility, rather than those associated with just the reproductive organs. Typically, that which has been “unexplained” through conventional methods, becomes referred to as “yet to be explained” in Integrative approaches.
Every year, nearly six million women become pregnant. About 60% of those women have live births, but nearly a third lose their pregnancies. Of those that lose pregnancies, more than one million are to planned termination. Another 700,000 pregnancies are lost to ectopic and molar pregnancies, miscarriage, and stillbirth.
We treat a multitude of symptoms associated with pregnancy loss including the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual sequelae of the loss.
Physical issues associated with pregnancy loss may include insufficient evacuation following miscarriage, continued pain, bleeding, fever and infection. Our team works closely with physicians to ensure that these health needs, as well as any others are addressed quickly. Because many women desire pregnancy, we make every effort to avoid negative impacts to a woman’s fertility.
Treatment of pregnancy loss also includes managing the grief and psychological impacts associated with this kind of loss. Whether the pregnancy loss is associated with miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy or with a planned termination of the pregnancy, complex emotions will follow the loss. Even if a woman is not able to bring a pregnancy to term for whatever reason, she may feel a mixture of feelings following the loss. Following abortion, many women express relief mixed with disappointment, sadness, guilt and even shame. Addressing these feelings with a clinician can allow a woman to gain closure about the loss.
While many people do not consider the spiritual impacts of pregnancy loss, the clinicians at Healing Heart Center realize that these issues deserve to be addressed. Whether a couple is addressing feelings such as guilt following a planned termination or feelings such as spiritual abandonment following miscarriage, relief and peace can be achieved by openly discussing these feelings with clinicians and spiritual advisors.
Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART)
IVF & IUI
ART refers to a number of different procedures that can be used to overcome both male and female fertility problems. ART is specifically defined as any procedure that involves manipulating both the egg and the sperm. This means that any treatment that involves removing, mixing, and replacing the sperm and egg is a form of ART.
ART is now commonly used throughout North America and Europe. Introduced in 1983 with the first IVF (invitro fertilization) birth, ART procedures now account for over 30,000 live births every year. This is approximately 1% of the total number of live births in the United States. (Shared Journey, 2007,http://www.sharedjourney.com/art.htm).
Our staff work closely with the clinicians at Reproductive Wellness as well as with local Fertility Specialists to enable couples to achieve fertility goals and to be as prepared as possible for these procedures.
Whether couples are motivated by their spiritual beliefs, values or by research and experience, many want to opt for natural solutions to fertility challenges. The Integrative options for fertility enhancement provide that!
Integrative Medical Approaches to Fertility Challenges
According to new research from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, women who undergo IVF increase their chances of pregnancy if they are also treated with acupuncture. The benefits may be large - a 65% increase in the chance of becoming pregnant, and a 91% increase in the number of live births.
We are committed to serving the best interests with our clients who are struggling with fertility challenges. Treatment of these issues may not only include individual, couples and group psychotherapy, but may also combine services such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, nutritional counseling, movement therapy, meditation, and intuitive consultation when necessary. Vibrational and herbal medical services, as well as nutritional counseling and massage are provided through our collaboration with the clinical staff at Reproductive Wellness.