Is men’s health important for fertility?

(Isn’t fertility a “women’s problem”?)

Written by Charmaine Dennis, naturopath

The truth is, male fertility is declining at such a rapid rate that it is not just an issue for up to 50% of couples experiencing infertility, it has become a real public health issue.

Sperm concentrations in western men have declined 50% over the past 40 years according to a recent research review.1 Particularly associated with advancing age, lifestyle, diet choices and environmental factors, the consequences on the future of human population is concerning to say the least.

The information we share with our patients at Fertile Ground is so important for men to embrace – environmental, nutritional, physical exercise and psychological support, combined with the use of appropriate supplementation. Attention and focus here can really improve semen parameters and prevent infertility, improving the chance for a couple to conceive spontaneously or optimise their chances of conception.2-4 Where possible, it is just as important for men donating sperm too.

In our experience, men are not always on board with exploring this territory let alone committing to all the changes. They may be too confronted or embarrassed or just unwilling to wade through this kind of information about health and fertility like women often are.

We also know that some men really see how their sperm is a reflection of their overall health and they are ready to make change and prevent more potentially serious health consequences in the future, as well as improve their sperm health and fertility. When men get on board with this, we do see time and time again how important it is for the women they are making babies with.

When men make a concerted effort to help improve their own fertility and the healthy conception and pregnancy outcomes, women feel so supported, so much more able to adhere to the recommendations themselves, and as an added bonus of course, it is good for the relationship too!

  1. Levine H, Jørgensen N, Martino-Andrade A, et al. Temporal trends in sperm count: A systematic review and meta-regression analysis. Hum Reprod Update. 2017;23(6):646-659. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmx022.
  2. Ilacqua A, Izzo G, Emerenziani G Pietro, Baldari C, Aversa A. Lifestyle and fertility: The influence of stress and quality of life on male fertility. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2018;16(1):1-11. doi:10.1186/s12958-018-0436-9.
  3. Salas-Huetos A, Bulló M, Salas-Salvadó J. Dietary patterns, foods and nutrients in male fertility parameters and fecundability: A systematic review of observational studies. Hum Reprod Update. 2017;23(4):371-389. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmx006.
  4. Gaskins AJ, Chavarro JE. Diet and fertility: a review. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2018;218(4):379-389. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2017.08.010.

Does acupuncture really help improve IVF outcomes?

The latest review of evidence is out and yes the results are clear. It seems it has been missed by many as it was published in the holidays on the 2nd January 2019!

This is considered the most up to date evidence from a systematic review and meta-analysis and should help to clarify the benefits and rectify the recent misunderstanding from a study published in 2018 that put the use of acupuncture under question.

If you are interested to read the research in full, follow the link to the review and jump to the discussion section for details on effectiveness.

Here is the link: “Acupuncture performed around the time of embryo transfer: a systematic review and meta-analysis”  Smith, Caroline A. et al. Reproductive BioMedicine Online, Volume 38 , Issue 3 , 364 – 379

In this review of all of the latest and relevant evidence from English speaking publications, Smith concludes that:

  • Acupuncture with IVF may have potentially significant benefits when compared to IVF only in regard to both clinical pregnancy AND live birth rates.
  • Acupuncture seems most effective when there are more treatments (higher dose) than just pre and posttransfer acupuncture – especially with treatment in both the stimulation and implantation phase.
  • Further benefits are seen when points selected are tailored to the individual rather than using a pre-prescribed treatment protocol.
  • Benefits are especially true for women who have had multiple previous IVF cycles.

What has been confusing in recent research and discussed in this review is that when acupuncture is compared to sham acupuncture as the control, the benefits are not seen for acupuncture over sham acupuncture. Rather than negating the effects of acupuncture (which seem clearly beneficial), this begs further questions about the placebo effect of acupuncture and/or the validity of sham acupuncture – these devices or points used may not be inert after all and have some effect.

It seems acupuncture is in fact considered effective when compared to IVF alone and worth pursuing for IVF patients.

Smith also mentions how acupuncture may be working via the stress relieving and psychosocial benefits with a significant anxiolytic effect reported and potential beneficial effects such as increase in uterine blood flow, endogenous endorphins and cytokines. The non-needling benefits of acupuncture treatment (the holistic nature of a consultation with palpation, education, self-care and diagnosis etc) are discussed too.

Smith further states that acupuncture remains a low-risk intervention.

While it is so good to read this validation of the use of acupuncture during IVF, for us, although our patients having a take home baby is obviously a key desired outcome, benefits of treatment are not only about the pregnancy and live birth rates. Reduced anxiety levels and a better ability to cope with infertility and IVF is so important for people with poor outcomes, fragile emotional health, and those doing back to back cycles who need to ‘gear up again’ after a negative result. This effect cannot be underestimated. Sometimes it can be the difference between patients feeling like they have the internal resources to take on the next cycle, or need a break. Regular acupuncture with practitioners skilled in working with IVF patients can provide support they need to navigate their experience as seamlessly as possible, potentially with fewer side effects and positive outcomes more quickly.

We continue to offer acupuncture services to support IVF patients at Fertile Ground Health Group as a 1:1 appointment or in our multi-bed facility which works really well for the flexibility of fitting IVF transfer patients in on the day when they find out their transfer times.

We generally recommend patients come in at least once before the transfer as the follicles are stimulated, one to two times on the day of transfer, and another around five to seven days after transfer for implantation support.

Even more ideally where possible and time permitting, we recommend weekly appointments in the two to three cycles leading up to IVF.

Hope you find this helpful. If you are considering booking in. you can see our practitioner profiles here or go straight to our online booking page here.

Please help us share this information to anyone you know involved with IVF as a specialist, practitioner or patient to ensure they know about choices available for appropriate supportive treatments.

Our acupuncture team is more than happy to write or speak about this new systematic review and meta-analysis to IVF and fertility groups too. Please be in touch if you have an opportunity for us to be involved in spreading the word about this.

CharmaineDENNISC

 

Charmaine Dennis is the founding director of Fertile Ground Health Group and has been practicing naturopathic fertility and preconception health care for nearly 20 years. She is passionate about collaborative health care and ensuring that people going through IVF are given accurate information about all the many ways IVF outcomes can be improved with lifestyle and complementary medicine interventions.

 

 

Is there an acupuncture treatment to support IVF?

The use of acupuncture treatment to support IVF has fast become a popular treatment. When considering the use of Acupuncture to support IVF and other ART there are a few key components of treatment to consider.

Some people undertake only the minimum pre-transfer and post-transfer appointments to support the embryo transfer.  Most embark on a more holistic program of treatment aiming to treat the whole person and underlying issues that may be affecting fertility.

At Fertile Ground Health Group, it is our preference to treat more holistically, and we would usually see patients weekly in the lead up to egg collection and transfer.  We also have an excellent system that allows us to cater to short term patients, however most current research suggests just doing embryo transfer (ET) acupuncture does not appear to benefit IVF outcomes when compared to any controls; but may improve outcomes when compared to no treatment.

What does the research tell us?

Acupuncture is associated with more live births when administered at a larger dose (9-12 visits prior to ET). At FGHG we recommend regular weekly treatments with women and couples trying to conceive and undergoing IVF.  Working weekly enables us to address underlying health issues that may be affecting fertility, as well as working across a cycle to maximise hormone balancing and cycle regulation, follicular and endometrial development, stress as well as addressing any side effects from medications.

Acupuncture is proposed to aid fertility in three ways:

  1. By inhibiting central sympathetic nerve activity to promote vasodilation and increase blood flow to ovaries and uterus.
  2. Inducing neurotransmitters, which activate hormonal activity in the pituitary gland, increasing ovulation, menstrual regularity, and overall fertility.
  3. Increase the ‘feel good hormones’ mitigating adverse stress response.
When should I start acupuncture in relation to my IVF or ART cycle?

We suggest starting acupuncture as many as three cycles prior to starting IVF or any ART, this suggestion is based on the whole systems TCM approach. The Whole systems approach has shown significantly more benefits compared with just doing protocol acupuncture for embryo transfer.

In any Acupuncture treatment, it is also important to note that the treatment is always designed in relation to what a woman needs constitutionally and specifically at the time of treatment.  Based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) your practitioner will assess your health and address any concerns presenting on the day.  For example if a patient has a headache, or pain remaining from egg collection, point selection takes this into account.

A follow up treatment one week after the transfer is also recommended in support of possible implantation.  This is also a time when many women find their stress levels and anxiety start to peak. The relaxing effects of Acupuncture as well as the chance to talk to their practitioner about how they are feeling during this waiting period is highly advantageous.  Treatment aims are similar to the post transfer treatment – settling everything down, supporting implantation and circulation to the uterus, etc.

Prior to starting any IVF cycles, Acupuncture treatment for approximately three months prior for both partners is advisable. Acupuncture is recognised by the World Health Organisation as a treatment for infertility and is used to help the couple to optimise their health and maximise their chances of success. However even without this, the research into the effects of Acupuncture on the outcomes of IVF cycles by just focusing on the pre- and post-transfer treatments is more than favourable.

I want to know more

In 2008 the British Medical Journal published a world first meta-analysis by highly respected Cochrane Review researchers and scientists.  The meta-analysis assessed the main research from around the world pertaining to acupuncture and IVF.  The results clearly showed a positive association between the use of acupuncture and increased success rates with IVF.  For more information on the Cochrane Review and the meta-analysis, see:

 Manheimer E, Zhang G, Udoff L, et al. Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilisation: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2008;336 (7643):545-549.

For more studies see below

Impact of Whole Systems Traditional Chinese Medicine on In Vitro Fertilization Outcomes

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4458185/

The relationship between perceived stress, acupuncture, and pregnancy rates among IVF patients: a pilot study.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20621276

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3962314/

Identify your Unique Fertility Needs

Sage King Unique Fertility Needs Fertile Ground Health Group

What’s your Fertility Plan and do you know how to identify your unique fertility needs?

Welcome to this free 6-part article series designed to help you determine your fertility plan and understand the steps you can take to optimise your fertility outcomes. 

Over these 6 weeks we are going to discuss all potential options for those of you who are:

  • single, 
  • in same-sex relationships, 
  • are gender non-conforming, 
  • or are in a heterosexual relationship.

In these articles I will address information around:

  • trying to conceive, 
  • options if you have been struggling to conceive, 
  • considerations for those of you thinking about IVF, 
  • considerations for those of you currently undergoing IVF treatment,
  • how beneficial naturopathy can be in optimising your fertility outcomes.

Opportunity to Ask Me Questions – LIVE

After each article release, you have the option to submit any questions you may have by 7pm Monday evening to the Create A Fertile Life Facebook group. If you’ve not yet joined that private group you are welcome to go there and request to join.

If you wish to submit your questions anonymously, you can private message the Fertile Ground Health Group Facebook page and admin will forward them to me. 

Each Tuesday, I will be answering your questions live in this Create a Fertile Life Facebook group at 7pm AEDT, so we can all learn from each other.

Your Fertility Plan

Now, some of you may know exactly what your plan is, others may not have thought about it so concisely yet. Whatever stage you are at, I want you to provide you with the tools to determine what your fertility plan can look like and how you can optimise your outcomes with Naturopathy. Grab a pen and a piece of paper, or type in to a document on your phone/computer so that you can create the skeleton of the items that relate to YOUR individual journey and we will build on this each week over the next 6 weeks. 

I am excited to embark on this journey with you. Let’s get started!

Part One: Identify Your Unique Fertility Needs

In the same way that we are all our own unique individuals, no two fertility journeys nor pregnancies are the same.  It is important for you to identify what your family plan looks like, taking into consideration your age, who your fertility plan involves – who is providing the egg (you or your partner?), who is providing the sperm (you or your partner? Sperm donor – known? Clinic recruited?), who will be carrying the pregnancy and in which timeframe you wish to try to conceive. 

Age & egg quality

For individual’s trying to conceive, age is something that is spoken about regularly. I see frustration in many of my patients when age is spoken about and I understand that frustration because, well, you know the impacts of age on fertility. While age is something we cannot change, thorough preconception care can positively influence your egg quality and reduce the impacts of biological age as much as is possible. 

Statistics show a decline in fertility from 35 years of age, with a further decrease after 40-42 years of age. (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Gynecologic Practice, 2014; Fertility Society of Australia, 2018) Individuals assigned female at birth are born with all their eggs and research now shows that egg quality can be positively influenced in the 100 days before ovulation. (Fertility Society of Australia, 2018)

If you’re 34 years old or younger, you’re fortunate enough to have at least 12 months to undertake a thorough preconception screening and treatment protocol. 

If you’re 35 years or older, your time to conceive considerations are a little different. If you’re wanting to try to conceive within the next 3, 6, 9, 12 months, it is essential you undergo a thorough preconception screening for your individualised preconception care as soon as possible to maximise your time to influence your biology in a positive way. The more time, the better! In some cases, the best opportunity to conceive involves using donor eggs, however this is something that is determined on a case by case scenario and takes many factors into account.

Timeframe of starting your fertility journey

Have you considered the time in which you want to start trying to conceive? Considerations include your age, sourcing a sperm donor and individualised preconception recommendations. It is good to start with an estimated time frame. The time required to optimise your health for conception will become clearer once you’ve undertaken a thorough preconception screening. 

The minimum recommendation for your optimal preconception screening is 3 months. However, some of my patients have more time-sensitive scenarios where we will tailor their treatment protocols to support where they’re at in their fertility journey, whilst closely monitoring their pathology and working alongside their fertility specialist.

Questions you might want to consider
  • What does your timeframe of trying to conceive look like? 
  • Do you have an age in mind of when you want to start your fertility journey or have children? 
  • Given the information you know now, has this changed or become clearer? 
  • Will you need support in trying to improve your cellular health and egg quality due to your biological age? 

Maybe you’ve already started your fertility journey and unfortunately are yet to achieve conception. No matter what your circumstances, preconception screening and care is the best way to optimise your…

Want to keep reading? Sign up to get instant free access to Sage’s preconception article series and find out about the intricacies of your menstrual cycle, sperm donor considerations, intercourse, conception, egg quality, egg carrying considerations, assisted reproductive technology, home insemination, the answers to your questions and more.

Written by Fertile Ground fertility Naturopath, Sage King.

MA’s love letters – June 2021

MA Love Letter June 2021

We’ve been receiving MA’s monthly love letters from The Melbourne Apothecary since the beginning of 2020. These letters contain links to a variety of life enhancing freebies that our fabulous practitioners are constantly creating to help you cope during COVID and beyond.

The letters are also a fantastic and charismatic resource that share all the goings on within both The MA and Fertile Ground. So we thought we’d best share them with you here so that you can join in and receive the monthly intel from our delightful and ever wisdomous MA. Please enjoy.

Hello and a wonderful crisp sunny June to you!

I feel really thrilled to write to you this month (ahem – I feel thrilled every month actually because I just LOVE connecting with you about my favourite thing – health 🥳 ). I have 3 fabulous things to share.

Free preconception series
Firstly, this month Sage King, one of our expert fertility Naturopaths, has put together a 6 part article series designed to help you navigate your fertility journey and create your Fertility Plan. And what a wealth of information this is. I have had the privilege of sneak peeking a couple of Sage’s articles and I can tell you they are off ⚓️ the ⚓️ hook ⚓️ with information about options to proceed and succeed when creating your healthy family 💕

The way Sage writes is so comprehensive AND YET so digestible and clear. Find out more about what this series covers and then go ahead and register to receive all the freebies.

👉Sign up here for the Free Preconception series

World Environment Day
Saturday the 5th of June is World Environment Day 💕 🌏 💕 This day is designed to encourage awareness and action for the protection of the environment – which is SO glorious!🦚🐍🦧🦩🦥🕸🦜🐊🦓🦔🦙🐇🦕

I recently watched David Attenborough’s latest film, ‘A Life on This Planet’. It was completely motivating and deeply eye opening  👀  beyond the level that my plant farming, naturopathic, chemically free, environment loving eyes have been opened before…

The result? We started a Sustainability Action Group at Fertile Ground and The MA – SAG for short (because SAGging is what my heart ♥ does when I think of the health of our planet and what will happen if we, personally and as a community, don’t take greater responsibility for our daily actions that contribute to the devastation of this world).

Fertile Ground and The Melbourne Apothecary already have deep values of sustainability and supporting climate action ✨ 🌏 💓 however after watching this film📽we stirred into even greater action to identify all the ways that we must DO BETTER in the clinic – our revised mission being helping people to make healthy babies — AND a healthy planet for them to live on!

So please see our MA instagram posts to check out what we’re identifying and changing in the clinic to do better ourselves, and perhaps you’ll find some motivation and inspiration therefor things you can do at home to help healthify the planet even more too♥️

Food cravings?
The third thing I want to touch on is food cravings. It’s lockdown again here in Melbourne, and if you’re a person you are likely feeling emotions about that.😧😪😶😡😩🤨🧐🤯

Many of us use food as an emotional buffer🧀🌭🍕🥖🍔🥞🍫🍷

When things get a bit emotionally intense (hello the last 1+ years of COVID…)it’s a good idea to get some support around healthy eating ESPECIALLY if you know that you have a relationship with food that you’d like to change for the better, or one that becomes topsy turvy during stress.

Read this bang on article from Jane Holland, our MA holistic nutritionist, all about diving under the surface of food cravings. Remember that Jane is available for free 10 minute consults to you if you want to connect with her and find out how you can begin to create a healthier relationship with your food.

Read Food Cravings – what are you really craving? With Nutritionist, Jane Holland

Love & Wooly Jackets
Your MA💕

Do you need Preconception Screening?

Preconception Screening by Naturopath Sage King

What’s your Fertility Plan and do you need preconception screening?

Welcome to this free 6-part article series designed to help you determine your fertility plan and understand the steps you can take to optimise your fertility outcomes. Below you’ll find Part 2 – “Do You Need Preconception Screening?” If you’ve already read article 1 feel welcome to skip this intro and get stuck into part 2 below. If this is, however, your first time finding out about this series – please read on to learn what it’s about, how it can help you and what to expect over the coming weeks.

Over this free 6 week article series we are going to discuss all potential options for those of you who are:

  • single, 
  • in same-sex relationships, 
  • are gender non-conforming, 
  • or are in a heterosexual relationship.

In these articles I will address information around:

  • trying to conceive, 
  • options if you have been struggling to conceive, 
  • considerations for those of you thinking about IVF, 
  • considerations for those of you currently undergoing IVF treatment,
  • how beneficial naturopathy can be in optimising your fertility outcomes.

Opportunity to Ask Me Questions – LIVE

After each article release, you have the option to submit any questions you may have by 7pm Monday evening to the Create A Fertile Life Facebook group. If you’ve not yet joined that private group you are welcome to go there and request to join.

If you wish to submit your questions anonymously, you can private message the Fertile Ground Health Group Facebook page and admin will forward them to me. 

Each Tuesday, I will be answering your questions live in this Create a Fertile Life Facebook group at 7pm AEDT, so we can all learn from each other.

Your Fertility Plan

Now, some of you may know exactly what your plan is, others may not have thought about it so concisely yet. Whatever stage you are at, I want you to provide you with the tools to determine what your fertility plan can look like and how you can optimise your outcomes with Naturopathy. Grab a pen and a piece of paper, or type in to a document on your phone/computer so that you can create the skeleton of the items that relate to YOUR individual journey and we will build on this each week over the 6 weeks of this series. 

I am excited to be on this journey with you. If you’ve already registered for the whole free package, take a sneak peek at part two below and check your inbox for the arrival of your full comprehensive article for this week (week 2).

If you’re just finding this free series now and would like access from part 1 all the way to part 6 – simply register here for your free access to the whole package.

Part Two: Do You Need Preconception Screening?


Before we jump in to preconception screening, it’s important to understand what your optimal preconception window is, why it’s important, what medical preconception screenings are available to you, and how naturopathic clinical assessments and further pathology investigations provide us with key information to tailor your treatment plan to complement your fertility journey. 

 

Your Optimal Preconception Window

As we touched on last week, the optimal preconception window for both egg and sperm quality is approximately 3-4 months. This is because although individuals assigned female at birth are born with the basic cells that will eventually form their eggs, these follicles do not contain eggs ready for fertilisation. In order to develop eggs required for fertilisation, they must go through what’s known as ‘maturation’ and this process takes approximately 100 days. So the egg released during ovulation each month actually started maturing 3-4 months ago! (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Gynecologic Practice, 2014; Fertility Society of Australia, 2018). This means that given 3-4 months of tailored preconception care, you can positively influence the health and development of your ovaries, follicles, and the eggs maturing and growing inside. 

Similarly, when it comes to sperm health, preconception screening and care is just as important as egg quality. Sperm also undergo a process of development ready for ejaculation, and take nearly 90 days to be produced from scratch to the time they are ejaculated. So the sperm trying to fertilise an egg this month was already being produced 3 months ago! (Rowley, et al., 1970)

But what if time is not on my side?

For many of my patients, time is of the essence with their fertility plan; due to age, their partner’s age, and if they’re about to/are already undertaking IVF. Time considerations will also vary for individuals wishing to freeze their eggs due to egg freezing not being recommended for individuals older than 38 years of age. If this is you, in these circumstances, I still recommend preconception screening so we can use this information to tailor a treatment protocol to complement any stage of your fertility journey. By implementing key dietary, lifestyle, nutritional, and (where indicated) herbal medicine interventions, I can support you at any stage of your fertility journey. However, if time is not on your side and/or you are currently undergoing IVF, our treatment protocol aims to support your egg quality & endometrial receptivity in the background so that should you be unsuccessful, we have begun to positively influence your egg and sperm quality throughout this window putting you in a better position than before.   

 

Preconception Screening and Your Health Team

It can be really overwhelming knowing where to start with preparing to conceive. Some of my patients come to their initial consultation with blood test results referred by their GP for general health, nutritional status, immunological markers, cervical screening, and sexually transmitted disease (STD) screening. If their fertility specialist has referred them for further testing, I review these test results too. 

While it requires some organisation and commitment, pathology testing provides us with very important data about your health status. If you have already had preconception testing performed, how long ago did you have them conducted?

Want to keep reading? Sign up to get instant free access to Sage’s preconception article series and find out about the intricacies of your menstrual cycle, sperm donor considerations, intercourse, conception, egg quality, egg carrying considerations, assisted reproductive technology, home insemination, the answers to your questions and more.

Written by Fertile Ground fertility Naturopath, Sage King.

Ten Fertility Enhancing Foods

Ten fertility enhancing foods

Let’s talk about the top ten fertility enhancing foods. Of course, there are a number of foods that are great for fertility and health, however there are some that are indeed more super than others. Getting the basics of healthy heating right is the most important step. From there you can integrate some nutrient dense superfood options that are still commonly over looked by many people.

There is a lot of talk about superfoods and all the amazing things they have to offer for just about every conceivable human ailment and worry. From Cacao to Gubinge, Maca to Goji and Acai the promises include increased fertility, cures for cancer, recovery from all sorts of disease, anxiety and woe. Certainly these foods have so much to offer and definitely can be considered to be powerful, nutrient dense foods with super qualities. However, they fall short of being miracle foods. No amount of goji berries is going to make up for the 2 or 3 coffees or cokes you might drink in a day, or if you gorge on junk foods week after week. If you haven’t got the basics covered, superfoods are not your miracle cure-all for a modern-day poor lifestyle.

Get the basics right first

While superfoods can be fantastic, we (naturopaths and nutritionists) are big believers in the necessity of getting the basics right. Eat whole, live foods that are as close to their fresh form as possible, preferably locally grown or even better straight from your garden. This includes veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, pulses, grains, meat, fish and dairy. Often it’s the unassuming, simple whole foods that actually have incredible super qualities that should be taken advantage of daily.

Consider blueberries, salmon, oats, green leafy veggies and garlic just to name a few. To be super, food does not necessarily need to be exotic. For example, eating a seasonal diet ensures that the foods you do consume are as fresh as possible and are consumed when they are picked – not after they have been stored for a year or two. Truly super eating is actually quite simple. The foods we most commonly refer to as superfoods (spirulina, maca, goji, acai, etc.) are really just the cherry on top!

Superfoods are a useful and highly beneficial addition to your diet. But of course, as always, there is no quick fix and no way around eating the basic ‘super’ foods with every meal, everyday for ultimate health and a fertile life.

Tips for daily essential top 10 ‘super’ foods for fertility and health

 

Chia seeds

Chia is an important addition to your diet if you aren’t already eating it. It’s gluten free and as well as being high in fibre, it absorbs water to form a gelatinous texture that is soothing and healing to your digestive tract. Chia contains eight times more Omega 3 than salmon, more calcium than dairy, is high in iron as well as vitamin C, potassium and antioxidants. Best of all, chia seeds are a complete protein and contain all 8 essential amino acids. Athletes find Chia seeds improve endurance and hydration as well as maintaining blood sugar levels. Aim for 1-2 tablespoons daily.

Blueberries

These little bundles of joy are packed full of antioxidants! Blueberries are low in sugar (a low GI fruit) and so are great for women with PCOS or people trying to lose weight. They are a good source of fibre, vitamin C, manganese and Vitamin K. Best of all, they taste delicious. Be careful to choose organic with berries as they are commonly sprayed because bugs really like berries too. Look for local berries as many berries available in major supermarkets have been shipped from across the globe (often China), which makes it harder to ensure the freshness and quality of your final product.

Green leafy vegetables

Include silverbeet, spinach, rocket, kale, lettuce, parsley, coriander, mint, etc in your diet. These foods are a good source of fibre as well as being high in important vitamins A, B, C, K and folate. They are essential for women who are preparing for pregnancy or are pregnant as they contain folinic acid, which is the most absorbable form of folate. Maximise your daily intake with a green smoothie during the warmer months.

Eggs

Free range, organic eggs are one of your best sources of protein, vitamin D, B12, zinc, phosphorus and selenium. Yes, they contain cholesterol, so if it is a problem for you, take fish oil at the same time to lessen the absorption of cholesterol. Also, as part of a healthy diet that is low in saturated fat and high in healthy fats, a little cholesterol is required. Cholesterol has been painted as the bad guy but it’s also what our hormones are synthesised from. If cholesterol is an issue, check with your naturopath about how to use food to regain control.

Yoghurt

Organic, full-fat, unflavoured yoghurt contains calcium, good fats and ‘friendly bacteria’ to keep your digestive system healthy. Have a serve of yoghurt daily to keep your immune system strong.

Quinoa

While technically a seed, quinoa cooks up like a grain and unlike most (even whole) grains, quinoa is a complete protein. That simply means that it contains all 9 essential amino acids. It also contains more fibre than other grains and is rich in essential fatty acids, iron, lysine (great if you suffer from cold sores), magnesium, B2 and manganese. Quinoa is also gluten free. It is a significantly better grain choice than pasta or even brown rice due to its protein and nutrient content.

Salmon

One of the richest sources of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. It’s also high in protein, selenium and B vitamins, especially B12. Eat salmon with the bones for the added bonus of calcium. Most of the salmon in Australia is farmed but the best source is Huon Tasmanian salmon. Locate your nearest Huon stockist.

Oats
High in soluble fibre, oats eaten daily have been shown to lower and help maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure. They improve bowel function and are a good source of B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc and selenium – all the best nutrients for fertility. Oats are also considered to be a ‘nervine tonic’ in herbal medicine, which means they are useful for calming and nourishing your nervous system.

Walnuts

Researchers from UCLA in California found that men who ate a couple of handfuls of walnuts (75gms) a day saw improvements in their semen quality. They found improvements in sperm motility and morphology and the suggestion is that it was due to walnuts being a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (an Omega-3). Other benefits with these great fats include improved brain and heart health. Be sure the walnuts taste fresh and are organic.

Remember, superfoods are a useful and highly beneficial addition to your already amazing diet. As always, there is no quick fix and no way around eating the basic ‘super’ foods at every meal, everyday for ultimate health. Get the basics right and build from there.

Your Guide to IVF

Part 6 - Your Guide to IVF by Naturopath Sage King

What’s your Fertility Plan and are you considering IVF?

Welcome to this free 6-part article series designed to help you determine your fertility plan and understand the steps you can take to optimise your fertility outcomes. Below you’ll find Part 6 – “Your Guide to IVF” If you’ve already read articles 1 to 5 feel welcome to skip this intro and get stuck into part 6 below. If this is, however, your first time finding out about this series – please read on to learn what it’s about, how it can help you and what to expect over the coming weeks.

Over this free 6 week article series we are going to discuss all potential options for those of you who are:

  • single,
  • in same-sex relationships,
  • are gender non-conforming,
  • or are in a heterosexual relationship.

In these articles I will address information around:

  • trying to conceive,
  • options if you have been struggling to conceive,
  • considerations for those of you thinking about IVF,
  • considerations for those of you currently undergoing IVF treatment,
  • how beneficial naturopathy can be in optimising your fertility outcomes.

Opportunity to Ask Me Questions – LIVE

After each article release, you have the option to submit any questions you may have by 7pm Monday evening to the Create A Fertile Life Facebook group. If you’ve not yet joined that private group you are welcome to go there and request to join.

If you wish to submit your questions anonymously, you can private message the Fertile Ground Health Group Facebook page and admin will forward them to me.

Each Tuesday, I will be answering your questions live in this Create a Fertile Life Facebook group at 7pm AEDT, so we can all learn from each other. The first live session was Tuesday, June 8th at 7pm AEDT and these lives will run each Tuesday evening all the way through to Tuesday July 20th. Cut off for question submission is 7pm AEDT each Monday – the day before ‘live’ Tuesdays. You can always watch the recording if you miss the live, just jump onto the Create a Fertile Life facebook group and you’ll see it there.

Your Fertility Plan

Now, some of you may know exactly what your plan is, others may not have thought about it so concisely yet. Whatever stage you are at, I want you to provide you with the tools to determine what your fertility plan can look like and how you can optimise your outcomes with Naturopathy. Grab a pen and a piece of paper, or type in to a document on your phone/computer so that you can create the skeleton of the items that relate to YOUR individual journey and we will build on this each week over the 6 weeks of this series.

I am excited to be on this journey with you. If you’ve already registered for the whole free package, read on for part four below. If you’re just finding this free series now and would like access from part 1 all the way to part 6 – simply register here for your free access to the whole package

Part 6 – Your Guide to IVF

Did you know the first baby in Australia conceived using IVF was only born in 1980?1 The IVF process has developed quickly in the past 40 years, and has helped many individuals and couples successfully bring babies into this world. In some cases, the impact of IVF in achieving a successful live birth is undeniable, however IVF does not guarantee a successful live birth. One key and integral part of the fertility process that IVF can not do, is have the ability to positively influence the quality of the egg and sperm in order to optimise your outcomes. Even though IVF allows fertilisation to occur in a much more controlled environment, it can only work with the quality of egg and sperm you currently have. So if you begin the IVF process with suboptimal egg and sperm quality, which may very well be part of the reason as to why conception is not being successful for heterosexual couples for example, then you’re already starting the process on the back foot so to speak.

What is IVF?

In a nutshell, IVF is a process in which eggs and sperm are collected and placed together in a Petri dish to see if fertilisation occurs before transferring a successful embryo back into the uterus where hopefully a successful pregnancy occurs. But how do we get to that stage you may be wondering? IVF is a process that begins on the first day of your period (cycle day one) and involves hormonal stimulation to increase the amount of follicles (and therefore eggs) that your ovaries produce in one cycle, to try to maximise the chances of achieving fertilisation and successful pregnancy. For some individuals, this process may be omitted due to poor ovarian function and/or age, and involves the use of a donor egg in place of hormone stimulation.

Seems pretty straightforward, right? In some cases it is, in some cases it can be quite complex, and treatment may change from cycle to cycle depending on your results. However, no matter how straightforward or complex your case may be, there is always the opportunity to influence your egg and sperm quality, and endometrial health to support the transfer process to optimise your outcomes. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s break down the IVF process from start to finish and understand what it entails. Then we can continue our outcomes optimisation later (may favourite part!).

The IVF Process
Each IVF cycle takes approximately 4 weeks, starting with treatment on the first day of your period, Cycle Day One, and finishes with your pregnancy (hCG) test which is conducted two weeks after embryo transfer. Many IVF clinics say that step one begins at the initial specialist appointment, but I count step one as seeing your GP to get a referral in order to book your fertility specialist appointment. So keeping in mind that these steps may have slight variations depending on your case (using donor eggs or sperm) and IVF clinic, starting from step one all the way to step thirteen, let’s break it down…

Step 1
Book an appointment to see your GP
You will need to see your GP in order to get a referral to see a fertility specialist. If you have a fertility specialist in mind, great. If not, your GP will be able to point you in the right direction.

Step 2
Initial fertility specialist appointment
At this appointment, your fertility specialist will review your medical history, previous investigations, and treatments. They may refer you for further investigations based on your case.1

Step 3
Pre-treatment fertility specialist consultation
At this appointment, your fertility specialist will confirm your treatment plan.1

Step 4
Fertility nurse appointment
Your fertility nurse will explain your treatment cycle timeline, the medication you need, and will show you how to administer any self-administered medications including Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) injections.

Sign up below to read the next 13 steps. 

Want to keep reading? Sign up to get instant free access to Sage’s preconception article series and find out about the intricacies of egg freezing, your menstrual cycle, sperm donor considerations, intercourse, conception, egg quality, egg carrying considerations, assisted reproductive technology, home insemination, the answers to your questions and more.

Written by Fertile Ground fertility Naturopath, Sage King.

MA’s July 2021 love letter

July 2021 Love Letter

Welcome to MA’s July 2021 Love Letter. We’ve been receiving MA’s monthly love letters from The Melbourne Apothecary since the beginning of 2020. These letters contain links to a variety of life enhancing freebies that our fabulous practitioners are constantly creating to help you cope during COVID and beyond.

The letters are also a fantastic and charismatic resource that share all the goings on within both The MA and Fertile Ground. So we thought we’d best share them with you here so that you can join in and receive the monthly intel from our delightful and ever wisdomous MA. Please enjoy.

Hello hello,

I hope this July 2021 love letter finds you healthy, warm and feeling loved. Word on my MA vine is that there are 2 wonderful projects beginning to blossom in our town. I would love to invite you to be a part of either one in whatever capacity you like.

These projects really align with my desire to help to enrich our community, enhance collaboration, and support sustainability (because as I’m sure you’re aware, there is no Planet B).

Project 1 – Brilliantly Upcycled Beautiful Baby Apparel
(or BUBBA for short)

This is an initiative brought to you by the wonderful minds of the Fertile Ground Health Group team. The way it works is that everyone is welcome to bring in and donate any beautiful baby apparel that they no longer need (for newborns – apparel to suit up to 12 month old babies). This apparel will all then be available for any patients of Fertile Ground to take and use for their budding family.

This is an opportunity for you to either share apparel you no longer need, or receive lovely new baby apparel with and from people who not only share your health values but have also likely shared some similar struggles as you too.

By being a part of this initiative in any way you will be contributing not only to a circular economy (less waste), but also to rampant happiness on all sides.

If you would like to donate baby apparel, please drop it into the reception team at Fertile Ground when you’re next nearby. Feel free to write a little love note to accompany your clothes – we will be sure to pass it on.  And if you’d like to pick up free upcycled baby apparel for your growing family, please ask at Fertile Ground’s reception when you’re next in too.

Project 2 – Shared Holistic Health Library

You may have noticed the gorgeous library of health, fertility and self help books that lives on the wall of the upstairs waiting room at Fertile Ground. 

Did you know that it’s a shared library? Meaning – you are most welcome to take a book or two, read them and bring them back/keep them when you’re done. You’re also welcome to add any health / fertility / pregnancy / baby / self help related books you have at home that you wish to recirculate into the community. Take a wander through the Holistic Health Library next time you’re in.

Love & Snowflakes

Your MA 💕

What is IUI & do you Qualify?

Sage King_Preconception Series_Fertile Ground Health Group, IUI

What’s your Fertility Plan and do you qualify for IUI?

Welcome to this free 6-part article series designed to help you determine your fertility plan and understand the steps you can take to optimise your fertility outcomes. Below you’ll find Part 5 – “What is IUI & do you Qualify?” If you’ve already read articles 1 to 4, feel welcome to skip this intro and get stuck into part 5 below. If this is, however, your first time finding out about this series – please read on to learn what it’s about, how it can help you and what to expect over the coming weeks.

Over this free 6 week article series we are going to discuss all potential options for those of you who are:

  • single, 
  • in same-sex relationships, 
  • are gender non-conforming, 
  • or are in a heterosexual relationship.

In these articles I will address information around:

  • trying to conceive, 
  • options if you have been struggling to conceive, 
  • considerations for those of you thinking about IVF, 
  • considerations for those of you currently undergoing IVF treatment,
  • how beneficial naturopathy can be in optimising your fertility outcomes.

Opportunity to Ask Me Questions – LIVE

After each article release, you have the option to submit any questions you may have by 7pm Monday evening to the Create A Fertile Life Facebook group. If you’ve not yet joined that private group you are welcome to go there and request to join.

If you wish to submit your questions anonymously, you can private message the Fertile Ground Health Group Facebook page and admin will forward them to me. 

Each Tuesday, I will be answering your questions live in this Create a Fertile Life Facebook group at 7pm AEDT, so we can all learn from each other.

Your Fertility Plan

Now, some of you may know exactly what your plan is, others may not have thought about it so concisely yet. Whatever stage you are at, I want you to provide you with the tools to determine what your fertility plan can look like and how you can optimise your outcomes with Naturopathy. Grab a pen and a piece of paper, or type in to a document on your phone/computer so that you can create the skeleton of the items that relate to YOUR individual journey and we will build on this each week over the 6 weeks of this series. 

I am excited to be on this journey with you. If you’ve already registered for the whole free package, take a sneak peek at part four below and check your inbox for the arrival of your full comprehensive article for this week (week 5).

If you’re just finding this free series now and would like access from part 1 all the way to part 6 – simply register here for your free access to the whole package.

Part 5 – What is IUI & do you Qualify?

What is intrauterine insemination (IUI)?

IUI is also known as Assisted or Artificial Insemination (AI), as it is the process of assisting sperm to inseminate into the uterus at ovulation. The two key aspects of IUI include washing the sperm to find the best quality sperm, and timing the insemination procedure to coincide with when you’re ovulating. (2)

Firstly, the sperm sample (from either a partner or known/clinic recruited sperm donor) is washed to find the most active and virile sperm. It is then inserted through the cervix and into the cavity of the uterus via a catheter at ovulation. You could say that the IUI process gives the sperm an advantage in quality, combined with a head start by selecting the highest quality sperm from the sample provided; with insemination increasing the number of sperm that reaches the fallopian tubes. While the sperm still need to find their way to the egg on their own for fertilisation, the greater the quality and number of sperm that reach the tubes, the greater chance of fertilisation occurring. (1,2) 

Secondly, your cycle is monitored to determine if/when ovulation is occurring. To refresh your memory, ovulation occurs when an egg is released from one of your ovaries and must occur in order for conception to be successful. In the same way that timing intercourse during your fertile window is important for couples whom can provide both the egg and sperm, IUI is conducted at the time of ovulation by closely monitoring ovulation using blood tests and ultrasound to track the developing follicle to determine when insemination will go ahead. 

Sounds easy, right? Reproduction always seems so straight forward on paper. But unfortunately for some, and particularly in a world where sperm quality is on the decline due to today’s way of living and environmental factors, it’s a lot more complex. So if IUI assists to find the best quality sperm prior to insemination, what if the quality of sperm is poor to begin with? 

If the quality of the sperm sample is poor, then it’s like selecting the ‘best of a bad bunch’ so to speak. Now that it’s week five and I’ve spent all this time going on about the importance of preconception care, please bear with me while I repeat myself… this is why preconception care is so important! We want to be able to holistically assess all the contributing factors to sperm quality to be able to control and optimise those variables as much as possible. We want to have the best quality sperm sample to select from in the first place. We want the best of the best! But more on this and egg quality later…

What does IUI feel like?

The IUI process is described as similar to a pap smear in sensation. A speculum is inserted into the vagina so the cervix can be visualised. A thin catheter containing the selected sperm is then passed through the cervix and into the uterus. The process takes a few minutes to complete, usually with minimal discomfort. IUI does not require sedation. (3,4)

Is IUI for you?

For single cis-women, or individuals or couples assigned female at birth who require donor sperm, IUI is the ART method that is most commonly used. IUI may also be indicated in cases of mild suboptimal semen volume, sperm count, and/or sperm motility, mild Endometriosis, cervical scarring or other concerns that may reduce sperm penetration into the uterine cavity, poor or absent cervical mucous, for those who cannot have regular or penetrative sex, infertility of unknown cause, and for individuals for which ovulation is absent or irregular. (3)

IUI is not indicated for significant sperm quality issues where a good sperm sample cannot be achieved in the andrology laboratory, or for individuals with poor fallopian tube functioning or blockages – these need to be open and functioning for the sperm to be able to reach the egg. (4)

In mild cases of poor sperm quality, while IUI washes and selects the most viable sperm and gives sperm a bit of a helping hand in helping them get closer to where they need to go, it in no way improves sperm quality parameters on a cellular level. This is why focusing on improving all parameters of sperm quality where possible is such an important preconception consideration prior to undertaking IUI. 

For those of you using your partner’s or known donor sperm, I hope this gives you some encouragement to at least have a conversation with them about undertaking a semen analysis prior to giving their sample for IUI. Hopefully your partner is open to undertaking preconception care alongside you, and your donor may or may not be open to it. But it’s absolutely worth a discussion to optimise your outcomes and require less samples from them! Even better if your donor is open to 3 months (only 12 weeks) of preconception care to improve their sperm quality. If they need a little convincing, I highly recommend giving them a copy of our book, Create A Fertile Life. It is evidence-based, easy to read, and you can read from any chapter that is relevant to your circumstances. Purchase your copy and get a head start.

For those of you using clinic-recruited donor sperm, it emphasises the importance of undertaking your own preconception screening and individualised preconception care so that we can optimise egg quality and your endometrial lining to increase the chances of successful implantation.

So, you’ve determined IUI is for you or it has been recommended by your fertility specialist. Did you know that IUI can be performed with or without…

Want to keep reading? Sign up to get instant free access to Sage’s preconception article series and find out about the intricacies of egg freezing, your menstrual cycle, sperm donor considerations, intercourse, conception, egg quality, egg carrying considerations, assisted reproductive technology, home insemination, the answers to your questions and more.

Written by Fertile Ground fertility Naturopath, Sage King.