How is acupuncture going to help me conceive?

by Naomi Jankowski, FGHG Acupuncturist

The question I receive the most frequently in clinic is ‘How does acupuncture work?’ This is such a fantastic question with multifaceted answers. The question I like even better is ‘How is acupuncture going to help me conceive?’ When I consider this, there are two parts to the answer which are relatively easy to explain, and which are very important for patients to hear so they understand what we are doing, rather than just going along with a bunch of arbitrary needles.

The first part of this relates more broadly to the question of how acupuncture works. Through my experience in clinic, I have found that so much of acupuncture works on benefiting blood flow and circulation.  Acupuncture does not just work by bringing blood flow to the area where the needle is inserted, in fact often the needles selected will direct the blood flow to an entirely different area of the body.  For example, I routinely use points on the hands that have a direct affinity to the ovaries and uterus.  If a patient comes to see me on a day that they have menstrual cramping, using these points on the hands usually decreases the pain within a few minutes.  By facilitating blood flow to the area, the uterus is then able to function more efficiently.

In many cases, menstrual cramping is caused by a small amount of uterine clotting that is stuck.  The cramps occur when the uterus has small contractions to try to push the clots out.  Unfortunately, the contractions often become inefficient, and then we have the problem which we so often see in clinic, where a woman either has pain or heavy bleeding.  Increasing the blood flow to the uterus facilitates more efficient uterine contractions.  This in turn will decrease pain, decrease heavy bleeding, and, most importantly, create a good basis of endometrial lining.

This brings us to the next point, and our next question of ‘How is acupuncture going to help me conceive?’ Patients often tell me they have low AMH, and that their fertility specialist has told them they cannot conceive as a result of poor egg quality.  Egg quality is certainly part of the picture, and cannot be overlooked.  But let’s consider another perspective.  What good is the perfect egg if the quality of the endometrial lining is so poor that implantation cannot occur?

The analogy of soil works best to illustrate this point.  A seed will not be able to form roots in soil that is littered with rocks, debris and clumped up dirt.  No matter how much fertilizer you add, if there are enough rocks in the soil, your seed will not grow.  These rocks are the clots in the endometrial lining.  First and foremost, our job is to help eliminate this clotting.  Secondly, we work to add fertilizer to the soil i.e. thicken the endometrial lining.  Then, if necessary, we work on egg quality.  Often I never need to directly work on step three, because by that time, conception has successfully occurred.

It is important to note here that patients often have their lining measured, and are told that it looks fine.  This is a measurement in millimeters that does not take into account quality of lining and possible clotting.  Clots will, in a sense, artificially increase the ‘true’ lining of the uterus present on the scan.  It is detrimental lining that leads to a false reading in millimeters.

So to summarize and answer these clinically relevant questions, the benefit of traditional Chinese gynecology is that it takes into account the quality of the endometrial lining.  Acupuncture can facilitate blood flow to the uterus, to improve the quality of this lining which increases the ability of an embryo to implant.

NaomiJANKOWSKIColourNaomi Jankowski is a highly experienced, registered acupuncturist and Chinese herbal medicine practitioner. Naomi is known for her ability to build relationships with her patients where they feel truly supported supported, even the most difficult of fertility and reproductive journeys.

What’s Your Fertility Plan?

Your Fertility Plan with Sage King from Fertile Ground Health Group

It can be quite overwhelming for any individual or couple to decide if their family plan includes children, let alone go one step further and reach out for support to optimise or facilitate fertility. These decisions can be even more complex for those who fall outside of the mainstream heteronormative, coupled, gender binary. 

Fertility plan – where to start?

Knowing when you want to have children is key to where you can choose to start on this journey. Does your family plan include children within the next 3-12 months? Did you know that preconception care takes a minimum of three months to positively influence reproductive health,  including egg quality? 

One of our expert fertility naturopaths, Sage King, has written a 6-part series to help individuals and couples of all gender identities and sexual orientations confidently navigate their fertility journey and create their own fertility plan. This series is inclusive of everything from preconception pathology screening, naturopathic preconception considerations, how to enhance your fertility naturally, to egg freezing, intrauterine insemination (IU) and In vitro fertilisation (IVF). Sage will be taking a deep-dive in how you can optimise your fertility outcomes.

What you’ll learn in this free 6-part article series

Part One: Identify Your Unique & Individual Needs

  • Individual considerations
  • Couple considerations
  • Sperm donor considerations

Part Two: Do You Need Preconception Screening?

  • Understanding your optimal preconception window
  • GP preconception screening
  • Your functional preconception assessment options
  • Naturopathic preconception considerations
  • PCOS, Endometriosis and the impacts on fertility

Part Three: Enhance Your Fertility Naturally

  • Eating for your fertility
  • Exercising for your fertility
  • Stress management
  • Enhancing sleep quality for your fertility
  • Endocrine disrupting chemicals and why you should avoid them

Part Four: Is Egg Freezing for You?

  • Age and egg freezing – what’s the go?
  • Understanding the egg freezing process
  • How to access Naturopathic support for egg freezing

Part Five: What is IUI & do I qualify?

  • What is intrauterine insemination?
  • Is IUI for you?
  • Natural vs. medicated cycle
  • Importance of collaborative care
  • Naturopathic support options for IUI

Part Six: Your Guide to IVF

  • What is IVF?
  • Is IVF for you?
  • Importance of collaborative care
  • Naturopathic support options for IVF

Are you single? In a couple? Do you wish to use your own eggs, or do you want to carry using your partner’s eggs, or vice versa? Do you have a known sperm donor, or will you use clinic-recruited donor sperm? Perhaps a child is not in your short-term plans but you wish to freeze your eggs for peace of mind down the track – there is great information here for you too. 

Register to receive notification as each article in this 6 part series is released. Sage is dedicated to helping you identify your unique and individual needs, as well as to provide you with the information you need to feel more informed, more confident on how to best navigate your situation, and most importantly helping you feel fully supported on your fertility journey.

Bonus Preconception Q&As with Sage online

Get your questions answered by joining our closed Create a Fertile Life Facebook group. Submit your questions in this group and Sage will answer.

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.

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.

Build your best healthy pregnancy diet

Freya Lawler Healthy Pregnancy Diet Fertile Ground Health Group
How do you build your best healthy pregnancy diet?

In this article I will share with you our top non-negotiable recommendations.  At Fertile Ground health Group, we believe in educating patients on their fertility journey with the most up to date and relevant research when it comes to making healthy babies.

This type of education involves jumping ahead of the curve in regards to current preconception and fertility dietary guidelines. There is often a wide gap when it comes to emerging research making its way into public policy; therefore our job is to merge the two and share the most up-to date nutritional and dietary information available. At the core of our philosophy on prenatal care is ensuring that every mother is educated on the nutritional foundations of a growing a healthy, thriving baby.

It is now more commonly understood that most conditions occurring in adulthood originate in foetal life. This evidence highlights the importance of following an optimal prenatal diet to not only set the stage for the health of your growing baby and your personal pregnancy, but it holds a strong influence on the health outcomes of future generations. By making evidence-based food choices and becoming familiar with real wholefoods, you will provide an excellent basis for great pregnancy nutrition.

Our top dietary tips during pregnancy include

Eat small, regular meals

The notion of ‘eating for two’ has been largely disproven in literature, when in fact there is only a modest increase in caloric requirements during pregnancy. Smaller meals and snacks benefit a pregnant mother in a number of ways; they balance blood sugar, providing your growing baby with a consistent stream of nutrients, prevent nausea, heartburn and reflux whilst keeping energy levels balanced.

Enjoy high quality proteins and fats

Ensuring meals are rich in quality protein and fats rather than being high in refined carbohydrates will keep you fuller for longer, reducing unwanted energy dips and preventing the incidence of overeating. Our advice is to keep snacks at arms reach at all times to ensure you’re eating regularly. Wholegrain crackers, vegetable sticks, dips and a handful of nuts are all excellent options to keep available at all times.The key is to prioritise high quality foods wherever your budget allows.

Choose grass fed and free range over grain fed and conventionally raised meat and poultry. Healthy fats to include are small fish rich in essential fatty acids, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil and avocados. We understand it’s important to allow yourself some dietary flexibility during your first trimester when you may be suffering from morning sickness and food aversions are prominent. After this period, the above recommendations should form an essential basis of your prenatal dietary requirements, reflecting a wholefood, non-processed Mediterranean style diet.

Avoid sugar and processed foods and adopt a lower GI way of eating 

Evidence shows that increased sugar and processed food consumption during pregnancy may contribute to increased gestational weight gain and the development of pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and preterm birth. To mitigate this, our suggestion is to move away from foods that offer empty calories and little nutritional value. Swap processed bread, white pasta and sweets for more nutrient dense options such as wholegrain sourdough, pulse pastas, legumes, whole grains, full fat yoghurt and seasonal fruits.

Whilst these recommendations are an essential part of any pregnant mothers daily nutrition, we suggest ensuring foods rich in vitamin A, folate, iodine, iron, choline and B12 are consumed regularly and supplemented where necessary. In addition to this, conventional dietary guidelines are designed for women who are healthy and nutritionally replete. Therefore, individual prenatal nutrient requirements may differ from woman to woman. Seeking guidance from an experienced health provider can be beneficial in assessing your unique nutritional needs.​

Written by Freya Lawler

Freya Lawler, Naturopath and Functional Nutritionist at The Melbourne Apothecary, is passionate about food. She believes that in order to optimise your health from the ground up, you must begin with your diet. She loves to identify simple ways to make a huge difference in your health, through optimising your diet and creating tailored nutritional plans. Whether it be for supporting your pregnancy, balancing your hormones, clearing your skin or improving your digestion – Freya can guide you back to your best health through functional nutrition. 

Learn more about Freya

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