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.

Create A Fertile Life Book Launch

We are incredibly grateful for everyone who was involved in making our book launch such a special night. Our book baby has been birthed into the world!

Our attendees enjoyed platters of yummy treats on the night, as well as a show bag full of goodies to try at home and listened to talks by fertility specialist Dr.Lynn Burmeister, building biologist Nicole Biljsma, and of course our book authors Gina Fox, Charmaine Dennis, Tina Jenkins, Rhiannon Hardingham and Milly Dabrowski.

Some people were asking about whether you can still join our private community Facebook group for Create A Fertile Life, as well as sign up for the FREE miniseries we created to celebrate the launch of the book. The answer is YES YES you may join both the facebook group as well as sign up for the miniseries.  You can also purchase your copy of the book here Create a Fertile Life.

P.S. If you are a practitioner and want to join us on 2nd October for our practitioner only launch event, please sign up here. We know as soon as we announce the special guests for this one, spots will be snapped up in a flash. Make sure you are also signed up to our practitioner list for future collaborative events and opportunities too.

Thank you to all of our beautiful friends who took photos xx.

 

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.

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.

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.

Is Egg Freezing for You?

Sage Preconception_is egg freezing for you?

What’s your Fertility Plan and is egg freezing for you?

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 4 – “Is Egg Freezing for You?” If you’ve already read article 1, 2 and 3, feel welcome to skip this intro and get stuck into part 4 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 4).

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 4 – Is Egg Freezing for You?

Welcome to week 4! Now that you understand the importance of determining your fertility plan, undertaking thorough preconception screening, as well as individualised preconception care, this week we are going to begin to apply that new knowledge to Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) in the form of Elective Fertility Preservation, aka ‘Egg Freezing’, and how naturopathy can optimise your outcomes. 

Egg freezing may be a part of your fertility plan, but for some of you this may not have been something that you’ve thought about. Egg freezing is a method of storing unfertilised eggs as a way to preserve potential fertility in individuals, for any reason. Egg freezing may be a consideration for individuals that wish to reproduce, but may not be in the right place or circumstance to be able to conceive, or may need to freeze their eggs due to medical reasons. When or if the time is right, you can access your frozen eggs, which are thawed to be fertilised with sperm, in the hope to create a healthy embryo to transfer into the uterine wall for a successful pregnancy.

Transgender, Non-Binary, and Gender-Fluidity and Elective Fertility Preservation (EFT)

EFT may be the insurance policy our wonderful transgender, non-binary, and gender-fluid, community that wish to undergo gender-affirming hormone replacement therapy (GAHRT), and/or gender affirmation surgery need for their family plan. For transgender men and individuals assigned female at birth, undertaking egg freezing prior to the commencement of GAHRT and surgical transition allows you to have the opportunity to have your own biological children should you wish to in the future.

If egg freezing wasn’t something you thought about prior to GAHRT and you have not had gender affirmation surgery affecting your reproductive organs, and is something you wish to pursue, then it may be possible to cease hormone treatment and begin to produce eggs again and either freeze them or try to conceive. For transgender women and individuals assigned male at birth, freezing your sperm prior to GAHRT and/or surgical transition gives you the ability to reproduce in the future also. If this is you, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of having this discussion with your Endocrinologist around your family plan and your goals as soon as possible, so they can carefully manage this process for you medically. It is also important to be aware of the emotional challenges that may arise in undergoing this process as it may require delaying GAHRT and/or gender affirmation surgery. (4)

Understanding The Egg Freezing Process

The goal of egg freezing is to obtain and freeze as many good quality eggs as possible. In order to do this, egg freezing requires a few key steps:

  1. Hormonal Stimulation 

This process occurs over 10-12 days, which aims to help the ovaries produce multiple eggs to mature in one cycle. There are a variety of different stimulation techniques and medications, and this will be determined by your fertility specialist. You’re responsible for administering your own medications during this period, which may include some or all of self-administered injections, oral tablets, pessaries, and topical patches. 

  1. Egg Collection/Egg Pick Up (EPU)

EPU sees egg retrieval from the ovaries via a fine needle that is passed through the vaginal wall into the ovary, and draws the fluid and eggs from the ovary. This procedure is conducted under a general anaesthetic, with the procedure taking approximately 10-15 minutes.

  1. Egg Freezing

The eggs collected undergo a freezing procedure in the IVF laboratory, which can be stored for many years and accessed at any time. The entire process from the beginning of hormonal stimulation to the time of egg freezing is approximately 14 days.  (1)

Age and Egg Freezing – What’s The Go?

Let’s take our minds back to our very first week. Statistics show a decline in egg quality, and therefore fertility from 35 years of age, with a further decrease after 40-42 years of age. (2,3) So while egg freezing is a great way to preserve your future fertility, ultimately, the younger you are when you freeze the eggs, the better. Egg freezing is discouraged for individuals 39 years of age or older, with the current average age of individuals undertaking egg freezing (in Victoria) being 37 years of age. (5)

So, what’s the chances of having a baby with frozen eggs?

It’s important to note that while there are no guarantees of having a baby in the future when undertaking egg freezing, there are three factors that will largely determine your chance:

  1. Your age when you freeze your eggs
  2. The number of eggs stored
  3. How many cycles you can afford (cost ranges from $4,000 – $10,000 per collection cycle)

Depending on your age and egg quality, a frozen egg has ~5-8% chance of becoming a baby. (6)

Let’s take a look at the graph below. It looks at the probability of having at least one live birth according to age at time of egg freezing and the number of eggs retrieved.

Sage King Preconception Statistics 1

Source: VARTA, 2021

To simplify it for you, for a 75% chance of a baby, individuals:

  • 35 years of age or less need 10 eggs
  • 36 years of age need 15 eggs
  • 37 years of age need 20 eggs
  • 38 years of age needs 25 eggs

As you can see, at 40 years of age, egg numbers required jump significantly to 40 eggs, and increases again at 42 years of age to 60 eggs, highlighting the importance that the earlier you can freeze your eggs, the better the chance that your fertility insurance policy will result in a healthy baby.

What is Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) and why is it relevant?

Conducted as a simple blood test, Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) is an indicator of ovarian reserve. Put simply, AMH provides insight into the remaining quantity of eggs you have. While it provides us with this information, it does not assess…

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.

Enhance your Fertility Naturally

What’s your Fertility Plan and and how do you enhance your fertility naturally?

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 3 – “Enhance your Fertility Naturally”.  If you’ve already read article 1 & 2 feel welcome to skip this intro and get stuck into part 3 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 Three: Enhance your Fertility Naturally  

“What should I eat? What should I avoid? What supplements should I take?” 

These are some of the many common questions I’m asked in my practice. When it comes to being proactive at improving your health for fertility, the internet, books, people around us, and social media are all full of their own interpretation of what is “good” and what you “should” be doing. Today I’m hoping to simplify some of that information for you so that it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. Whilst what I share won’t be exactly individualised to your needs, it will provide you with practical ways you can start to optimise your health to support your egg and sperm quality immediately. 

Now that you know your optimal preconception window is 3-4 months, I suggest implementing the strategies in today’s article for this period of time alongside any other intervention indicated in your case.

For those of you in same-sex relationships where both of you have ovaries and a uterus, and have decided that one of you is going to provide the egg while the other carries the pregnancy, it is imperative that both of you implement the information in today’s article. Optimising egg quality as well as endometrial receptivity require similar diet and lifestyle interventions, as well as adequate preconception assessment and supplementation where indicated. 

Nutritional and Herbal Medicine

Following on from last week – after thorough preconception screening and assessment I will prescribe nutritional and herbal medicine alongside dietary and lifestyle interventions based on your results and individual needs. Even if you have a really good diet, factors including stress, illness, poor digestion, alcohol, caffeine, smoking, medications, shift work, long-term oral contraceptive use, past or current pregnancy, genetic factors, and much more can result in less than optimal nutritional status. This is where we bring in nutritional supplements. 

Supplementation is often required to ensure replete nutritional status alongside adequate dietary intake. However, commonly in practice, I see people self-prescribing with over-the-counter supplements from a pharmacy or health food store. While it is great our community has access to our wonderful medicines, just because it is ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it is safe or indicated in your case. 

For example, if you have the genetic condition haemochromatosis, supplementing with iron is extremely dangerous and can lead to organ damage. Maybe you are unaware you have MTHFR and cannot methylate folic acid adequately influencing your egg and sperm quality, and implantation among other things. Other examples include the possibility of interfering with medications, or competing for absorption with other medications or supplements, or too high a dose resulting in depleting other nutrients. I’m sharing this with you to help empower you with knowledge – as while nutritional medicine is a very effective and safe tool that I use regularly in clinical practice, it is essential to seek the assistance of a qualified and experienced health practitioner such as a naturopath to determine what is indicated for you, and what is safe

The same rules apply for herbal medicine. I love herbal medicine. I mean, my parents named me after a herb, I really had no chance did I?! Herbal medicine is powerful and effective when used correctly. And while herbs have so many wonderful positive influences on our health, especially when it comes to holistically supporting someone on their fertility journey down to hormonal imbalances, they also have many cautions and contraindications to consider. This applies particularly if you’ve embarked on your medically managed IUI or IVF journey already. I use herbs for stress management, sleep support, increasing or decreasing different hormones to influence egg and sperm quality, supporting endometrial receptivity and implantation prior to IVF embryo transfer into early pregnancy, and much more. 

“That’s great Sage, I’ll be sure to be safe. But is there anything I can do now?” I hear you saying.

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.

A caution for over the counter pain relief users

by Charmaine Dennis, FGHG Naturopath and Director

New research is suggesting that Ibuprofen (the pain-relieving NSAIDs sold as Neurofen, Advil, Motrin etc) may negatively affect testicular health and fertility.

When researchers realised the impact on pregnant women (including more than double risk of miscarriage) and the testicles and heart of her male offspring (to be avoided in pregnancy!), they were interested to see if there were implications for men taking it regularly too.

In this new study of 31 men, 14 were given the recommended dose of ibuprofen (600mg 2 x day) for 14 days and 17 given placebo. The men in the study group showed an imbalance of hormones producing a compensated hypogonadism, a condition normally seen in elderly men and associated with impaired fertility, depression and increased risk for cardiovascular events, including heart failure and stroke.

While researchers thought it likely reversible with short-term use, they said they fear effects on the testicals could be permanent for long-term users. Given the trends for unmonitored use of ibuprofen amongst weekend warriors and high performance athletes, this needs research needs careful attention.

As spermatogenesis turns over sperm every 70 days, it seems senisble to consider likley negative impact if men are taking it in the 3 months prior to conceiving too. This is the preconception health care period where our naturopaths and acupuncturists help to support optimal health and investigate all likely contributing factors to fertility.

If you need other ways of finding anti-inflammatory pain relief, come and talk to us. Across our modalities on offer, there is much we can do to get you back on a path to pain-free wellness and optimal fertility too.

It is also important to note, there is evidence that other medications are also harmful to the male reproductive system and fertility, including testosterone, opioids, antidepressants, antipsychotics, immune modulators and even the over-the-counter antacid cimetidine. My rule of thumb is – if a medication or any substance is known to be problematic for pregnant women and their developing babies (especially teratogenic substances) it is important to consider if it is a factor in the health of developing sperm too. It can take time for research on medication to catch up to these things and common sense is required at times.

There is no doubt that medication is of course absolutly necessary in some cases – and sometimes other approaches are worth considering too. Let us know if you are wondering if we can help with any of your health concerns. We probably can! And we will always be in contact with your doctor when needed for your best health and fertility outcomes.

Charmaine Dennis (FGHG director and Naturopath)

 

CharmaineDENNISC1Charmaine Dennis is a naturopath, fertility and health expert, mentor, writer, mother, and businesswoman. She is the founding director of Fertile Ground Health Group, co-creator of the Be Fertile relaxation CD series and co-author of The Breakfast Project, among other health inspired projects. Her greatest gift and inspiration is making health, wellbeing, and passionate living accessible, inspiring and achievable for everyone. Charmaine’s naturopathic career has followed a special interest in working with couples with infertility requiring IVF support since 1999.  She has assisted many in realising their dreams to conceive healthy, beautiful babies in collaboration with GPs and fertility specialists, acupuncturists and other health modalities.