Treating Infertility – What You Can Do
The average fertile couple is usually able to conceive within 12 months of regular (every 2-3 days), unprotected intercourse.
If conception has not occurred within this time period, fertility assessment may be required.
For women who are over the age of 35 years, and those who have irregular menstrual cycles or a known underlying pathology such as endometriosis, earlier assessment is recommended, typically after 6 months of trying.
Having a regular menstrual cycle helps women predict when they’re most fertile. A healthy cycle falls between 25-35 days in length and can be divided into three phases:
This is the first day of menstruation through to ovulation. During this phase, Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinising Hormone (LH) stimulate the ovaries to produce follicles.
One follicle will become dominant and is the primary source of circulating oestrogen which stimulates the thickening of the endometrium (uterine lining) in preparation for pregnancy.
As oestrogen levels peak, a mid-cycle surge of LH induces ovulation and ends the follicular phase.
2. Ovulatory Phase
The follicle ruptures and an egg is released. This usually occurs 13-15 days before the next period begins.
3. Luteal Phase
Having released its egg, the follicle “luteinises” and become the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum continues to produce oestrogen and also large amounts of progesterone.
These steroid hormones are necessary for the maturation of the endometrium which becomes receptive to implantation by a fertilised egg.
If implantation does not occur, the corpus luteum dies causing a sharp drop in oestrogen and progesterone levels.
With the uterus no longer receiving hormonal messages to prepare for pregnancy to to continue endometrial growth, it sheds its lining and menses ensues.
Ovulation disorders and endometriosis are common causes of female infertility.
Advancing age and being overweight can also affect a woman’s fertility.
A delicate balance of sex hormones is required for the timely growth and release of an egg from the ovary. Menstrual irregularities, amenorrhoea, and anovulation signify some sort of hormonal imbalance that needs to be corrected.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is characterised by excess androgens and poor glucose regulation. Hyperinsulinaemia and elevated sex hormones results in the increased LH secretion.
The consequent increase in LH:FSH ratio may contribute to inadequate follicular development and corpus luteum function. This in turn compromises progesterone release and may contribute to anovulation.
Endometriosis and Uterine Fibroids
Endometriosis is a condition where the endometrium grows in abnormal anatomical locations, such as the fallopian tubes, where it may cause adhesions and scar tissue formation.
Uterine fibroids are benign growths of the uterus that appear during the fertile years. They may cause heavy bleeding (menorrhagia) and infertility.
Both conditions are characterised by oestrogen dominance and low progesterone levels.
As a woman ages, the quality and quantity of her eggs will significantly decline.
In one large European study, women who had been trying to conceive for two years were 63% successful if aged 26 years or younger, but only 51% successful if aged 35-40 years.
Overweight women are 2-5 times more likely to experience fertility problems. They are also 2-3 times more likely to have miscarriages and reduced success with fertility treatment.
What Can You Do?
Hormonal imbalances have become increasingly common with the use of birth control pills and environmental oestrogens in our food and drinks.
Vitex (Chaste Tree fruit extract) is commonly prescribed for menstrual irregularities and is particularly effective when hyperprolactinaemia, corpus luteum insufficiency, oligomenorrhoea are implicated. In a double blind, randomised, controlled trial, women with luteal phase defects due to hyperprolactinemia were treated with either a vitex extract or placebo.
After 3 months of Vitex treatment, prolactin release was reduced, luteal phase normalised and deficits in luteal progesterone synthesis were corrected.
Additionally, herbal/nutritional preparations containing Vitex have been reported to more than double the rate of conception in “infertile” women compared to placebo after 3 months of treatment.
You may want to consider MediHerb Chaste Tree as a great quality Vitex supplement for hormone regulation.
Paeonia, Licorice and Cinnamon
Indications for Peony include dysmenorrhoea (painful periods), menstrual dysfunction, and PCOS.
Peony is often used in combination with Licorice, Dong Quai and Cinnamon. Peony combined with Licorice has been shown to regulate LH:FSH ratio, normalise ovarian testosterone production, and induce regular ovulation in women with PCOS.
A combination of Peony and Cinnamon is widely used in traditional Japanese herbal medicine for its ovulation-inducing effect.
MediHerb Polyfem combines herbs with hormone-balancing and ovarian toning activity to support normal, healthy function of the ovaries.
Dong Quai regulates uterine function and is well respected in traditional Chinese medicine for its role as a female tonic. Indications include irregular menstruation, amenorrhoea and infertility.
Angelica & Vitex for Menstrual Relief combines Chaste Tree, Dong Quai, Cinnamon, Peony and Licorice to provide a great supplement for healthy balance of oestrogen and progesterone in the body.
Endometriosis is a condition of oestrogen excess.
Risk factors include prenatal exposure to high oestrogen levels, exposure to environmental oestrogens or endocrine disruptors, long-term dioxin exposure, and insufficient liver metabolism and excretion of oestrogens.
Management of endometriosis should include liver function support to optimise the conjugation and metabolism of oestrogen, and the detoxification of endogenous and exogenous toxins that add to the oestrogen load.
Additionally, probiotics will promote oestrogen excretion in the bowel, and fibre will speed up bowel transit time to reduce the likelihood of oestrogen re-absorption.
Blood Sugar Regulation
Herbs such as Gymnema and Fenugreek, together with nutrients that assist glucose metabolism (chromium and alpha-lipoic acid) are indicated in PCOS.
Cinnamon also has been found to reduce insulin resistance and improve insulin sensitivity in women with PCOS.
Pre-Conception/Pregnancy Multi-Nutrient Support
A good broad-spectrum pregnancy formula which includes choline and CoQ10 is highly recommended for all women trying to conceive. Recent data has shown that having low levels of choline during mid-pregnancy is associated with 2.4 fold higher risk of neural tube defects.
Meanwhile, low maternal levels of CoQ10 are correlated with spontaneous and threatened abortions.
Maintaining CoQ10 levels during pregnancy also reduces the likelihood of developing pre-eclampsia in women at risk.
Eagle Tresos Natal includes activated B vitamins, choline and all other essential nutrients required for conception.