As a Fertility Naturopath and Acupuncturist, I am passionate about ensuring that thorough checks have been done for my clients so that they have the best chance of conceiving. Whether my clients are:
- trying to conceive naturally and are doing some pre-conception health preparation
- have been struggling with their fertility for a while
- have had one or several miscarriages
- or are undergoing IVF or IUI,
I always conduct comprehensive blood testing to make sure that nothing obvious is being missed....It surprises me however, as to how many of my fertility clients who are under the care of a fertility specialist have not had these fertility assessments carried out.
Here are some of the following fertility assessments that in my professional opinion, are crucial for anyone wishing to improve their chances of pregnancy:-
- Hormone testing on specific days of the menstrual cycle.
Hormone testing is one of the most common first steps in fertility investigations, and typically looks at your levels of both follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and oestradiol (a specific form of oestrogen) as well as other hormones such as Leutenising Hormone, Testosterone and other hormone markers.
Day 2 of your cycle is when most of your hormones are at their baseline which provides the most accurate picture of your hormonal profile.
Whilst an IVF specialist may not be too worried about your hormone picture, from a holistic perspective, getting an indication of how your hormones are performing can indicate how well you may or may not respond to Assisted Reproductive Technologies.
There are most certainly some helpful natural ways of addressing a hormonal picture that is not balanced.
Progesterone on the other hand is most accurate, 7 days after ovulation. This is also a good time to do a second check of oestradiol as it shows us how these two important hormones are working in conjunction with one other.
- Full Thyroid Panel
Thyroid testing for fertility requires more than just TSH alone – a full thyroid panel, including T3, T4 and thyroid antibodies should be done, as this provides a much more complete picture of your thyroid health. This is important, considering the thyroid directly and indirectly affects ovarian function and fertility.
- Active B12 and Red Blood Cell Folate
Vitamin B12 and folate are both vital in managing the body’s levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that can cause fertility issues and other health concerns at high levels. Testing for active b12 and not just total B12 is important, because vitamin B12 exists in both active and inactive forms in the blood. Testing for total B12 only may not give an accurate picture of your true B12 levels, as a higher-than-normal ratio of inactive B12 may falsely elevate your test results. Testing for red blood cell folate (rather than serum folate) gives a better picture of your folate levels over time, to help understand your health picture more completely. Understanding your body’s B12 and folate status allows for targeted, individualised treatments that will help you to achieve the best results possible.
Your homocysteine levels should also be tested directly. High homocysteine is associated with reduced chance of pregnancy and also negatively affects embryo quality. Assessing for elevated homocysteine levels may also help to assess your risk of potential vascular complications during IVF.
MTHFR polymorphisms are genetic mutations that can affect the methylation cycle in the body. These should also be assessed, as they can affect not only your homocysteine levels, but may also impact DNA repair, fertility, conception, and the risk of miscarriage. Identifying any MTHFR polymorphisms prior to beginning IVF can change the treatment strategies and supplement forms that will best optimise your fertility.
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D levels are positively associated with improved IVF outcomes, so ensuring optimal vitamin D levels is important. Vitamin D deficiency is an increasingly prevalent issue even in Australia, as people spend increasing amounts of time indoors due to busy lifestyles.
- Iron Studies
Whilst it is well known that iron levels need to be monitored during pregnancy, your iron status may also impact your ability to fall pregnant, too. Higher iron levels have been found to be associated with improved IVF outcomes and an increased chance of becoming pregnant. For this reason, it’s important to assess your iron levels even before you begin your IVF journey.
- Metabolic Investigations
If you have PCOS, further testing such as insulin, fasting blood glucose and even HbA1c testing should be considered, to assess your body’s glucose and insulin control, as these may negatively impact your IVF journey.
- Has your fertility specialist checked what your stress levels are like?
Stress has a significant impact on fertility and should be managed early to help improve your chances of pregnancy.
- Has your fertility specialist discussed optimal nutrition for conception?
The preconception period is a crucial time for maximising your nutrition, to help support your body throughout conception, pregnancy and post-partum. Dietary changes and targeted supplementation based on the results of comprehensive pathology testing will ensure you are setting yourself up for a successful fertility journey.
- Has your fertility specialist assessed your exposure to environmental toxins which may impact your fertility?
Environmental toxins, such as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), are ubiquitous in our modern world, but there are ways to reduce your exposure to these harmful chemicals.
A Fertility Naturopath can discuss strategies for removing EDCs and other environmental toxins from your life as much as possible and provide support to help you navigate a lifestyle that is lower in EDCs.
If you are you ready to begin your fertility journey and are looking for a holistic approach to improving your chances of conceiving then consider booking in for a 15 minute free phone appointment with Michelle Blum here. This gives you a chance to ask any burning questions about how either Naturopathy or Acupuncture or a combination for both may help you improve your chances of a healthy conception, pregnancy and birth. Alternatively, you may book your Naturopathy or Acupuncture appointment here.