Health In The Bay – AILMENTS – Fertility and Pregnancy
Fertility is defined as the natural ability to produce offspring. Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive a pregnancy after 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse and affects about 1 in 6 Australian couples of reproductive age. There are several factors involved in the process of conceiving and growing a baby and both partners’ fertility needs to be considered. The reproductive system is quite a sensitive system, and small changes to any of the factors involved could lead to fertility issues. The opposite can also be true, it may not take much to rebalance these factors, and hence improve reproduction, and chance of success. At Health In The Bay, we see many couples and help them, either to improve their general reproductive health, or specifically with starting a family, with care for preconception, through conception and throughout the pregnancy.
There are many hormones (chemical messengers) in our body that have many different roles. Some include growth and development, reproduction, thyroid function, and metabolism.
Some of the most widely known hormone issues involve reproductive hormones. Imbalances in these can have many different effects including infertility, problems with puberty or urogenital disorders including PCOS, endometriosis etc.
Seeing an Acupuncturist is a great place to start when wanting to improve your hormones. Just a few treatments sometimes together with herbs, can be enough to see significant changes. A Nutritionist can also be beneficial as certain foods and life choices can impact on your hormones. Just small changes or improvements to your hormones are often enough to make a huge difference to health and wellbeing.
In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
IVF (or In Vitro Fertilisation) is an option if there is a fertility issue with either or both partners, or it is also an option if there is a risk of genetic disorders such as Cystic Fibrosis, which allows the embryo to be tested before implantation. The process of IVF can be quite difficult on the body, particularly because of the drugs/hormones given to release more eggs. It is also usually quite taxing emotionally, firstly due to the hormones given can affect you emotionally, but also the nature of the process of waiting and hoping that it will be successful, and then times of disappointment when it hasn’t been. Some couples have several cycles of IVF which means months of dealing with these emotions and disappointments. Experiencing these emotions can be counter productive in conceiving so some emotional support is really important. Seeing a Counsellor is important as IVF will not only take a toll on you, but also on your partner and possibly your relationship.
Acupuncture is commonly recommended, and can be an important part of successful IVF. It is used leading up to IVF to help your body and reproductive system function as well as possible, and then while you are having IVF specifically on the day of the transfer, both before and after the procedure, to increase the chances of implantation being successful.
A Nutritionist can be useful to see to prepare your body for pregnancy, to make sure you are getting enough of the right nutrients for you and your baby.
Low Sperm Count
Low sperm count can result in infertility. There are a number of causes such as
- Hormonal imbalance
- A blockage in the passage of sperm
- Inherited chromosomal abnormalities
- Dilated testicular veins
Hormonal imbalance can be helped to some degree by seeing a Nutritionist who can advise on supplements to normalise hormones, but can also advise on general health factors that can improve sperm mobility, Acupuncture and TCM can also be helpful as both the Acupuncture and possibly herbs can improve hormonal imbalances and general health.
Sexual dysfunction occurs when you have a problem that prevents you from wanting or enjoying sexual activity. It can happen at anytime. There are 4 categories: desire disorder, arousal disorder, orgasm disorder and pain disorder.
Desire disorder, or low libido occurs when you have little or no interest in sexual relations. This can be caused by low testosterone in men, or low estrogen or testosterone in women or other hormonal changes such as with breastfeeding or menopause. Other causes include stress, previous sexual trauma, relationship problems, fatigue and certain medications.
Arousal disorder occurs when emotionally you’re in the mood, but your body isn’t into it. In men this presents as erectile dysfunction, meaning they can not achieve or maintain an erection appropriate for intercourse. Causes can be stress, depression, relationship issues, or physical problems including injury to the penis, nerve damage or a problem with blood flow.
Orgasm disorder occurs when emotionally you’re in the mood, but you climax too early, ie premature ejaculation in men, or you don’t have the ability to climax. This can be due to performance anxiety, other stress, nerve damage or spinal cord damage. In women a common cause of not being able to reach orgasm is stress and fatigue. Other causes can be pain and discomfort during sexual, alcohol or drug use, low sex drive or hormones that are out of whack.
Pain disorder is simply pain during intercourse. Many things can cause pain during sexual activity. Inadequate lubrication and tense vaginal muscles make penetration painful, as can involuntary vaginal muscle spasms, or vaginismus. These may be neurological or stress related. Hormonal changes of menopause can also make intercourse uncomfortable, such as a drop in estrogen levels resulting in thinning of the skin in the genital area or the vaginal lining and decreasing lubrication.
If you suspect a physical cause it’s best to see your doctor, but if that has been ruled out there are a few things you can do to improve your situation. A Psychotherapist is an important person to see, as underlying to many causes of sexual dysfunction is stress or other emotional issues. A Psychotherapist can help you recognise and work through past experiences that are contributing to your present emotional situation. Other help can be found by seeing an Acupuncturist, who can help in a few ways, depending on what’s required, such as reduce stress and feel more relaxed, balance hormones and improve fatigue.
Once you are successful in conceiving, you now have the significant task of growing a healthy baby while staying fit and healthy yourself.
Firstly, it is important to have the right diet for yourself and your fetus. You need enough good quality nutrients to keep up your energy and give your baby what it needs to grow. A Nutritionist can help advise about your diet and any supplements recommended, and if you are suffering morning sickness, certain remedies can also help.
Acupuncture can be very effective in helping with morning sickness and maintaining overall health.
As the pregnancy progresses, your body goes through many changes which might result in back, hip and even rib pain. Chiropractic and Massage are both very effective and gentle methods of reducing these symptoms.Chiropractic is also helpful in preparing the body (particularly the pelvis) to be balanced and this can help with an easier birth.
Acupuncture throughout the pregnancy especially towards the end, is also very effective in the preparation for the birth. It can help reduce stress and edema, and prepare the body and uterus for birth to hopefully have it be a straightforward and easily progressing birth.
If your baby is overdue, Acupuncture can also be effective in bringing on labour.