Fertility: Gaining and Maintaining a Healthy Pregnancy

Infertility is at an all-time high. Morning sickness is so prevalent that women are now being told it is normal and a sign of a healthy pregnancy. Congenital defects, learning disorders, and behavioral disorders are increasing. Post-partum depression is on an upswing. What is going on?

There are many factors that contribute to these issues. Contributing factors include chemicals in our foods, and environment, abundance of sugars and other non-nutritive drinks and foods and simultaneous lack of nutrient density in the foods that are consumed, certain medications, smoking, alcoholism, hormonal imbalances, and others.

First and foremost, it is because of poor nutrition. In the past and even today in the more remote villages, pregnancy wasn’t just something that happened. It was planned for. Both the woman and the man were prepared by eating “sacred foods” – super-nutrient foods that would build them up and prepare them for creating a healthy baby.  They recognized the increased nutritional needs that pregnancy demands, so the mother continued to eat these super-foods during pregnancy as well. 

Way too many women go into pregnancy already depleted nutritionally. They are not healthy to start with. Add the increased demand of pregnancy, and it’s no wonder there are so many problems.

Having a baby isn’t just having a baby.  It is building a body.  The mother’s body has to support itself, the increased physiological load the pregnancy places on it, and build a baby at the same time.  That’s a lot of work and a lot of drain on a woman’s body before and after delivery.  You wouldn’t normally try to tie your shoes with your hand tied behind your back.  Why would you try that with building a baby?  You need to provide the nutrition necessary so that pregnancy isn’t about mere survival, but two humans thriving!  

A woman needs to be in extraordinary health to have a healthy baby, not just-getting-by health. She needs to have adequate bone building materials like absorbable calcium and other minerals, fats needed for healthy brain function, good adrenal health (which is generally a significant factor in morning sickness), an abundance of protein, vitamins and other nutrients.  Eating super-nutrient foods such as organ meats, fish, lots of green-leafy vegetables, eggs from pastured hens, grass-fed meats and wholesome, farm-fresh milk is a good start. 

When I first counsel with a couple who are struggling to achieve a pregnancy or has had trouble maintaining pregnancies in the past, I ask them to wait at least six months before attempting to get pregnant again. This allows time to address any underlying health challenges and build up the nutritional reserves necessary for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Infertility is not simple. There are many reasons why a couple may have difficulty conceiving, and although conventional doctors look at several of the reasons, there are many that are difficult to delineate via lab tests or exploratory surgery. That’s where acupuncture and nutritional therapy come in. Generally, when the couple has gone through substantial emotional and financial investments towards medicalized fertility treatments, and finds they are not working, is when they start looking around for other answers.

But the right questions have to be asked. Beyond the physical and hormonal aspects of fertility usually looked at, what are other causes? Why can’t you get pregnant?  Statistically only 10% of women suffer from unexplained infertility.  Put in other words they don’t show up on the standard means of testing.  There is no visual pathological change, no obvious hormonal imbalance or other abnormal finding in either husband or wife.  Just because it isn’t obvious doesn’t mean there is no cause.  The body finds something seriously enough wrong that in its innate intelligence prevents the pregnancy.  After all, if it can’t manage the thing we call a body, why would it try to manage an additional one?  We could ask the same question regarding the other 90% of the infertility cases in which we find the causative factor.  The trick is finding the WHY of it.

If the woman has polycystic ovarian syndrome preventing her from getting pregnant, WHY?  Find that out, heal the “PCOS” and the problem is solved (by the way, the cause is known and treatable without surgery).  If a woman’s hormones are out of balance, WHY?  Get them back into balance by correcting whatever threw them out in the first place!  Yes, you can take drugs to force them back (only to a degree) enough to get pregnant, but is the problem solved?  No.  The reason why the imbalance occurred in the first place still exists – it’s only masked over to look “okay”.  That’s fine if your only goal is pregnancy.  But if you want to be WELL, you need more.

One of my favorite tools to help couples overcome fertility, pregnancy, emotional and other health challenges is acupuncture. Acupuncture to improve fertility and the chance of having a healthy baby is not new. It is one of the oldest fertility treatments ever. It has been practiced for thousands of years. It still is, because it works.

Acupuncturists look at fertility, or the lack thereof, with different eyes. We look at the tongue, details about the color and flow of blood during the menstrual cycle (and not just the usual suspects!), the pulse and other physical or functional attributes. We look at biological, nourishment, environmental, and physical elements as well as lifestyle habits. Patients are listened to and treated as individuals with unique factors that contribute to infertility.

But does acupuncture alone work? Dr. Raymond Chang, director of Meridian Medical is a medical doctor that apprenticed in China to combine conventional medicine with acupuncture. He told WebMD that “acupuncture stimulates egg function without the use of fertility medications. When you compare the pregnancy rates for an egg producing drug such as Clomid to acupuncture alone, the rates are equal – 50% chance of pregnancy in three months for general patients”. The nice part about acupuncture is there are not the side effects. This was acupuncture alone. When combined with nutrition and herbal medicine, the results increase exponentially.

Acupuncture can also be used in conjunction with conventional infertility therapies. A study done in Denmark found that “Acupuncture administered on the day of ET (embryo transfer) significantly improves the reproductive outcome in women undergoing IVF or ICSI treatment for infertility. The rates of positive pregnancy tests, clinical pregnancies, and ongoing pregnancy or delivery were all significantly higher than those in the control group”. This is because certain neurotransmitters are released during acupuncture that effect pituitary gonadotropin secretion, ovarian follicular growth, fertility, and ovulation.

Pregnancy isn’t supposed to be day after day of morning sickness. The suffering part of pregnancy should really only be towards the end when the weight and cumbersome aspect become more difficult.  The rest should be a joyous experience.  So why isn’t it?  Why is it that the body “crashes” after a pregnancy?  Why can’t we sustain a pregnancy? Because of the complex factors that can come into play in each of these situations, the services of a natural health care practitioner skilled in digging deep to find the underlying deficiency or imbalance causing the problem is essential. Once the underlying causative factors are addressed and the mother is provided with the nutrition necessary to support the needs of both mother and child, the chances of getting pregnant, maintaining a healthy pregnancy and having a healthy mother and child after the birth increase substantially. There is no magic pill, no one time treatment, no 100% guarantee. However, addressing the multiplicity of factors involved, and using a multi-dimensional approach, such as acupuncture and nutritional therapy, puts the odds of success back with the couple.

Dr. Holly Carling

Dr. Holly Carling

Dr. Holly Carling is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, Doctor of Naturopathy, Clinical Nutritionist and Master Herbologist with nearly four decades of experience. Dr. Carling is a “Health Detective,” she looks beyond your symptom picture and investigates WHY you are experiencing your symptoms in the first place. Dr. Carling considers herself a “professional student” – she has attended more than 600 post-secondary education courses related to health and healing. Dr. Carling gives lectures here in the U.S. and internationally and has been noted as the “Doctor’s Doctor”. When other healthcare practitioners hit a roadblock when treating their patients nutritionally, Dr. Carling is who they call. Dr. Carling is currently accepting new patients and offers natural health care services and whole food nutritional supplements in her Coeur d’ Alene clinic.

Medical/Health Disclaimer:

The information provided in this article or podcast should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken based solely on the contents of this article or podcast. Readers/listeners should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. The information and opinions provided here are believed to be accurate and sound, based on the best judgment available to the author, but readers/listeners who fail to consult appropriate health authorities assume the risk of any injuries.

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