I want to share my thoughts on medically assisted conception with the hope that by sharing, you will consider for a moment why and what would be some of the reasons for not immediately jumping into medically assisted conception. This intervention includes things such as IVF, for example. As a pelvic health physical therapist, I feel that it is my duty to educate the public on the good and the bad, the reward and consequences, that come from these types of medical interventions.
What You Need to Know About Fertility Interventions
Let’s first talk about what to expect with going into an infertility clinic. Typically they will start out with blood work, they might label you with “unexplained infertility,” they might have you go through a few cycles without anything, & then bring you back and give you the option to take medications such as Clomid or Letrozole. These medications are going to sort of force your body to ovulate and become pregnant, and I want to address why this may not be the best idea to do, at least at first, without giving your body a chance to prepare itself for potential pregnancy.
One of the things that Letrozole or Clomid does is inhibit estrogen production. The decrease in estrogen will then begin this chain reaction of events in your body because hormones respond to each other. What this does is stimulate your FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone) to begin producing more of their product, ultimately resulting in ovulation and this sort of “forced pregnancy.”
Your Body is Smarter Than You Think
Some people may not want to hear this, but there is probably a reason your body is protecting you from becoming pregnant naturally. For whatever reason, your body is deciding it is not safe to become pregnant.
With these assisted interventions, you’re forcing your body to go against its natural instinct and processes, which is probably not the best scenario. A lot of times, we will see miscarriages or complications during pregnancy with these interventions, and I feel that this could be attributed to this type of “forced pregnancy.”
I am here to say: We’ve got to be smarter about these things.
The Hard Truths About Medically Assisted Conception
Here’s a few things I would like for you to consider:
One, you’re forcing your body to do something that it’s probably not ready to do. We may not know why, but there are many things we can do to figure out what and why that is.
Two, you’re also putting the responsibility of becoming pregnant into somebody else’s hands - a stranger. Yes, this stranger is a fertility doctor, but this can put a lot of pressure on the couple trying to get pregnant. I have seen this pressure go as far as decoupling a couple because there is so much stress involved in trying to force a pregnancy to happen.
Support Your Fertility with Food
Moving to a more positive note, there are a few things I want you to consider for getting your body ready for pregnancy before taking the leap into medically assisted interventions.
Number one tip is your nutrition. This seems simple, but if you are not giving your body what it needs in nourishment, it may be interpreting these missing nutrients as not being a safe time for a baby. You need to think about the source of your good first. It needs to be clean and as organic as you can make it. I completely understand that this can be challenging to “clean up” your diet but think about your macros & micros and if you are feeding your body what it needs. Are you eating enough protein? Too many carbs? Too much fast food? Inflammatory foods?
So yes, the number one thing on your list to try should be shifting your nutritional habits. Think about things such as your blood sugar. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be diabetic to be struggling with balancing your blood sugar. Eating well and eating clean can really support your reproductive organs to feel that it is a “safe” time for you to have a baby.
Check out my blog post here where I go into detail about using this 1 surprising food to benefit your fertility.
Ways to Prepare Your Body for Baby
Another concept to be thinking about is your stress levels. Stress can impact glucose levels, and if you’re stressed, it can be difficult for your endocrine system to balance itself. Your endocrine system plays a vital role in producing hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, FSH, LH, and insulin - all super important for fostering the chance of conception. All of these things within the endocrine system have this sort of trickle-down effect. If something in the endocrine cycle is disrupted, the entire circle is thrown off.
If you’re not already moving or exercising in some fashion, then strive to meet your body where it’s at. You can start with very low level things like beginner's yoga or pilates. You can start with something as simple as walking daily, whatever does it for you, the important thing is that you get your body moving and blood flowing.
You should also start to avoid putting toxins into your body. If you’re a smoker, stop. If you’re a drinker, stop. If you’re using recreational drugs including THC, stop. I know this can be a hard one to give up, but if you’re drinking a ton of caffeine - coffees, teas, sodas - you have to start limiting these things. Start thinking about what you’re putting into your body and also think about what you’re choosing to not put into your body.
Understanding Your Organs & Your Hormones for Optimal Fertility
It’s important to restore blood flow and movement of your reproductive organs. Think of all the things within your abdominal cavity - your diaphragm, intestines, ovaries, uterus. If all of these things are stiff, stuck, & not moving, then you’re not going to get the right kind of blood flow to these areas. The lymphatic system becomes sluggish, resulting in a “sleepy” reproductive system - also a system we need to get moving. If you’re needing assistance with getting these organs moving, a program called Mercier Therapy can be very beneficial. Learn more about Mercier Therapy here. Or if you’re not sure if you need to focus on this aspect of your reproductive health, make an appointment for an assessment with somebody who is a skilled professional that can point you in the right direction.
It’s also beneficial to find out what your baseline hormone levels are. This is going to be a day 3 blood draw in most cases. Ideally this is going to be between day 2 and day for of your cycle. This is when your hormone levels are going to be at their lowest levels and gives us a really good baseline. If there are some outliers found with that day 3 test, we’re going to be able to pick that information up and go in and potentially tweak those findings to get you back into balance so that you have a good foundation for potential pregnancy. This is beneficial information to get tested and know, even if you don’t become pregnant naturally and end up needing assistance with medication or IVF.
I’m not necessarily completely against IVF and medication to assist conception, but if you have these interventions done without preparing your body to house a baby, then they’re potentially going to be unsuccessful. Also, if you do your research, you’ll find that IVF doesn’t guarantee a healthy pregnancy and doesn’t guarantee a live birth. There’s risk with any pregnancy, natural or medically assisted, so either way you’ve got to do the work and prepare your body to create a healthy environment to carry a baby.
Take Control of Your Fertility
At the end of the day, putting in the work is going to make you feel more empowered and more in control of your body. You’re going to feel more connected to your body and feel so much more authentic and ready to handle whatever the journey to conception throws at you.
There is probably a ton more I could say on this topic, but I really wanted to hit some of these key points and give you some things to consider before jumping right into heading to a fertility clinic. I also want to point out that I am not a medical doctor, but I want you to know that there are many things well within your control to make changes to help yourself.
As females, as moms, as daughters, educators, and professionals, we should be screaming these things a lot louder. Let’s be an advocate for change and empowering women to take control over their own bodies and to take control of their own fertility without medication or harsh intervention.
If you'd like to watch the video associated with this blog post, check out the link here.