I recently had the privilege of attending the Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS) seminar “An Integrative Approach to Fertility and IVF”. Presented by the engaging Dr Andrew Orr. Dr Orr gave a fascinating insight into the complexity of fertility and how complementary medicine can support successful conception. He shared his wealth of knowledge and experience in reproductive medicine. He has supported over 12.000 births using integrative medicine. Attending this seminar gave me valued training on how I can improve my client’s chances of healthy conception.
Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS) seminar “An Integrative Approach to Fertility and IVF”. Presented by Dr Andrew Orr with Macole Wassef.
Rapid rise in fertility treatment
There is no doubt that more men and women are seeking fertility treatment. In 2013, more than 33,000 Australian women had a fertility treatment cycle. This increase is caused for a variety of reasons such as an increase in women 40+ trying to conceive and an increase in single women and same sex couples wishing to conceive. There are also various medical conditions which may increase the need for fertility interventions.
Integrated approach to treating fertility
The aim of the seminar was to encourage an integrated approach to treating fertility. This means that as a nutritionist I am part a multi-faceted solution to supporting a client’s path to conceiving. Whether the client is undergoing IVF or trying to conceive naturally there are so many treatment options that can increase the chance of pregnancy. In assisting fertility referring clients to other practitioners is beneficial and often vital. Referring for acupuncture has positive results in increasing IVF and natural pregnancy conception rates. Acupuncture in IVF has shown to reduce the risk of miscarriage.(1)
Leave no stone unturned
Complementary medicine practitioners believe that there is no such thing as “idiopathic infertility”. There is always a reason and often a solution. Dr Orr’s motto of “leave no stone unturned” sums up complementary medicines commitment to understanding causes and treatments for infertility. It is estimated that 35% of IVF patients could fall naturally.(2) Too frequently men and women are not screened adequately for deficiencies and conditions that can be corrected. However, this is a process that takes time and some investigation and commitment from both male and female.
Nutritional fertility support for Men:
Men’s fertility has steadily been declining over the years. Sperm count of men in Australia, North America and Europe declined more than 50pc in less than 40 years. Nutritional medicine aims to improve the male role in fertility by increasing their sperm count and motility. This can include addressing a range of deficiencies and lifestyle issues.
Stress and anxiety
Nutritional supplementation: key nutrients such as Co-enzyme Q10, Zinc, essential fatty acids and vitamin C are shown to be beneficial. Amino acids including L-carnitine, L-arginine and taurine are shown to increase sperm motility. (3)
Correct oestrogen/testosterone imbalances
Nutritional fertility support for natural conception and IVF:
It is well known that IVF for many can be a long, painful and expensive journey. Women are rarely given any additional advice on how to support them emotionally physically and improve their chances of conception.
Nutritional medicine can support women undergoing IVF in a number of ways to increase their chances of healthy conception
Increase viability of eggs through improved diet and supplementation.
Reduce inflammation and progression of conditions such as Endometriosis and PCOS
Support side effects of hormone related therapy if using Clomid, or IVF hormones
Improve insulin sensitivity to reduce risk of miscarriage.
Support stress and anxiety around invasive treatment. This includes improving melatonin production, as sleep quality is vital.
Give dietary and nutritional supplementation to improve chances successful conception. This also is relevant to IVF as it requires additional nutritional support to increase its success.
Whether a client is trying to conceive naturally or is planning IVF I believe that nutritional medicine can support fertility with positive outcomes. It is not about offering a magic fertility pill, it is about being part of the fertility solution and giving women and men options and knowledge about fertility and how they can improve their chances.
(3) Ahmadi, S., Bashiri, R., Ghadiri-Anari, A., & Nadjarzadeh, A. (2016). Antioxidant supplements and semen parameters: An evidence based review. International Journal of Reproductive Biomedicine, 14(12), 729–736.