The 7 treatments can be divided into two areas, complementary or alternative treatments and conventional treatments. Let's first look at complementary treatments, they tend to be less invasive and less costly.
1. Diet and Nutrition – you may already be a firm believer in the benefits of maintaining a healthy diet or be skeptical as to how the food you eat can help your fertility. Either way, there is enough evidence to suggest that your diet may need tweaking to prepare yourself for pregnancy and carry a baby to full term. Sperm and egg production, fertilization and implantation and growing a baby for nine months all require an abundance of nutrients.
Couples who had problems conceiving have become pregnant by changing their diet and lifestyle alone. A three-year study of 367 infertile couples showed that after making the necessary dietary changes, 86% became pregnant naturally. Even if your infertility has been diagnosed as requiring conventional treatment research has shown that a healthy diet will reduce the risk of miscarriage and assist you in carrying a baby to full term.
2. Reflexology – involves working with the hands and feet to enable the body to heal itself. Following illness, stress injury or disease the body is in a state of imbalance, and vital energy pathways become blocked preventing the body from functioning properly. Reflexology can be used to restore and maintain the body's natural equilibrium and encourage healing. It can help facts that play a part in preventing conception such as blocked fallopian tubes, chlamydia and endometriosis.
3. Acupuncture – has helped to regulate menstrual cycles, to improve sperm health and helped couples conceive healthy babies. How I hear you say? The Chinese believe that the mind and body are inextricably linked. Any imbalance in the flow of energy around the body directly affects its functioning. For example, a person who worries excessively may suffer from irritable bowel syndrome due to increased mental activity affecting the functioning of the digestive system. Acupuncture treatment focuses on raising the while person and increasing a persons overall well being. It can increase blood flow to the reproductive organs, stabilize hormone levels and increase ovarian function.
The evidence: A study in Germany shown acupuncture improved the number and quality of sperm in men who suffered low sperm counts. Women with irregular cycles regulated their hormones. In clinical studies acupuncture helped normalize levels of FSH, LH and oestradiol in older women increasing the chance of a natural pregnancy.
4. Herbal medicine – uses the healing power of plants, flowers, trees and herbs to treat an illness or condition. Many herbs are in common use, such as ginger, which is taken to avoid sickness and nausea. Garlic which helps to reduce cholesterol levels, Gingkbo biloba which helps improve depression and milk thistle which detoxifies and cleanses the liver.
Herbal medicine can correct hormonal imbalances and increase the production of the female hormones and production of sperm. The skill of the herbalist lies in knowing the properties of each herb and being able to mix a remedy specifically tailored to each person need.
5. Hypnotherapy – focuses on the mind body connection. The practice of hypnosis dates from primitive times when healers would encourage people to cure themselves by planting suggestions of health and well being during a trance like state. Hypnotherapy is often used to treat phobias and its application to the field of infertility is relatively new. So how does it work?
A good example of how the mind and body are linked is in states of stress. Our mind buses itself with thinking about the problem, which the body shows the physical signs of stress like a raised heart rate, raised blood pressure and headache. Hypnotherapy asserts that every thought or sensation experienced in the mind shows itself in a physical change. The reproductive system is no exception. Who can benefit? If you are confused about motherhood, panicking you are too old, ambivalent towards your partner, fear of giving birth, guilty about an abortion hypnotherapy may help address the psychological barriers you have.
6. Ovulation induction – is a form of assisted reproductive technique (ART) in which there is medial intervention in trying to conceive a baby. It may be the first assisted treatment you try before progressing onto intrauterine insemination (IUI) ad in vitro fertilization (IVF). 30% of infertility in women is due to ovulation disorders. Fertility drugs which help women achieve ovulation have proven successful. The drugs are inexpensive and can be taken over a 3-6 month period. They work by fooling the body into thinking oestrogen levels are low. The brain picks up the signal and responds by increasing the production of FSH and LH, which then stimulate ovulation to occur. 80% of women using these drugs will ovulate and 50% may conceive.
7. IVF – in vitro fertilization is the most popular method of assisted conception and involves fertilizing a woman's eggs outside her body under controlled laboratory condition and replacing the embryos back into the uterus. IVF was initially designed for women with damaged fallopian tubes but is now frequently used for couples with low sperm counts, ovulatory disorders, endometriosis and unexplained infertility. Success rates vary from clinic to clinic, ranging from 10% to 58%. The average success rate is 25%. I always advise a couple to do thorough research before choosing their fertility clinic – it is one of the most important decision you can make!
Deciding which fertility treatment to undertake is a personal choice. Some couples prefer to start with the less invasive options first before advancing to assisted conception. Others may prefer to fast track to IVF straightaway. Either way do your research, work with your doctor and find the best treatment for you.