At BodaHealth a large part of our practice is helping patients have children. We work with a wide range of patients, including males, females, same sex couples, single women, women who are donating eggs, women who are using donor eggs or donor embryos, surrogates, patients undergoing IVF, IUIs, those working with donor sperm, patients who are freezing eggs or embryos for future use, and patients who’re not quite ready to try conceiving but are working on optimizing their health in the meantime. We also work with many patients who are trying to conceive naturally.
Because Western fertility treatments play a role for many people who want to become parents, we’ve compiled this information to help you navigate the world of assisted reproductive technology (ART) and how we at BodaHealth can help support you, wherever you are in the process.
Many types of infertility are treated with assisted reproductive technology techniques. An infertility treatment protocol depends on several factors, including your age, how many years you’ve been trying to conceive, whether an issue is male or female factor, diagnosis, and other health considerations.
Treatment can entail the use of fertility drugs to treat ovulation problems. These drugs can include:
- Bromocriptine – Brand names Cycloset and Parlodel. Bromocriptine can control prolactin production and help regulate ovulation cycles.
- Metformin – Brand name Glucophage. This drug helps improve ovulation and it is used to address infertility caused by insulin resistance or metabolic disorder like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
- Aromatase Inhibitors – These include the drugs anastrozole (Arimidex) and letrozole (Femara). They reduce estrogen conversion which helps to increase FSH and aid in inducing ovulation; however, they can cause serious side effects like miscarriage and birth defects.
- Clomiphene (Serophene, Clomid, Menopure) – These are ovulation stimulators used for females suffering from PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome and other kinds of ovulation issues. Clomiphene blocks estrogen to helps the pituitary gland stimulate production and release of more LH and FSH. One of the major side effects of Clomid is that it heightens the risk of inducing multiple pregnancies by about 5%.
- Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (Gn-RH) analogues – Gonadotrophin-releasing hormone is produced and secreted by the hypothalamus. The most common analogues, leuprorelin (Lupron) and triptorelin (Decapeptyl), stimulation the pituitary gland to secrete follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). These drugs are used to regulate ovulation cycles.
- Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) – (Pregnyl and Ovidrel), help thicken a the uterine lining to support a growing embryo and prevents menstruation
- Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) / glycoprotein Gonadotropin– (Bravelle, Gonal-F) – These drugs help stimulate the ovaries to mature the egg (ovum) within the follicle. They help your ovaries produce more than one mature egg at a time. They are also used in men to stimulate sperm production.
- Human Menopausal Gonadotropin (hMG) – (Repronex). This is an injectable drug that contains LH and FSH hormones to help stimulate the ovaries to produce mature eggs.
- Cetrotide (Cetrorelix) – a gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) antagonist. It temporarily delays ovulation so eggs aren’t released too early. It is used to prevent premature ovulation during ovarian stimulation in an IVF cycle.
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH) – (Saizen) is used to promote follicle growth and development and egg quality during IVF treatments.
Surgery is an option for structural problems with the reproductive system that may cause infertility. These problems can involve blockages in the fallopian tubes, cysts, polyps or fibroids.
Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)
Thousands of babies are born each year because of ART helping parents have biological offspring. An ART procedure is performed by a professional health team comprised of specialized health professionals such as nurses, lab technicians, embryologists, andrologists, psychologists, acupuncturists and physicians.
ART technology can include:
- In vitro fertilization (IVF) – IVF is the most common ART procedure performed today. It entails retrieving mature eggs from a females ovaries and fertilizing the eggs with sperm in a petri dish. When fertilization is attained, the fertilized egg or embryo is implanted into the woman’s uterus three to five days after fertilization. This procedure is recommended for females with blocked fallopian tubes and can also be the solution for ovulation problems, male infertility, cervical disorders, unexplained infertility or endometriosis. Often an IVF procedure will implant more than one fertilized egg into the uterus to increase the chance of a successful pregnancy. IVF may necessitate regular hormone injections and frequent blood tests.
- Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) – During this procedure, sperm is directly introduced into the uterus using a small tube. The goal of IUI is to increase the chance of fertilization by increasing the amount of sperm that directly reaches the fallopian tubes.
- Vibratory or electric stimulation to attain ejaculation – This is a technique used to stimulate semen ejaculation and is often applied in men suffering from spinal cord injury who are unable to attain ejaculation.
- Surgical sperm aspiration – This procedure involves the extraction of sperm from the male reproductive tract and is applied when the male’s ejaculatory duct is obstructed.
- ICSI or intracytoplasmic sperm injection – This procedure involves injecting a single sperm cell into the female partner’s matured egg to attain fertilization. This approach is often utilized for men with low sperm count.
- Assisted hatching – an embryologist creates a small hole in the zona pellucida of the embryo to increase the rate of implantation during IVF.
Male Specific Infertility Treatment:
- General sexual problems – These can include premature ejaculation or impotence. Treatment procedures can include behavioral approaches or medication
- Lack of sperm – Hormone therapy, surgery or ART procedures (varicocele surgery or sperm injection into the egg, ICSI) can be utilized for this type of problem.
Acupuncture is used to treat a wide range of health conditions, including infertility. Numerous studies about this ancient procedure have led researchers to conclude that acupuncture for fertility:
- Increases pregnancy rates
- Improves blood flow to the uterus resulting in an optimal endometrial lining
- Lessens anxiety and stress levels
- Helps enhance ovulation in females suffering from PCOS
- Helps improve sperm quality and count in men with fertility problems
- Helps regulate the production of gonadotropin-releasing hormone leading to the normalization of ovulation
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Chinese herbs have been used to treat infertility for thousands of years. Only in the past few decades have scientists confirmed that herbal formulations can effectively regulate gonadotropin-releasing and other reproductive hormones, promote ovulation and bring increased circulation to the ovaries to improve the number and quality of eggs. Herbs are prescribed based on the patient’s specific health profile and needs, and can be modified based on cycle changes, IVF phases and the patient’s health.
Cold Laser Therapy
Cold laser therapy is a low intensity light therapy that gently produces changes deep within your body’s tissues, causing physiological and biochemical reactions at the cellular level. It increases circulation, promotes cell growth and helps regulate the chemical processes that are necessary for tissue healing and regeneration. Cold laser therapy can assist fertility as a way to improve poor egg quality, enhance male fertility, treat polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), treat endometriosis and improve ART outcomes.
At BodaHealth, we offer naturopathic medicine to our fertility patients. In men, it can help improve sperm counts and motility. For women, naturopathic medicine can be used to balance the menstrual cycle and promote better egg quality. Naturopathy involves the use of nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle changes to enhance fertility in women and men. Our naturopathic doctor is also able to order lab tests and prescribe Western medications, when necessary.
The impact of diet on fertility is clear. A number of studies have identified foods and overall diets that enhance fertility and those that are associated with poorer fertility outcomes. At BodaHealth, we recognize that good nutrition and decreasing dietary risk factors is a key component to optimizing fertility. Our holistic nutritionist is well-versed in working with fertility patients. Based on an assessment, your current health and reproductive status, they can provide you with a dietary plan that’s easy to implement that can help you get the nutrients necessary to enhance your fertility goals.
Regardless of where you are in your fertility journey, the staff at BodaHealth is there for you. If you’re undergoing ART, we’re happy to coordinate our treatments with your Western providers, and if you’re trying to conceive naturally, we have a team of practitioners who can offer a variety of treatment strategies based on your current needs. If you’d like more information or have specific questions about how we can help you, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.
Photo credits to Josh Parrish
Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.