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Fertility

Your Natural Guide to An Easy Egg Retrieval

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Your Natural Guide to an Effortless Egg Retrieval

 

Did you know that the egg retrieval procedure is considered minor surgery? No to worry though, you’ll be sedated! (Which means don’t go alone, you’ll need someone to drive you home.) This blog is filled with tips and tricks to get you through the procedure with knowledge and ease. No surprises here!

 

What’s happening exactly?

 

Your eggs are typically retrieved through transvaginal ultrasound aspiration (the same ultrasound you’re already used to.) A fine needle is inserted into the ovaries to extract the eggs. In certain circumstances, the ovaries are accessed through the abdomen through laparoscopic surgery. The procedure itself typically takes 30 minutes.

 

Sperm is retrieved at the same time, so make sure your partner abstains for the recommended amount of time and is ready to provide a sample!

 

You will need to take the day off for the procedure as you’ll be recovering from anesthesia and experiencing a moderate amount of cramping.

 

Is there anything to do to prepare?

 

Of course! Here are my top tips on how to prepare for the egg retrieval procedure, and recover like a champ

 

Before the Egg Retrieval

 

  1. Sleep peacefully

You’ll have a faster recovery when your body is well rested, but you might be nervous the night before! Ease your nerves with a few soothing yoga poses like lying with your legs up the wall, or doing some deep breathing in child’s pose 10 minutes before bedtime.

 

  1. Stay hydrated

 

Dehydrated tissues are more sensitive and pain medications & anesthesia can cause dehydration. I know you’re used to those full bladder ultrasounds so you should be a water drinking pro by now!

 

  1. Pack your diet with fiber

 

Pain medications & anesthesia can also cause constipation. If you eat lots of fiber in the days leading up to the retrieval it will make going to the bathroom a lot easier. Incorporate foods like chia, flax, oatmeal, fruits and veggies, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa… the list goes on. While you’re eating those fiber rich foods, prepare your meals for the day of your retrieval ahead of time (or better yet get someone else to make them for you) to make healthy eating easier.

 

  1. Stay calm with breathing techniques and meditation

 

You’ll have to be at the clinic early, why not use the wait time to keep yourself calm and centered. There are so many amazing apps you can download that will guide you through quick and easy relaxation techniques to try before the procedure begins. Some of my favourites are: Headspace, Calm, and Aware.

 

  1. Go for regular acupuncture

 

If you’ve read my other blogs you’ll already know the incredible benefits of acupuncture for IVF. Not only will it improve the delivery of meds and nutrients to the pelvis with ample blood flow, it will ease your recovery after retrieval through tissue healing and relaxation. One to two sessions per week, leading up to the day of your retrieval, is ideal. If in extreme circumstances you cannot be sedated, acupuncture can be performed during the retrieval procedure for pain management.

 

After the Egg Retrieval

 

  1. Ready your heating pad & castor oil

 

Expect to experience some mild to moderate cramping after the surgery. A heating pad can ease the muscle spasms. To make the relieving effects stronger, lather some castor oil over your pelvis and apply a cloth and heating pad over top.

 

  1. Invest in ginger capsules

 

You may be prescribed over-the-counter analgesic medications like Advil and Tylenol to ease cramping. Ginger is also an extremely effective analgesic/anti-inflammatory and in high doses does not cause bowel or gastrointestinal symptoms. It will also ease any post-surgery nausea.

 

  1. Have some organic pantyliners handy

 

You might notice a little bit of spotting the day of the surgery. I find organic liners to be a lot less irritating than conventional liners. Treat yourself to some new ones!

 

  1. Cue up your favourite movies

 

You typically won’t need to take more than one day off to recover, but you will need the day of to recuperate. Get in your PJs and slippers and enjoy your favourite chick flicks and Netflix B-list movies (does anybody else watch those but me?)

 

  1. Get some more acupuncture

Here it is again! You’ve already done 12 sessions of acupuncture to optimize your eggs, now acupuncture can be used to relieve post-surgery symptoms. If you’re experiencing constipation, nausea, cramping, bloating, etc. acupuncture is your best friend.

 

The more in-control and in-the-know you are regarding the egg retrieval process, the better you will feel. I’m here to support you every step of the way. Book an appointment with me here

How the Right Diagnosis Can Prevent Miscarriage: The Top 10 Causes

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If I had to choose an area of fertility medicine that I love most, it’s working with pregnancy loss. I’m fascinated by each of my unique patients, the vast possibilities, and the ever-changing research. There’s just so much that we don’t know about what it takes to carry a baby to term. If you’re working with a fertility clinic you’ll notice there’s a whole lot of observation during the first two weeks of your cycle, and once you’ve ovulated (or post embryo transfer) there’s not much monitoring after that! Rest assured, this article isn’t about what we don’t know but rather what we do! Fifty percent of miscarriages may not have an identifiable cause, but that means 50% of them do.

 

Let’s go over the stats here for a moment.

 

Recurrent miscarriage is considered two or more consecutive miscarriages, however diagnosis and treatment is often not suggested until three consecutive miscarriages have occurred. Not because you should have to suffer, or because your doctor doesn’t care, but because there’s a 15-25% chance of any pregnancy ending in miscarriage. The most common cause of miscarriage is fetal chromosome abnormality, which is about 60% of the time. While we’re going over the terminology, a “chemical pregnancy” is considered a miscarriage before 5 weeks, however it’s still a miscarriage to me.

 

Factors to consider in miscarriage:

  1. Did you have an early loss in the first trimester, or a late loss in the second or even third? Different diagnoses are more likely in late pregnancy versus early pregnancy.
  2. Do you already have a child, and in trying to conceive again have a miscarriage? Having a baby already can rule out some causes of miscarriage.
  3. Do you have a family history of autoimmune, hormonal, or blood disorders? That makes some of the diagnoses more likely.

 

Factors NOT to consider in miscarriage:

  1. You haven’t “stressed” yourself to the point of miscarriage. I promise!
  2. Exercise is always healthy! You don’t need to avoid physical activity
  3. Progesterone, in any form, is not always the answer. A 2008 Cochrane review found prophylactic progesterone to have no effect on preventing miscarriage, more on this soon.

 

In my practice I don’t wait the “3-loss” rule to begin treatment and diagnosis, if you’ve experienced a loss and you want support, you deserve that support right away.

 

Now let’s get into my Top 10 Most Common Causes of Miscarriage. The majority of the list can be diagnosed with blood work or imaging. The entirety of the list can be treated!

 

  1. Anti-phospholipid syndrome (and other causes of poor placental perfusion)

    This is a syndrome where antibodies attack components of your blood vessels. Anti-phospholipid antibodies include: lupus anticoagulant, anticardiolipin antibody, and anti-B2 glycoprotein. These antibodies interfere with uterine blood flow, more specifically the development of the trophoblast, which are the cells that form the placenta.

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  2. PCOS

    The foundation of PCOS is insulin resistance, which interferes with ovulation, follicle maturation, and maintaining a pregnancy. Insulin resistance, and the corresponding hormonal imbalances, cause poor egg quality, pelvic inflammation, and progesterone deficiency – all which contribute to miscarriage. I will add that metformin has not been found to be beneficial in preventing miscarriage in PCOS, but there are many naturopathic therapies that have!

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  3. Chromosome translocation (it’s not all about the woman!)

    This genetic condition can occur in men or women. If you have a chromosome translocation you won’t have any signs or symptoms, but some of the gametes you produce (i.e. egg or sperm) will also have the translocation. Unfortunately, if you’re conceiving naturally it’s a game of chance as to whether or not you will produce a viable embryo. IVF with PGS (pre-implantation genetic screening) can determine whether your embryo has a viable number of chromosomes.

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  4. Hypothyroidism & thyroid antibodies

    TSH greater than 4.0 during pregnancy is associated with miscarriage, preterm birth, premature rupture of membranes, and placental detachment. Thyroid peroxidase antibody, found in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, causes similar outcomes.

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  5. Anatomical causes: fibroids, polyps, uterine malformations, cervix incompetence

    Anatomical issues are more commonly at play during second trimester losses, and the outcome depends greatly on the location of the finding. I won’t go into the details here as they are easily diagnosed, and quite obvious, through imaging and pelvic exam.

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  6. Poor quality sperm (it’s not all about the woman!)

    The best test for measuring sperm quality is called sperm DNA fragmentation. Greater than 25% fragmented DNA indicates poor quality. In my experience, beyond lifestyle factors like diet and recreational drug use, medications are the most common culprit of increased DNA fragmentation. Anti-depressant medication, specifically SSRIs, cause statistically significant increases in DNA fragmentation as well as miscarriage.

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  7. Poor quality egg

    If only we had a test for egg quality like we do sperm quality! Age is the number one predictor for egg quality, steadily declining after age 35 – lucky us! But don’t worry, there’s lots that can be done!

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  8. Vitamin D deficiency

    One prospective cohort study identified vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for miscarriage, preterm birth, and low birth weight. Adequate vitamin D levels, hard to come by in gloomy Canada, are extremely important when it comes to reproductive health. 1 nmol increase in serum vitamin D levels decreases miscarriage rate by 1%. Testing is clearly imperative!

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  9. Inflammation & oxidative stress

    Conditions like PCOS, listed above, and endometriosis cause increased uterine inflammation and oxidative stress. Inflammation can also be elevated in the presence of other autoimmune diseases during pregnancy. However, there is significant research on specific anti-inflammatories and antioxidants increasing live birth rate and preventing miscarriage in these scenarios!

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  10. Progesterone deficiency & hyperprolactinemia

    As I’ve already suggested in this article, progesterone supplementation only appears to be helpful when there is a progesterone deficiency. High dose progesterone supplementation is all too common and I often see the extremely uncomfortable side effects in my patients. It may be indicated in cases of recurrent miscarriage. I’ll also mention hyperprolactinemia here as elevated prolactin levels can suppress progesterone production and lead to deficiency.

 

Honorable mentions:

 

  1. MTHFR deficiency & elevated homocysteine

    MTHFR deficiency refers to a mutation in the gene “MTHFR”, responsible for metabolizing folate (a vitamin found in your prenatal supplement to prevent spina bifida). When folate is not metabolized properly, a build up of an amino acid called homocysteine results. Elevated homocysteine can cause blood clotting and inhibit uterine and placental blood flow.

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  2. Immunological cause

    I’m going to throw out some pretty fancy terms here: HLA incompatibility, anti-paternal antibodies, and natural killer cells. They’re all terms for potential immunological conditions that cause miscarriage, meaning the woman’s immune system is attacking the embryo. Currently there’s insignificant research to suggest any of the above cause miscarriage, and the treatment is theoretical as well.

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  3. Vaginal infection

    I’ve noticed many fertility clinics test for ureaplasma and mycoplasma, and treat both partners with antibiotics if present. There is no clear data that these infections cause miscarriage. I have mixed feelings about the results, as there are often comorbidities present in my patients who have been treated for these infections. However, untreated bacterial vaginosis can indeed cause early miscarriage.

As I mentioned previously, I wouldn’t provide you with this information if there were not ways to diagnose and treat the possibilities. You have options! Just book an appointment with me and let’s get started.

 

References
Iqbal, S., Ghani, F., & Qureshi, R. (2016). Frequency of Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody and its Association with Miscarriages Among Pregnant Women. Journal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan26(10), 831-834.
Sundermann, A. C., Edwards, D. R. V., Bray, M. J., Jones, S. H., Latham, S. M., & Hartmann, K. E. (2017). Leiomyomas in pregnancy and spontaneous abortion: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Obstetrics & Gynecology130(5), 1065-1072.
Bärebring, L., Bullarbo, M., Glantz, A., Hulthén, L., Ellis, J., Jagner, Å., … & Augustin, H. (2018). Trajectory of vitamin D status during pregnancy in relation to neonatal birth size and fetal survival: a prospective cohort study. BMC pregnancy and childbirth18(1), 51.
Loss, E. P. PRACTICE BULLETIN.
EVALUATE, W. (2012). Evaluation and treatment of recurrent pregnancy loss: a committee opinion. Fertility and Sterility98(5).
El Hachem, H., Crepaux, V., May-Panloup, P., Descamps, P., Legendre, G., & Bouet, P.-E. (2017). Recurrent pregnancy loss: current perspectives. International Journal of Women’s Health9, 331–345. http://doi.org/10.2147/IJWH.S100817
No, G. T. G. (2011). The investigation and treatment of couples with recurrent first-trimester and second-trimester miscarriage. April 2011.
Haas, D. M., & Ramsey, P. S. (2008). Progestogen for preventing miscarriage. Cochrane Database Syst Rev2.

The Top 10 Questions to Ask Before Starting IVF

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IVF is a big step, physically and financially, and you likely have questions before you commit but you just don’t know what to ask. Of course, how do you know what you don’t know?! The purpose of this blog is to inform you about the IVF process and provide you with some preliminary questions to ask your Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE). It’s important that you feel empowered and in-control when it comes to the decision of IVF. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and advocate for yourself, you always deserve to be in the know!

 

  1. What testing has been completed that makes IVF a necessary procedure for me?

    IVF is not typically the first option when it comes to Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). You may have already gone through several unsuccessful IUIs, or you/your partner may have a specific circumstance that requires IVF. When it comes to female blood work, a low AMH level and/or high FSH level is an indicator of low ovarian reserve and IVF may improve you ovarian response. For men, if there is hypospermatogenesis, IVF with ICSI (injecting the sperm directly into the egg cytoplasm) may be the best option for you. Do make sure your RE walks you through the evidence that supports the need for IVF in your particular case.

  2. What does IVF involve?

    Ask your RE to go over the procedure with you, including how the medications are administered, the function of each medication (I get asked this one the most!), and how many appointments you will need. You or someone you know will need to be comfortable with the injections! You may also need to adjust your work schedule for the frequent cycle monitoring appointments. The egg retrieval procedure is indeed minor surgery so you should be advised as to how to prepare beforehand.

  3. How much does IVF cost? Do you have funding available?

    This one I’m sure is the most obvious question to ask, IVF is expensive! The funding gets confusing though. In Ontario, one IVF treatment cycle per female patient is funded. However, you are at the liberty of the waitlist at your fertility clinic. Depending on the fertility clinic, you may wait from 6 months to 2 years for your funding. The funding is based on a first come, first serve basis. In order to be eligible you (the woman) must be under the age of 43. The funding does not cover the medications, but it does cover the cost of ALL of your embryo transfers. For example: if you produce 3 viable embryos from your IVF cycle, each embryo will be transferred one at a time; each of these transfers is covered by the funding.

  4. What are the side effects?

    You’ll want to ask about the side effects of the specific medications you are taking as well as the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) and egg retrieval. Long-term side effects are largely unknown (from my understanding), but you’ll want to know what to expect while taking the medications so you don’t have to resort to “Dr. Google” along the way.

  5. What is the success rate of IVF?

    The success is going to depend on your unique case, as well as your partner’s/donor’s, and both of your ages. The greater the number of high quality embryos produced, the greater your chances for a healthy live birth. The CDC has an amazing tool, based on their compiled data, to calculate your potential success rate. For example, the chance of live birth per embryo transfer between ages 38-40 is 27%. The chance of live birth per egg retrieval procedure between ages 38-40 is 19%.

  6. Based on my lab work how many embryos do you think will be produced?

    This is important for developing realistic expectations for the IVF process. Your RE should be able to predict this for you. To give you a real world example of a female age < 35 using stimulating medications: 10 follicles were retrieved, of these 10 follicles only 7 were mature and viable, of the 7 follicles 5 were fertilized, of these 5 embryos only 3 survived until day 5. That’s a total of 3, day 5 embryos to be transferred.

  7. Do you advise day 3 or day 5 embryo transfer?

    A 5-day-old embryo has more cells than a 3-day-old embryo; it is referred to as a blastocyst. Blastocysts are commonly higher quality embryos than embryos in the cleavage stage (day 3). They’ve survived an extra 2 days on their own! It is worth discussing which practice your RE uses.

  8. Will the embryo transfer be fresh or frozen?

    Frozen embryo transfers are now more common practice, as it gives your body a chance to rest before the transfer. This means you’ll wait until your next cycle to transfer the embryo, rather than right after egg retrieval. The research on live birth rates when comparing fresh and frozen embryos seems to show similar outcomes.

  9. Do you offer PGS (pre-implantation genetic screening)?

    This screening is completed on frozen (and then thawed) day 5 embryos. It is a test to determine whether embryos have an abnormal number of chromosomes. It can be used to prevent miscarriage or lack of embryo implantation. If an embryo has an abnormal number of chromosomes it will not be transferred. Not all clinics offer this technology, and it is an additional cost.

  10. Do you welcome the support of acupuncture and naturopathic medicine during IVF?

    Finally, the most important question of all! Choose an RE who supports a multidisciplinary approach to fertility. It can take a village to make a healthy baby and you deserve access to all tools in that village. Acupuncture and naturopathic medicine have been highly researched for fertility support. We can also help you navigate the IVF process and answer questions your RE may not have the time to answer. You should feel supported every step of the way. Book your appointment here! 

    References
    Hatırnaz Ş, Kanat Pektaş M. Day 3 embryo transfer versus day 5 blastocyst transfers: A prospective randomized controlled trial. Turkish Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2017;14(2):82-88. doi:10.4274/tjod.99076.
    Aflatoonian A, Karimzadeh Maybodi MA, Aflatoonian N, et al. Perinatal outcome in fresh versus frozen embryo transfer in ART cycles. International Journal of Reproductive Biomedicine. 2016;14(3):167-172.
    Wong, K. M., van Wely, M., Van der Veen, F., Repping, S., & Mastenbroek, S. (2017). Fresh versus frozen embryo transfers for assisted reproduction. The Cochrane Library.
    Mastenbroek, S., Twisk, M., van der Veen, F., & Repping, S. (2011). Preimplantation genetic screening: a systematic review and meta-analysis of RCTs. Human reproduction update17(4), 454-466.

The 10 Foods You Should be Eating During the 2-Week Wait

By | Fertility, Women's health | No Comments

You’ve made it through!

Through the countless appointments, medications, and procedures! Now all there’s left to do is wait, and maybe wait a little more. These two weeks are a time for you to do absolutely nothing: love yourself, hug yourself, and reflect on how you’re stronger than was ever thought humanly possible!

 

I’ve heard from my patients that the hardest part of the 2-week wait is feeling like there is nothing else they can do, which makes the wait that much…crappier. They want to support their body in every way they can and they’re not sure how to do this after the embryo transfer. Luckily there IS something you can do, and that’s optimize diet! There are simple foods you can eat to increase pelvic circulation, build blood, decrease inflammation, and support progesterone. Eat them often and feel confident that you’re supporting your embryo and overall health!

 

  1. Blackstrap Molasses

    1 tbsp of molasses has the same iron content as half of a small steak! Iron is needed to build nutrient rich blood. You can add it to oatmeal, smoothies, and in place of sugar in baking and cooking.

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  2. Beets

    Beets produce nitric oxide (NO), which dilates the pelvic blood vessels. Beets allow your nutrient rich blood to be delivered to where it matters most – your embryo!

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  3. Spinach

    Not only does spinach contain lots of iron, but it also benefits pelvic blood flow so that you can build a thick and plush uterine lining.

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  4. Lentils/ Beans

    They’re the ultimate vegetarian source of protein, iron, fiber, zinc, potassium, and b-vitamins…everything your growing embryo needs.

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  5. Beef/Tofu

    Organic, grass fed, hormone-free beef for the omnivores and non-GMO, organic tofu for the vegetarians. Both are powerful blood building foods. Beef is a source of heme iron, which is better absorbed than plant based irons for a quick boost. If you’re feeling adventurous, liver and oysters contain even more iron but they’re a hard sell with my patients!

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  6. Oats

    Are you tired of hearing about iron yet? You need a heck of a lot of it to grow a baby and oats are another great source! Oats also contain beta-glucans, which support your immune system which takes a pretty big hit when you’re growing a baby.

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  7. Nuts: Almonds & Walnuts & Brazil nuts

    Almonds and walnuts contain anti-inflammatory fatty acids AND nitric oxide for improving blood flow. The embryo implantation process actually requires a small amount of inflammation to succeed, but too much inflammation is detrimental.

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  8. Salmon

    Alaskan, non-farmed salmon is the healthiest and highest source of omega- 3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA). These fats are found in every cell in your body, even your embryo’s. They support hormone production and cellular regeneration.

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  9. Seeds: Sunflower & Sesame & Hemp seeds

    These 3 seeds have fatty acids that mimic progesterone, thus increasing overall progesterone levels in your body. Progesterone is needed to maintain endometrial thickness.

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  10. Pineapple

    It’s a well-adopted symbol for the fertility community, and for more reasons than one! Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which can support embryo implantation and endometrial receptivity.

 

The 2-week wait is all about doing things that support your body and mind and make you feel happy; the hardest part of the IVF process is over. If you can fit in some of these healthy foods too, your embryo will thank you.

Book an appointment to prepare for your upcoming IVF or FET cycle

5 Natural & Effective Ways to Increase Uterine Lining Thickness

By | Fertility, Uncategorized | No Comments

During natural cycles, cycle monitoring, IUI, IVF & FET

 

Uterine (or endometrial) lining thickness is a useful predictor of embryo implantation and pregnancy success. It is measured via ultrasound during cycle monitoring, IUI, IVF, and frozen embryo transfers. A thin lining can halt the entire fertility process, and not seeing any growth in thickness, despite medical efforts, can be really frustrating.

 

The Lining “Norm”


Uterine lining thickness varies depending on the phase of your menstrual cycle and hormonal influence.

On your period: 2-4mm

Follicular phase (before ovulation): 5-7mm

Ovulatory phase: 7-11mm

Luteal phase (after ovulation): up to 16mm

 

A lining < 8mm is associated with implantation failure, poor receptivity, and low pregnancy rates. The numbers aren’t the only measurement that matters. The endometrial pattern is also relevant; the most receptive lining is called triple-line or tri-laminar (due to its 3 layer appearance).

 

The most common pharmaceutical approach to a thin lining is supplementation with synthetic hormones; conjugated estrogen, progestin, or a combination of both like the oral contraceptive pill. Viagra is also used to increase pelvic blood flow (it ain’t just for men!) Not all women respond to these options, but thankfully there are natural alternatives. Naturopathic medicine can be used in conjunction with hormones or alone to optimize your lining.

 

  1. Vitamin E

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    A 2017 study showed that 12 weeks of low-dose vitamin E supplementation in women with prior implantation failure increased endometrial thickness by 2mm and decreased inflammatory cytokines.

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  2. L-Arginine

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    A pilot study in 2010 used high-dose L-arginine to increase endometrial thickness and pelvic blood flow.

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  3. N-Acetyl-Cysteine

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    NAC is a super-fantastic-marvelous supplement. It has proven to improve endometrial thickness (pertinent here) as well as: induce ovulation, recruit mature follicles, reduce insulin sensitivity, and break down endometriomas! Woah!

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  4. Fruit: lemon, lime, orange, pomegranate, watermelon

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    What do all of these fruits have in common? They are nitric oxide producers. Nitric oxide dilates your blood vessels so more blood can be delivered to your uterus to build up that lining. Viagra works the same way, which means pomegranates are nature’s Viagra!

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  5. Acupuncture (including electro-acupuncture)

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    Acupuncture is used to support embryo implantation and promote pelvic blood flow. It supports endometrial thickness by reducing stress on the uterine artery. Multiple studies have shown a statistically significant increase in pregnancy rates with acupuncture before embryo transfer and on the day of transfer.

 

When all else fails, remember that lifestyle makes a huge difference! Simple strategies like drinking at least 2L of water daily and moving your body with gravity can increase endometrial thickness.

 

Book an appointment to support your uterine lining!

 

References:

 

Jimenez, P. T., Schon, S. B., Odem, R. R., Ratts, V. S., & Jungheim, E. S. (2013). A retrospective cross-sectional study: fresh cycle endometrial thickness is a sensitive predictor of inadequate endometrial thickness in frozen embryo transfer cycles. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology11(1), 35.

 

Zhao, J., Zhang, Q., & Li, Y. (2012). The effect of endometrial thickness and pattern measured by ultrasonography on pregnancy outcomes during IVF-ET cycles. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology10(1), 100.

 

Al-Ghamdi, A., Coskun, S., Al-Hassan, S., Al-Rejjal, R., & Awartani, K. (2008). The correlation between endometrial thickness and outcome of in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer (IVF-ET) outcome. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology6(1), 37.

 

Hashemi, Z., Sharifi, N., Khani, B., Aghadavod, E., & Asemi, Z. (2017). The effects of vitamin E supplementation on endometrial thickness, and gene expression of vascular endothelial growth factor and inflammatory cytokines among women with implantation failure. The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, 1-8.

 

Takasaki, A., Tamura, H., Miwa, I., Taketani, T., Shimamura, K., & Sugino, N. (2010). Endometrial growth and uterine blood flow: a pilot study for improving endometrial thickness in the patients with a thin endometrium. Fertility and sterility93(6), 1851-1858.

 

Nasr, A. (2010). Effect of N-acetyl-cysteine after ovarian drilling in clomiphene citrate-resistant PCOS women: a pilot study. Reproductive biomedicine online20(3), 403-409.

 

di Villahermosa, D. I. M., dos Santos, L. G., Nogueira, M. B., Vilarino, F. L., & Barbosa, C. P. (2013). Influence of acupuncture on the outcomes of in vitro fertilisation when embryo implantation has failed: a prospective randomised controlled clinical trial. Acupuncture in Medicine31(2), 157-161.

This is What Infertility Looked Like 30 Years Ago

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This is what infertility looked like 30 years ago, told through the eyes of an “infertile” couple’s daughter (that’s me!)

In honour of Canadian Infertility Awareness week, I sat down with my parents and asked them what infertility looked like over thirty years ago. You see: I am the very happy ending of a ten-year struggle with infertility. Just as you’ll one day share your journey with your baby to be, my parents shared their overwhelming journey with me. They never would have imagined that their daughter would be telling their fertility story, yet here I am sharing it with you!

Their Story

Thirty years ago the fertility world looked a little bit different than it does today. My parents were never offered IVF, but they did undergo a handful of memorable IUIs. In order to get a semen sample for the IUI, my dad was instructed to use the public washroom across the street and have my mom store the sample in in her bra until her appointment. Bra storage isn’t exactly standard care these days. With a different fertility specialist, my mom underwent a laparoscopy to diagnose endometriosis and the doctor forgot to chart his findings and couldn’t remember the results! Needless to say, my parents went through many fertility doctors and refused to settle for one they didn’t connect with. But forget about doctors, my mom said she was so desperate for answers that she sought the help of an astrologist and a psychic and “if there was a Martian trained in infertility” she would have gone to see him too!

Sacrifice

My parents taught me that infertility is paved by sacrifice. They donated their bodies to be poked and prodded and followed a diet that my dad loathingly refers to as “cardboard and vegetables”. My mom said she once found a receipt for a secret chocolate bar in my dad’s grocery bag and completely broke down, refusing to speak to him for days!

There were really awful and devastating moments. My mom vividly recalls being invited to a baby shower where every single woman who attended was pregnant (all too common for women struggling with infertility). My mom said she cried a lot through all of these awful moments, but that it was really important to her that her friends and family know what she was going through. She wrote personalized letters (remember this was the 80s!) to the people in her life so they could better understand her journey and her ever so deserving tears.

Holding Onto Hope

Throughout my parents’ 6 year struggle with infertility, they never gave up hope. They would buy baby clothing and baby books wherever they went because they knew they would be parents, even if it were through adoption. In fact, the public adoption agencies in Ontario were closed thirty years ago so my mom resorted to some very unconventional methods. She wrote letters to high schools (she’s a teacher) explaining her story and asking if there were pregnant teens giving up their children for adoption! She recalls a news story where a couple had twins but only wanted one of the twins, and she somehow found the couple’s contact information and called them directly to tell them she would take one of the babies! I mean, YIKES, the police would be knocking on her door if she had tried any of this nowadays! She was one determined parent.

And Then There Was Me

Of course there’s a silver lining to this story, and that’s me… and did I mention I have two biological brothers too!?! It wasn’t until they saw a naturopathic doctor (and yes, all of their friends thought they were crazy) that they finally got pregnant. It may not be a surprise to you that I was then raised with naturopathic medicine and here I am as a naturopathic graduate with an immense passion and dedication to fertility. I haven’t personally experienced infertility, so when I first started my naturopathic internship I was determined to build a set of resources to help people like my parents.

After spending some time talking to my parents, I asked them to share some coping strategies that made their journey just a little more bearable. Here’s what they had to say:

  1. Tell people what you are going through
    My mom constantly felt guilty for crying when she was “supposed to feel happy” for her pregnant friends. Instead of burying her feelings, she wrote letters (this was 30 years ago when texting wasn’t available) to her friends explaining what she was going through and how it was affecting her life.
  2. Remove negative people from you life
    My parents were not willing to hold space for people in their lives that were not going to support them. When they were getting approved for adoption, they needed letters of recommendation from their friends. One of their friends said she was “too busy to write it”, that friend is obviously no longer in their lives.
  3. Find support beyond your partner
    Even 30 years ago they saw a fertility counselor, both on their own and together. Nowadays there are many amazing online resources and support groups too!
  4. Try not to put your whole life on pause
    Try new things, find some new hobbies, travel the world. It was important to my parents that they have something in their lives besides fertility appointments. They tried every class possible at the local community centre: pottery, basket weaving, calligraphy, soccer, hockey, you name it.
  5. Acknowledge your strength
    My parents certainly acknowledged their sadness after every failed cycle, but they stayed positive and told themselves they would “just try again in two weeks”.
  6. Hold on to hope and be who you are
    Infertility does not make sense and my parents were damned sure they were never going to give up on parenthood…even if my mom had to call every single news station looking for a baby to adopt!

Evidently, a lot has changed in the past thirty years, fertility technology in particular! But the emotional toll infertility takes on a person remains all too much the same. Ask for support whenever you can, and don’t give up until you feel it’s right for you. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll have a daughter who will share your fertility story.

To learn about the fertility services I offer click HERE. To learn about my healthy conception program click HERE