Infertility is estimated to affect as many as 15% of couples in the United States. Of these couples, men and women contribute just about equally to the causes of infertility. Because infertility is so prevalent, many men, women, and couples choose to seek medical help when they are unable to conceive despite their best efforts.
So where do these couples turn? Traditional Western doctors and holistic fertility doctors offer different types of fertility treatments, though there can be some overlap between the two schools of thought. Understanding these different types of treatments is vital when deciding what kind of fertility treatment to seek out.
Western Fertility Medicine
The most common types of fertility treatment used in Western medicine are fertility drugs, taken as either pills or injections. Some of these drugs are used to cause your body to ovulate while others “regulate” various reproductive hormones. Though the success rate with fertility drugs are around 30% after several cycles of use, they aren’t without drawbacks and side effects. Symptoms like hot flashes, headaches, and depression, in addition to physically painful side effects like breast pain, pelvic pain, and ovarian cysts can occur. Also, these treatments can be very expensive, with injection treatments costing between $1,000 and $5,000 each month.
Some women undergo surgical fertility treatments to fix uterine abnormalities or remove endometrial lesions. As with any surgery, risks can be relatively high. While surgery can be very effective, there will likely be pain and discomfort after surgery, and there is always the risk of more serious complications, as with any surgery.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) are artificial reproductive technologies that, to varying degrees, help bring the sperm and egg together. IUI is a procedure in which the partner’s sperm is injected via catheter into the woman’s uterus, while IVF involves harvesting a woman’s eggs from her body so that they can be injected with sperm in a lab. Both processes usually require the use of fertility drugs, and can be very expensive. One cycle of IVF alone generally costs upwards of $10,000, and is, obviously, never guaranteed to work. In fact, IVF has a fairly low success rate, especially at an advanced maternal age.
Holistic Fertility Medicine
Where Western Fertility Medicine focuses on the “black and white” medical causes of infertility, holistic medicine treats body as an interconnected system and seeks to address the causes of infertility at its core, looking for the underlying causes, all with less risk and side effects.
One of the many ways in which a holistic doctor can help to improve your fertility is by counseling you on lifestyle, nutrition, and stress management. A holistic fertility specialist will order and look at pertinent lab work or imaging, as well as discuss your health, family medical history and your symptoms with you at length in order to identify areas in which you can make changes to improve your fertility without the use of harsh chemicals and surgical procedures.
You may be prescribed herbal prescriptions, bio identical hormones, and supplements that are targeted at regulating your hormones and improving your overall health. Herbs, bio identicals and supplements are natural and safe when prescribed correctly by a professional and are less harsh on your system than pharmaceuticals, yet effective as you work towards becoming more fertile.
Fertility acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine are also highly effective holistic fertility treatments. Acupuncture helps to regulate your menstrual cycles, promotes weight loss, and has a huge impact on stress and anxiety. All of which can contribute to, or even cause, infertility.
Both Western and holistic fertility medicine have their place in field the reproductive health. Depending on the cause of your (or your partner’s) infertility, either one or the other, or a combination of both might be the best fit for you. Certain (albeit few) causes of infertility are best treated through surgery, others through interventions like IUI or IVF. However, a sheer plethora of causes of infertility, including bit not limited to PCOS, endometriosis, irregular cycles, ovulatory dysfunction, luteal phase defect, thyroid issues, advanced maternal age, stress, etc. can be safely and successfully treated through holistic medicine.