Many of us have either been affected directly by infertility or know someone who has had infertility issues. It is becoming more and more prominent in our society and many doctors will tell you it’s “unexplained” infertility. However, recent studies teach us that infertility isn’t some phenomenon that randomly occurs – there are factors within our control.
Is it really “unexplained” infertility or just something skipped at medical school?
I am one of those people who have been affected by infertility. It took me 2 years to get pregnant with my little man. I used to be a little sensitive about this subject, but not anymore because I feel the need to share with you what I have learned.
Our society has become addicted with quick fixes and magic pills. We want a diet pill that will shed fat instantly. We want a super-duper power supplement instead of overhauling the way we eat. We’d rather take the easy way out to manage or mask symptoms than to ask the hard questions about what the underlying problem is.
Don’t freak out on me just yet because YES, there are people who literally can’t get pregnant because they’ve got something that needs to be fixed. I know there are some who really have tried everything under the sun to get pregnant, and surgery or pills were their last resort. I’m not talking about those couples today.
When I began researching this post, I fully expected to find oodles of information about the rising epidemic of infertility rates in the United States. Instead, I found the opposite – infertility has actually been decreasing for three solid decades (from 8.5% to 6%).
However, having gone through the whole “see a doctor and take pills that force your body to try to get pregnant even if your body isn’t ready,” I know that those infertility numbers are misleading. I know a huge percentage of people get pregnant with the aid of fertility drugs when their bodies aren’t ready.
I began taking fertility drugs after trying for 6 months. If you remember from above, infertility is defined as not getting pregnant after 1 year of trying. In other words, if other women are like me, they have a six-month window to get pregnant using fertility drugs before there are defined as infertile.
So . . . there are MANY different factors when it comes to figuring out what exactly is the infertility rate. If we didn’t have infertility drugs, surgery, artificial insemination or other infertility services, what would the infertility rate really be?
Basically, infertility rates are going down, but the number of unhealthy women getting pregnant is increasing – as is the number of women taking fertility drugs.
While base infertility numbers are rosier than ever, I believe that infertility is still a massive (and growing) issue in the United States.
In fact, you’ll see in our post later this week that the first-day mortality rates in the U.S. are number 1 for industrialized countries – a result of unhealthy women getting pregnant when their bodies weren’t ready.
Now that we’ve established that infertility is indeed a rising issue, let’s talk about what people do for infertility.
“Approximately 44% of women with infertility have sought medical assistance. Of those who seek medical intervention, approximately 65% of them give birth. Approximately 85-90% of infertility cases are treated with drug therapy or surgical procedures.” (Source)
It seems that going to the doctor isn’t a guarantee of solving your infertility problem.
You see, I was one of those 44% who sought medical assistance, but I was NOT one of the 65% who gave birth with medical intervention.
First thing the doctor (nurse practitioner actually, I never saw the doctor) did was some blood work. That makes perfect sense to me. Your blood tells A LOT about what is going on in your body. When I was a vet tech I loved looking at blood results and trying to diagnose the animal’s problem before the doctor could tell me.
Test results showed that I had PCOS . . . WHAT?! I had never ever been sick in my entire life (besides your common cold) and now you’re telling me that I have this serious condition?
After doing some Google research, I felt like this diagnosis was a little weird because I was not your classic case of PCOS. Simply because my hormones were a little out of whack and I couldn’t get pregnant means I have to have PCOS, right? I feel like PCOS is the go-to diagnosis doctors give out when there isn’t a clear answer to infertility problems.
But, I trusted the doctor and did as I was told. They put me on Metformin to “regulate” my hormones, which I had a bad feeling about from the beginning. Metformin is a drug for diabetics and the side effect is hormone regulation. Why would I want to take a drug merely for the side effect?! Not to mention it made me vomit every single day.
After six months (and my hormones supposedly closer to normal), the nurse practitioner wanted me to take another drug in addition to Metformin to kick-start my reproductive system. Seriously, we just got my hormones back on track and now she wants to give me more drugs? Won’t introducing different hormone-regulating drugs throw them all out of whack again?
She didn’t have an answer for that question.
What I came to realize was that this drug wasn’t actually meant to fix whatever the root cause of my problem was.
Its purpose was to trick my body into getting pregnant.
Well, I didn’t want to get pregnant if my body wasn’t ready for it! If my body isn’t ready to get pregnant, then my baby might suffer the consequences.
That day I went home and threw away all of my drugs. My husband thought I was crazy, I felt like I was broken, and I had no idea what to do next. I cried a lot during that time, not gonna lie.
This is when I turned to my holistic naturopathic doctor. He reminded me of my biology years at BYU. I was taught over and over again that our bodies are constantly in survival mode. When our bodies are struggling with maintaining itself, the first thing to go is our ability to reproduce. Reproducing is not essential for our day-to-day survival, just our long term survival. With that in mind, a person’s ability to conceive is a great indicator of their overall health.
To me, this makes perfect sense. The problem is finding out what part of the maintenance is having issues. Doctors REALLY struggle with finding the underlying issues (it’s easier to spot symptoms and prescribe a treatment).
Within a month of doing SIMPLE maintenance my naturopath recommended, I was pregnant. YAY!
Many people may be resisting what I’ve said so far. Most moms would do anything to have their children here with them, and that taking some drugs or having a surgery is a completely worthwhile price to have their kids. I agree completely, and I would do anything to have my little man.
However, let me make this point: there is a better, healthier, and more sustainable way.
If I got pregnant taking the myriad of drugs prescribed to me, great! But what happens the next time I want to get pregnant? More drugs and more tricking my body to do something I’m not ready for?
What are the long-term complications of doing that?
I wanted to get pregnant with a healthy body in order to protect my future and so my body could properly support and nourish a baby. I also want to be ready and healthy for my future pregnancies.
Yes, I would pay any price to have my kids, but why pay that price when I could maintain a healthy body that’s completely ready to have kids?[/box]
Increasing our Fertility Naturally
How can we increase our fertility naturally and be healthy when we get pregnant?
The two biggest factors are toxins and diet.
We live in a very toxic world.
Often, we trade practicality and convenience for our health. For example, plastics are one of the leading contributors to hormone imbalances in our society. Good thing none of our food comes in plastic containers….
Other things like pesticides, non-stick cookware, cosmetics, toxin-filled personal care products, and cleaners are all part of our society because someone could make it cheaper or have it last longer by using chemical toxins.
I’d like to give the people who invented these toxins the benefit of the doubt and assume they didn’t know the catastrophic and rampant health effects these chemicals would have on us. However, we know now and we owe it to ourselves to make changes.
These toxins severely decrease our body’s ability to run at full capacity and are notorious hormone disruptors – with fertility being one of the first things to go.
Did you see that source? That source showed how much our environment is screwing up our bodies and yet many instances of infertility are “unexplained”?
A little bit of a side note, all disease begins in your gut. We talk a little bit more about toxins and such in our gut health post.
Okay back on topic!
One of the most important things we can do for our fertility is to begin eliminating these sources of toxins and replace them with all-natural versions.
When we run out of something (detergent, shampoo, cleaners, etc.) we usually find a way to make it at home using healthy ingredients. I highly recommend Mommypotamus’s DIY recipe books. I made an all purpose cleaner in about 5 minutes after my Clorox wipes ran out. She has a DIY Household Cleaner book and a DIY Beauty Recipe book.
We’re also buying stainless steel cookware very soon!
We also try to buy organic fruits and veggies especially if they are on the dirty dozen list. We buy pasture raised meat so there are no hormones or antibiotics added and we drink raw milk and fresh squeezed juice just to list a few things having to do with toxins in our diet. Speaking of diet . . .
How your diet screws up your body is easily the most oft-covered topic in this blog.
On a general level, processed foods are unrecognizable to your body. That, in combination with the chemicals added to processed foods, inhibits your body’s ability to produce hormones. In fact, vegetable oils (found in a majority of processed foods) are known to cause inflammation inside you and can even begin mutating your cells.
No, you won’t turn into Spiderman, but possibly an overweight, sickly person with infertility problems. Not as fun as Spiderman.
It also doesn’t help that some of the most important nutrients to bolster fertility have long been considered our mortal enemies. Here are two things that most moms-to-be skimp on that they absolutely need:
- Saturated Fats – Interestingly enough, there is no evidence that saturated fat from healthy sources is dangerous in any way, shape or form, from healthy sources. In fact, saturated fats provide cell structure, improve brain function, and boost our immune system – all necessary parts of overall health. Also, saturated fat is found in foods (whole milk, meat) that provide TONS of nutrients that bolster fertility.
- Cholesterol – Another taboo in our society. However, cholesterol (again, healthy sources) is actually the building block of all our hormones! With a low cholesterol diet (know anyone trying to limit cholesterol? Lol), you’re severely limiting your ability to reproduce.
Cholesterol does lots of stuff for our body – from regular maintenance to building our brains.
In fact did you know that there are many societies that spend a MINIMUM of 6 months eating a very special nutrient dense fertility diet before they even try to get prego? That’s a VERY different approach than what we do now in this country. People don’t realize how much of an effect your diet has on your baby BEFORE you are pregnant.
Speaking of specifics on what to eat, on Thursday we’re posting a comprehensive post about what to eat while you’re pregnant – but the principle is basically the same for increasing fertility! Stay tuned!
What are your thoughts about overcoming infertility naturally? Let us know in the comments!
Just wanted to give you guys and update and tell you that I’m pregnant again with number 2 and we’re having a girl!
I had an IUD placed after having Little Man (many real foodie mamas don’t use any sort of birth control besides tracking their period). I felt that the copper IUD was a good option since it did not affect my hormones and there is very small chance of being placed wrong. I didn’t trust my period tracking skills and definitely did not want to have another baby right away.
I exclusively breastfed Little Man until he was about 6 months old and his first tooth popped through. My period started when he was around 9 months old (no period for over a year was amazing btw!). I weaned him when he was 12 months old, took my IUD out, and we were pregnant with 2-3 months.
I am so grateful I have learned so much about eating the real food way! My body is so much happier!