If you’re addressing a fertility health concern or issue, you know how hard it is to decide on the best treatment approaches. There are so many options! One can choose to work with medical doctors, fertility specialists, natural healthcare providers, have assisted reproductive technologies (ART), or try natural therapies. You might even combine natural and medical approaches.
We speak to many people who are working with a variety of therapies. Yet, they don’t always discuss their choices with their doctor, herbalist or other health care practitioners. Building an open dialogue with all the professionals you’re working with can be an important part of your healing process. In fact, building your own fertility team is often the most advantageous approach for a faster return to healthy fertility.
Building Your Fertility Team
For long-term or chronic fertility problems, I recommend building a team of support. This team is designed to work for you, for your specific fertility-health needs and your own unique situation. They should all be willing to support you, whether you take a medical approach to your fertility health or choose to address your fertility with natural therapies, or both. Following are four key steps to take when creating your fertility-health team…
Step 1. Choose practitioners to work with. A fertility team should consist of professionals that make sense for your situation and may be many different people like a:
- Medical Doctor (MD)
- Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE)
- Reproductive Immunologist (RI)
- Fertility Acupuncturist
- Fertility Herbalist
- Massage Therapist
Just imagine the possibilities created when all parts of your team are working hard to contribute to and design a program that is best suited for you. Remember, you are the most important person on your team! Be your own advocate to ensure that the people on your team address all of your fertility questions and concerns clearly and completely.
Step 2. Have Tests & Get a Diagnosis. Rely on your doctor’s strengths for your fertility. Some people want to use natural therapies solely to improve their reproductive health. As natural fertility specialists, we support and applaud this commitment. However, a doctor’s assessment may be necessary to diagnose a long-term fertility issue.
A medical doctor can offer diagnostic expertise to determine what’s causing a fertility concern. Today, medical testing is available for a wide range of fertility issues:
- hormonal imbalances
- reproductive organ health and function
- immunological issues
- genetic disorders
- sperm health and motility
- nutrient deficiencies
- mutations that impact conception
A fertility herbalist can provide diet and lifestyle, as well as natural therapy recommendations for most of these issues, but diagnosis and testing are a licensed doctor’s or specialist’s strength. In most states, natural health practitioners, like herbalists, aren’t licensed to perform testing or interpret medical tests.
However, your herbalist (or other natural health practitioner) can comment on your doctor’s assessment of your fertility tests, and offer input on how to use natural therapies to encourage reproductive balance with your situation in mind.
Step 3. Choose Your Approaches. Discuss them with your team. This important step is usually the hardest part and can be very empowering on your fertility journey. Many people choose a blended approach of medical and natural therapies when dealing with a fertility issue. A blended approach allows you to take advantage of advancements in reproductive medicine and also use natural therapies that improve reproductive system health in a safe and gentle way.
Some people may use medical treatments for a time and then move on to natural therapies or vice versa. Whatever your path is, make a point to share this information with your entire team. For instance, if you’re eating organic foods or using a supplement like ubiquinol for your fertility, share this information with all of your team members.
You may want to bring in research to back up your choices if your doctor needs information on a certain therapy. In addition, it’s important to let your fertility herbalist know if you’re going to try fertility drugs or if you’re planning for a medical fertility treatment. A fertility herbalist will want to customize your program and steer you away from any natural therapies that could interfere.
Ideally, all of your team members will be respectful and supportive of your choices. Feel empowered when sharing your plans with the people on your team. If needed, you can mention that a respectful, supportive environment is what you need and expect from the professionals that you work with.
Step 4. Make a Commitment to your team and approaches, and stick with them. Having a timeline in mind works well for many people. While some women become pregnant right away using fertility therapies, this isn’t always the case. A natural fertility program generally needs at least 3-6 months to be effective in supporting nutrition and reproductive health. A chronic issue like PCOS, for example, may require 6-12 months of consistent lifestyle and dietary changes. Further, even medical fertility treatments can require some trial and error. Many couples try IVF a few times before it is successful.
Truly, the effectiveness of any therapy depends on the type of fertility issue being addressed, along with health and lifestyle factors that vary from couple to couple. Try to be patient, knowing you’re doing your best during this process. Dealing with fertility concerns can be challenging!
I recommend using a calendar to mark down special dates or plans. It can be helpful to see a visual reminder that in 3 months, you plan on taking a break, re-evaluating or going on a special trip. Another helpful tool is writing daily in a Natural Fertility Journal. You can refer to your journal when times are tough, so you can see your progress and everything you’ve learned.
Why We don’t Suggest Combining Herbs with Fertility Drugs
It may be tempting to try herbs with your medical fertility treatments, but we don’t recommend it. Investigating how herbs interact with drugs is a fairly new area of research. Most of the information we have about herb/drug interactions comes from anecdotal reports or small tests. We just don’t have enough information to make a qualified decision that it’s safe or beneficial to combine herbs with fertility drugs.
Medical fertility treatments are tightly controlled. Certain herbs for fertility like Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus) have the ability to affect hormones, but don’t contain hormones themselves. Because of this ability, an herb that can impact hormonal balance could possibly affect how fertility medications are working in your body. Why chance it when you are working so hard?
In our experience, a better choice is to follow a natural fertility program with fertility herbs for 3-6 months before beginning fertility medications, or after they have been completed. If you’re already taking fertility medications, consider other supportive, non-herbal therapies like a Fertility Diet, meditation, or acupuncture that can contribute to your success without interfering with your treatment.
Speak Up. Be Empowered!
Ultimately, your fertility journey is a deeply personal one. You’re a unique individual with your own needs when it comes to fertility. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself and kindly pose questions to all the people on your fertility team. Remember this process is about you, and the decisions about your health are yours! A qualified professional will understand that you’re being thorough in exploring all of your options, and becoming educated on your own body and fertility.
While not all medical doctors are open to natural therapies, more and more, we do hear about medical professionals and natural health practitioners (like herbalists) working together for the common good of their clients. Some doctors even decide to incorporate natural therapies in their practices. Conversely, your fertility herbalist could discover a particular herb or supplement that is beneficial through information your doctor shares about a medical test, and then be able to pass this on to others in need of support.
You really never know what’s going to happen until you share your fertility story and therapy choices. You might be surprised at what a great advocate you can be for yourself and how much your fertility improves when you take advantage of all of the resources at your fingertips.
- Page, L. & Abernathy, S. (2011). Healthy Healing 14th Edition. Healthy Healing LLC
- Rodriguez, H.(n.d.). How To Increase Your IVF Success Rate Naturally Retrieved from: http://natural-fertility-info.com/increase-ivf-success
- Barton-Schuster, D. (n.d.). Interactions Between Fertility Herbs and Medication. Retrieved from: http://natural-fertility-info.com/interactions-between-fertility-herbs-medications.html