Medical fertility treatment options are available for almost every type of reproductive health issue, but how effective are they and do they address the root of the problem?
In her book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom; Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing, Dr. Christiane Northrup speaks to the idea that while surgical removal or medical treatment of a fertility health issue doesn’t really offer a “cure”, it may actually help the body combat the health issue by enhancing immune system function and possibly providing the person relief from symptoms associated with the fertility issue such as pain, inflammation, and bloating. At the same time there may be a mental shift that takes place – “the patient on some level feels that it’s been taken care of” and there may be emotional relief as a result which can boost overall well-being.
For many, medical fertility treatments like IUI, IVF, FET, embryo adoption, or using an egg or sperm donor are the only way their dreams of having a child will be achieved.
While, I am not here to suggest that one should not have surgery for a fertility health issue, or go through medically-assisted means of conception, I am here to be honest and echo Dr. Northrup… though a person may experience relief from a medical procedure, or become pregnant, it is very likely that the procedure is not addressing the underlying imbalance leading to the fertility health issue in the first place.
The point I am trying to make is that prior to any medical fertility treatment, it is important to do your homework and to understand that there are common misconceptions about medical fertility treatments.
Key Points to Think About
Food for Thought Prior to Choosing Medical Fertility Treatments:
- Take time to vet ART clinics and their practitioners. Seek out a fertility clinic that feels comfortable, has empathetic, open and honest doctors and staff, and has a high success rate for the type of procedure you are looking into.
- Weigh the pros and cons of the procedure, prior to scheduling a medical procedure. Talk in depth with your doctor about the treatment options. Make a list of questions beforehand to ask during the initial consultation.
- Learn how to support the body in correcting a health imbalance(s) prior to and after a medical fertility procedure – this will help the body recover more quickly and to the best of its ability.
- Keep in mind that surgical procedures run the risk of causing additional adhesion and scar tissue formation.
- Surgeries to remove uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and adhesions are often only effective for a period of time, and these reproductive health issues often grow back despite surgical removal.
Misconceptions About Medical Fertility Treatments
Misconceptions We Regularly Hear Are:
1. Surgery guarantees healing
While surgery may alleviate a symptom and boost the body’s ability to continue to try to heal itself, “healing” and “cure” are not guaranteed. Excess growths – scar tissue, adhesions, endometriosis and excess endometrial lining, polyps, fibroids, cysts and growths as a result of STIs, etc. – may be removed, but the underlying imbalance leading to each of these issues is not being addressed.
2. Medications promote ovulation better than herbs
Clomid and Femara (Letrozole) are two of the most commonly prescribed prescription medications used to coax the reproductive system into behaving as it should on its own. Both are prescribed to women with abnormal menstrual cycles to force the pituitary gland to “improve stimulation of developing follicles, or eggs, in the ovaries”. They do this by stimulating the release of FSH and LH.
Many women may be faced with using one of the above medications during a medical fertility procedure (this is perfectly okay!), but if these medications are being considered to induce ovulation, it is important to know that there are natural alternatives which may be safer, with little to no side effects. There are herbs that have been shown to promote regular ovulation. To learn more, consider reading the following articles…
3. IUI is more effective than IVF
Chance of success with IUI and IVF depend on a variety of factors, but mainly the age of the female (egg and uterine health), as well as the underlying cause of the infertility problem.
According to the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago, “Clomid and IUI success rates are about 10% per month for women under 35 if the tubes are open and semen analysis is normal. This statistic holds true for about 3 cycles – after that it is significantly lower.” They also share that if there is any damage to the fallopian tubes, significant endometriosis, or a male fertility health issue, the chance for success with IUI and Clomid is even lower.
The Center for Reproductive Medicine of the Weill Cornell Medical College shared their statistics for IVF success (which their website claims to be “very high”) for 2012, showing IVF success rates for women younger than age 35 at 46.3%, for women ages 35-37 at 40.6%, for women ages 38-40 at 33.3%, for women ages 41-42 at 19.1% and for women over the age of 42 at 5% (“CRM treats a large proportion of patients who are older, have cycled elsewhere without success or have complex reproductive conditions” according to their website).
The Society For Assisted Reproductive Technology tracks and reports updated IVF success rate reports state by state and the national average. Several sites sharing this data state that the best way to evaluate a fertility clinic’s IVF success rate is to review their percentage of transfers resulting in live births.
What does all of this mean? In general, much of the information shows that IUI is less successful than IVF, but there are a variety of factors that come into play regarding success rates for both procedures from maternal and paternal reproductive organ health, to egg and sperm health, to age, and then with IVF, if fresh, thawed or donated embryos are used.
4. PCOS can be cured
No one really knows the exact cause of PCOS, so it is unknown if there is a “cure”. PCOS can be managed naturally first and foremost with dietary and lifestyle changes and with the help of herbs and nutritional supplements. It is thought that PCOS may be in part genetic. It is also known that hormonal imbalance is a large contributing factor to this fertility health issue, that the ovaries of women with PCOS produce more androgens than normal, and elevated insulin levels all may be contributing factors as well.
5. Surgery will successfully open a blocked fallopian tube
The success of surgery to open a blocked fallopian tube depends on a variety of factors. The location and/or severity of the blockage, in addition to what has led to, or is contributing to, the blockage all need to be taken into consideration.
The fallopian tubes are very delicate and small, only about the size of a spaghetti noodle. The possibility of scar tissue formation as a result of surgery to reopen the fallopian tube(s) is quite high. Most doctors encourage couples to try naturally for a baby as soon as the cycle after this procedure, to increase the likelihood of natural conception. This is because the sooner this is done after the procedure, the less time the body has had to create new scar tissue, making the procedure more likely to be effective in helping couples achieve natural pregnancy. Statistics show that 20 to 30 women out of 100 will go on to get pregnant after tubal surgery.
We find that the time just after surgery (about 2 weeks post-procedure) is a good time to begin Natural Therapies for Blocked Fallopian Tubes to help support the body in recovery and maintaining fallopian tube health.
There is a non-surgical option to open blocked fallopian tubes as well. A physical therapy called the Wurn Technique performed by physical therapists at Clear Passage Clinics has had a 61% success rate in unblocking completely blocked fallopian tubes.
Closing Thoughts – The Good News!
There are many things a person can do naturally to support the health of their fertility in preparation for medical fertility treatments. This includes the use of herbs, nutritional supplements, and natural therapies such as massage. Natural treatment options can help with the recovery process as well, and many natural therapies can even be used alongside several types of medical treatment options (with your doctor’s approval), which may greatly help to improve their outcome.
- Eisenberg, E. (2014, December 23). EPublications. Retrieved from: http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html
- IUI Success Rates – Success with Intrauterine Insemination. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.advancedfertility.com/iui-success-rates.htm
- Richardson, N. (2014, August 31). Clomid vs. Femara: A Look at Fertility Pills. Retrieved from: http://www.everydayfamily.com/clomid-vs-femara/
- Clinic Summary Report. (2015, January 1). Retrieved from: https://www.sartcorsonline.com/rptCSR_PublicMultYear.aspx?ClinicPKID=0
- The Ronald O. Perelman and Claudia Cohen “Center for Reproductive Medicine” – of Weill Cornell Medical College. (2014, January 1). Retrieved from: http://www.ivf.org/ivf-success-rates/
- Bhattacharya, S., Johnson, N., Tijani, H. A., Hart, R., Pandey, S., & Gibreel, A. F. (2010). Female infertility. BMJ clinical evidence, 2010, 0819. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3217752/
- We Open Blocked Fallopian Tubes Without Surgery. (n.d.) Retrieved from: http://www.clearpassage.com/what-we-treat/infertility/blocked-fallopian-tubes/