Making Healthy Babies: Your 10-Step Action Plan - Assisted Conception

Author // Jennifer Barham-Floreani, DC

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Making Healthy Babies: Your 10-Step Action Plan
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Assisted Conception
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Assisted Conception—Weighing Your Options

Becoming pregnant is not always as easy as our mothers said it would be. Millions of couples around the globe have difficulty con- ceiving, while many others have challenges sustaining a pregnancy. Infertility alone has now become a major health issue, affecting one in every five couples in the U.S., one in every six in Australia and one in every seven in the U.K. Infertility can be defined as the “inability for a couple to conceive after one year of regular unprotected intercourse.” It implies the potential to conceive, as distinct from sterility or recurrent early pregnancy loss—although all three scenarios result in the same distressing outcome for a couple wishing to have children.

One question to ask is: Why do we now have so many fertility-challenged couples? Purported explanations are endless, and there appears to be much overlap in rationale for the causes of sterility and infertility. There are a host of physical reasons why a couple might not be able to conceive. Common conditions include ovulatory dysfunction (15 percent), sperm disorders (35 percent), pelvic dysfunction such as endometriosis, adhesions or tubal disease (35 percent), abnormal cervical mucous (5 percent), and unidentified factors (10 percent).

Other factors known to influence fertil- ity for either parent include macro- and micronutrient status, allergies to certain foods, insulin resistance, thyroid dysfunc- tion, adrenal exhaustion, improper exercise, and exposure to environmental toxins and chemicals. While some of these theories are more substantiated than others, it is becom- ing increasingly obvious that deleterious lifestyle factors have a cumulative effect on reproductive capacity.

The next question to ask is: How do we improve our chances of becoming parents? This article outlines some recommendations for enhancing conception, but it’s also important to examine why some couples are hesitant to rush into utilising Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART). These in- clude drug therapies or medical procedures used to enhance fertility before trying in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures. When a woman tries to conceive later in life, there is an increased chance that the conception will require assistance. Allopathic treatments for infertility include drug therapy, surgery and IVF, all of which can take a toll on a woman’s overall health. While ARTs are exceedingly popular, more and more couples are curi- ous to know whether there are any short- or long-term health effects for mother or baby. Unfortunately, the safety and efficacy of ARTs are rarely discussed.

A woman taking fertility drugs may experience bloating, abdominal pain, mood swings and headaches. Fertility drugs such as Clomid (or Serophene in the U.S.) have been known to create several harmful side effects, such as cervical mucous changes (which can interfere with sperm mobility), blurred vision, and lung and vascular com- plications such as blood clots. The Physician’s Desk Reference states that Serophene causes ovarian enlargement (which is a particular problem for women who have endometriosis or ovarian cysts) and ovarian hyperstimula- tion syndrome, where sudden fluid buildup may occur in the chest and abdomen, requir- ing immediate hospitalisation and causing complications if pregnant.

Fertility medications work by blocking the production of oestrogen so that the brain is fooled into believing the body is not ovu- lating and is compelled to produce larger amounts of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This causes the ovaries to “super- ovulate” by producing multiple eggs at one time. Some drugs, such as Pergonal and Metrodin, are highly potent, producing as many as 30 eggs at one time. Fertility drugs may also cause depression and ectopic pregnancies (where implantation of the foetus does not occur in the uterus itself, resulting in miscarriage or removal of the ovary). Surgeries for fertility challenges can address the issues of fallopian tube abnormalities or blockages, but endometriosis, uterine fibroids, intrauterine adhesions, scar tissue and septa uteri involve risks relating to bleeding, infection, scar tissue and anesthesia complications.

Most of us are aware that taking any medication or undergoing any surgery or procedure involves risks, many of which are unknown at the time. IVF treatment is not immune to these risks, and a couple’s jour- ney with this treatment is often arduous and costly—both in a financial and an emotional sense. Research indicates that 80 percent of IVF-assisted pregnancies in women 40 to 45 years end in miscarriage, and that the chance of a 40-year-old becoming pregnant through IVF is a mere 15 percent.

There is growing evidence that children born as the result of IVF have a greater risk of health problems. One study found that a group of 4,559 children born between 1996 and 1999 as a result of IVF had more health problems, worse perinatal outcomes and more hospitalisation compared to the con- trol group. The mothers reportedly also had an increased risk of caesarean births and required more hospital care. For those cou- ples who are successful with the treatment, IVF is no doubt an invaluable asset. However, given the risks and expense, these technolo- gies are often used prematurely when there are safer, less invasive, holistic therapies which may offer equally successful outcomes.

Pathways Issue 30 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #30.

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