Preparing Your Body for Fertility

Sadie Minkoff

Sadie Minkoff L.Ac., FABORM

If you are reading this post, it is probably because you are preparing to grow your family in your thirties or early forties. In spite of what you may have heard, this is a great time in life to become a parent and more and more people are choosing to do so. In fact there is some evidence that, although it may not be as easy to conceive as for our younger counterparts, women of advanced maternal age may have more success than was originally thought. So how can you optimize your chances? Chinese Medicine is one of the best ways to support fertility.

Often women hear about positive experiences with Chinese Medicine from their friends and family, from a support group, or from their doctors.

Treatment with Chinese Medicine involves a combination of receiving acupuncture, shifting lifestyle habits, and learning what you can do to optimize the potential to conceive and carry a healthy baby.

Why Acupuncture?

Acupuncture techniques have been proven to regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis. This may improve the health of ovaries and their hormone production, a concern for women of advanced maternal age. It may stimulate blood flow to the uterus (by inhibiting uterine central sympathetic nerve activity), increase serotonin, and decrease stress. Often your practitioner will also prescribe medicinal herbs to facilitate this process. The combination of acupuncture and herbs has a synergistic effect.

The idea of changing our habits may seem daunting, but things can shift in a remarkable way with some relatively simple changes. Everyone knows that eating better makes us healthier, but there are some specific things that we can do to optimize our health and fertility. Focusing on changing one’s diet is part of the equation.

Chinese Medicine focuses on paying attention to the entire mind, body and spirit as a whole. Consider the following:

  • What makes you happy?
  • What is fun for you to do?
  • Tap into your creativity.
  • Take walks in nature.
  • Move your body. Exercise releases endorphins which help to keep a more positive focus when life gets difficult.
  • Do something regularly to take care of yourself and give yourself the attention that you deserve. That could mean receiving a massage, going dancing, journaling, or painting. Meditation, yoga, and/or tai qi are avenues for stress and anxiety reduction, as well as for the simple act of being with oneself.

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Julie’s Story

I am pleased to be writing a true story with a very happy ending! My husband and I met when we were 23 years old. We dated for 7 years before we got engaged. We were in no big hurry! He finally proposed just before my 30th birthday- whew! I was already feeling the steady tick, tick, tick of my biological clock, but could tell that he was not quite “there” yet. We decided that we would start trying to get pregnant once we were married.

We were married in July of 2005. My husband was 31 years old and I was 30 years old at that time. We began trying pretty much right away. That same fall, my grandmother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I spent a lot of time with her, my aunt and my mom. During this time I found out that all three of them had gone through early menopause for various reasons. It left me very unsettled. I sought out my gynecologist and explained the situation- we had been trying to get pregnant for about 6 months AND had a family history of early menopause. I was hoping that she would say, “No worries, everything will be fine!”.  But instead, she ordered a bunch of blood tests and wanted to do laparoscopy.  Now I was really concerned.

The first round of blood tests came back with an alarmingly high FSH level. Now I was REALLY panicking! We began Clomid and then quickly progressed to injectables and IUI’s. Month after month there was always a negative pregnancy test. I became more and more frustrated and worried. I sought out every possible alternative treatment as well- acupuncture, yoga for fertility, Chinese herbs, dairy-free, wheat-free, sugar-free, caffeine-free, and an alcohol-free diet! We met with several reproductive endocrinologists. The first one we met with told us that I was not a good candidate and our only option was egg donor IVF (he told me this within about 10 minutes of meeting us- my husband pretty much had to scrape me up off the floor). The second one was willing to do IVF with us, but warned that our chances were not good. The third (and final) doctor was a breath of fresh air and gave us a glimmer of hope (and was also more affordable!).

All in all, we did 12 IUI’s and 3 IVF cycles without success. Each cycle took more of toll on me. My husband stayed positive throughout. He was a rock and always had an amazing outlook. I, on the other hand, was an absolute wreck! I knew after the third IVF cycle that I just couldn’t do it again. I had to get off the rollercoaster at last. It had been 5 years since we began trying to get pregnant and we had been doing some form of treatment the entire time. We searched our hearts and realized all we really wanted was a baby- it didn’t really matter how he/she came to us.

We began the adoption process in December 2009. We were excited to begin a new chapter. We attended classes and completed our home study. In April 2010, just weeks after completing our home study, I found out that I was pregnant- NATURALLY!!! It was absolutely unbelievable! We were incredibly surprised and terrified! For the first several weeks of my pregnancy I was waiting for the other shoe to drop- it just seemed too good to be true. I wanted so badly to be excited, but was so scared to actually believe it was true. Fortunately because of my history we were able to continue with the fertility clinic for the first several weeks of my pregnancy and had an ultrasound every week. I will never forget the day we first saw the heartbeat. It finally seemed real! My beautiful baby boy arrived exactly 3 weeks early on December 14, 2010 (just a little over a month after my 36th birthday)! He is by far the best thing that has ever happened to me. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and he was well worth the wait.

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Julie is Mama to the absolute sweetest 16-month old boy and a Kindergarten teacher to 44 fabulous students.  She has a fabulous, loving husband and lives in Rochester, NY.!