Health Matters – Optimizing Your Female Fertility

In today’s hectic North American lifestyle, women are multitasking like never before. But It’s also women whose body systems are being most negatively affected. It’s no wonder we’re seeing a major decline in female fertility; in fact, as of this year over 10 per cent of all North American women of childbearing age are considered infertile.

In my Ontario practice, I see many women struggling with infertility. There are many ways to evaluate your fertility, and these methods are usually used in combination with each other. Based on clinical experience, I’ve written some basic guidelines to help you evaluate your own fertility health. Take a look, and if you think you might be experiencing issues with any of these, talk to your naturopathic doctor or alternative health care provider.

? Physical health: Health conditions like ovarian cysts, uterine or fallopian tube scarring, or endometriosis can negatively impact fertility. Pelvic and transvaginal imaging can help provide a detailed description of the physical aspects of your reproductive system.

? Hormone health: Are your female reproductive hormones working as they should? Remember that hormone levels are not static; progesterone rises after ovulation (as estrogen levels reduce) and drops just prior to menstruation (while estrogen levels begin to rise again). Other hormones are active, too, like luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). And don’t forget important hormone precursors, such as DHEA.

? Thyroid health: The importance of a fully functional thyroid can’t be underestimated. For example, because the thyroid controls metabolism and body temperature, hypothyroid (low-functioning thyroid) conditions affect cervical mucus quality and can contribute to lowered luteal phase (post-ovulatory) temperatures. A basic way to assess thyroid function is to take your BBT, or basal body temperature; essentially, you want to compare the average temperature of your resting body before and after ovulation. The ?resting? quality is extremely important, since activity causes muscle motion, which generates heat. As soon as you wake (before getting up), check your oral temperature with a digital thermometer, and record it. Your temperature will vary, depending on your cycle (lower pre-ovulatory, higher post-ovulatory), but if It’s riding below 36.3 degrees Celsius before ovulation, then you may have a hypothyroid condition (called Wilson’s temperature syndrome).

? Ovulation health: Are you ovulating? If your body isn’t releasing an egg with your cycle, then It’s impossible to get pregnant. A basic way to tell your ovulation story is to watch for slimy, egg white-consistency mucus when you wipe. This mucus is considered fertile. Other mucus you may note, such as sticky, pasty, mucus, is not associated with the same high fertility levels.

? Mind-body health: How would you rate your stress levels, on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being no stress and 10 being extreme)? Stress has a hugely negative impact not only on fertility, but also on menstrual cycle health in general. High blood cortisol levels (cortisol is a long-term stress hormone that your body produces) negatively affects all cells in your body. Ways to combat high stress situations and lifestyles include daily meditation or prayer, regularly doing low-stress activities (think of something you enjoy doing, such as reading, drawing, or hiking), and regular mild to moderate exercise.

? Cellular health: If your cells are healthy, your body will be healthy. What can affect the health of our cells? Long-term stress is a big factor, as discussed above. Another thing that can significantly impact cellular health is toxicity. Are you routinely exposed to environmental toxins? These can be either home or job-related. Do you regularly consume canned foods, which are known to contain high levels of BPA and other hormone-disrupting chemicals? Does your diet contain an abundance of antioxidant-rich (and therefore cell damage-reducing) fruits and vegetables, or would you rather pass on the carrots and grab a Big Mac instead? Do you smoke or breathe second-hand smoke on a regular basis? Do a lifestyle scan on yourself, and think about potentially toxic aspects.

There are many factors influencing female fertility. Women’s bodies are unique and complex, and deserve to receive the treatment they need.

Katie D?Souza is an AU graduate and a licensed naturopathic doctor. She currently practices in Ontario.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for personal interest only; it is not intended for diagnosis or treatment of any condition. Readers are always encouraged to seek the professional advice of a licensed physician or qualified health care practitioner for personal health or medical conditions.