Hormones and Fertility

fertility dietThere are multiple factors that influence physiology and culminate in ovulation and conception.  Not only internal factors, like healthy blood and vitality, but also external factors like the seasons and the amount of light in our bedrooms at night.  Reproduction is truly an amazing and complicated process.  All contributors being equal though- what ultimately decides whether a woman will produce an egg and conceive is … drum roll please… our hormones.

Hormones and Fertility

Hormones are the chemical messengers of the body.  They literally communicate information to cells. Without hormones, or when our hormones aren’t working optimally, these messages can be missed, leading to all sorts of “miscommunications”.  For example, if the hormone insulin isn’t communicating with cells, diabetes is the result.  When thyroid hormones don’t communicate there can be fatigue, dry skin, slowing of the metabolism.  When sex hormones aren’t communicating the results can be missed periods, lack of libido, or infertility.

Hormones Really are in Charge

But what affects hormones and their ability to communicate?  Well that is a long list, let’s start with just a few:

1.      Other hormones –

thyroid, insulin, pituitary hormones, testosterone, adrenal hormones like DHEA and cortisol. When one hormone is out of balance (too high or too low) the other hormones have to make up for that, by filling in the gap or overcompensating.  Hormones prefer to coexist in harmony.  They help each other to do their best jobs.  When one fails, the others compensate temporarily, but  eventually those hormones get over used as well and the result is a whole lot of  miscommunication  and disharmony – hormone imbalance.

2.      Vitamin or mineral deficiencies 

vitamins and minerals (like B vitamins, iron or iodine) act as cofactors in the body in certain metabolic processes and some hormones rely on vitamins and minerals to be produced .  As an example, iodine is needed for thyroid hormone production.

3.      Toxicity –

can affect hormone communication. Actually, it’s the body’s ability to rid itself of these toxins that affects hormone communication. These chemicals do not have any nutritious or useful qualities, so the body needs to process them out or “detox”. With increased exposure, the detox burden can become too big and excess toxins circulating through the system can affect normal physiology. The result – conditions like endometriosis, fibroids, infertility, anovulation , nutritional deficiencies, depression, anxiety, fatigue, body aches, and more.  Here is a short list of some toxins that we exposed to regularly: pesticides, hormone like preservatives in bath and body products, chemicals in gasoline and exhaust fumes, chemicals in our carpets, furniture, plastics and paint. There are other factors that can affect hormone health.  Stress, sleep, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D and immune system health, other health condition like PCOS or diabetes, to name a few.

The take home message here: For optimal hormone function and fertility, get your body in  tip top shape- address your nutritional needs, lifestyle needs and any underlying conditions that might be affecting your vitality.  

Contributed by Dr. Elise Schroeder.  For Part I of this article, click here.  Please address questions for Dr. Schroeder to theblossomclinic@gmail.com .

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Pregnant at 44!

ultrasound1Here is an interview with a former patient who was able to conceive against the odds at age 44.

How old were you and what was your FSH when you tried to get pregnant with your second child?  What did the doctors say about this?

–I started trying to conceive my second child when I was 42.  I didn’t seek medical intervention until I was 44.  By this time, my FSH was 10.  It fell to 6 when I took the fertility drug Clomid.  The doctors I consulted were willing to work with me, but they were careful not to raise my expectations.  (I think I surprised them when I called to schedule a prenatal appointment!)

What turned you on to Chinese Medicine?

–After two and a half months with no success on Clomid, I started wondering about other ways to boost my fertility.  I didn’t have any experience with acupuncture, but I was intrigued by what I learned from the Blossom website.  And when I called to schedule an initial consultation with Liz, she recommended two books: Fertility Wisdom by Angela C. Wu and the The Infertility Cure by Randine A. Lewis.  Both of these books include truly inspirational examples of women my age (and older) who relied on Chinese Medicine to achieve successful, healthy pregnancies.

What kind of advice would you give someone who is told that they have a small chance of conceiving on their own?

–Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Western medicine tends to focus on statistics.  Here is an example of one statistic I encountered when I was thinking about a second child: “A forty year old woman has a less than 10% chance of having a successful pregnancy using her own eggs.”  My doctors also warned me about my elevated risk of miscarriage and chromosomal abnormalities.  By contrast, Liz never gave me the sense that my efforts to conceive and carry a healthy baby were futile.  She counseled me to make some changes in my diet, try herbal supplements, and come in for regular acupuncture sessions.  Less than two months after my first appointment with Liz, I was pregnant.   I am now solidly into my second trimester and expecting a healthy baby boy in January.