Our Blog

Fertility Q&A with our Integrative Medicine Experts

Our team of experts in integrative medicine often assist along the fertility journey. Whether it be Physical Medicine, Acupuncture, Functional Medicine, or just needing an expert to talk to, our team is here to support you each step of the way.

In the United States, as many as 18 percent of couples, or individuals, who want to get pregnant will have trouble either getting pregnant or avoiding miscarriage. If you are trying to conceive without success, then you know first-hand the stress and trials that come with month after month of failure to realize your dreams of becoming a family. If the challenge lies with the woman, not the man, treatment for female infertility from Aligned Modern Health can help. Here is more information about this common problem, its causes and its treatments.

Many of our physicians have worked hand in hand with patients trying to achieve optimal fertility, and even gone through the fertility journey themselves. We interviewed our Acupuncturists, Dr. Kate Phillippi, DACM,  and Dr. Helena Para, DACM and our Functional Medicine Doctors, Dr. Kristen Halland, DC and Dr. Barbie Allegretti, DC, and Chiropractor, Dr. Andrea Kneessi, DC,  on the subject of fertility.

Fertility Q&A

  • What are some common misconceptions about infertility?
    • Dr. Phillippi: There is something “wrong with you”
    • Dr. Para: Most people think infertility is mostly a female issue when in fact infertility is divided evenly between male factor, female factor, and a combination of issues on both sides.
    • Dr. Kneessi: One common misconception is that fertility support should begin when you start actively trying to become pregnancy. Between stress, lifestyle factors, and years of being on birth control many individuals/couples have steps they can take to support their bodies even before beginning their family planning journey. Eating healthy (taking high quality pre-natal vitamins), staying active, and managing stress are all things that take time to improve and ultimately affect your hormone levels! Focus on being your best self and try to allow natural time for other factors to fall into place.

 

  • How does integrative medicine (and your specific scope of practice) support fertility?
    • Dr. Para: Fertility is effected by lifestyle, genetic, environmental, emotional factors- so a whole person approach is important. Optimizing overall wellbeing has a large impact on fertility, and so it takes a team of various specialties to treat it appropriately. Acupuncture helps to regulate hormones and cycles, it ensures each phase of the cycle happens effectively. Acupuncture also helps to relax patients which lowers cortisol, making your body able to produce sex hormones correctly. Finally, it helps increase circulation to the reproductive organs which ensure that micronutrients are getting to the sperm or eggs, helping you produce a stronger foundation for an embryo.
    • Dr. Phillippi: It also helps to provide guidance to navigating the infertility world and act as a consultant as much as possible (doctors, procedures, etc.)
    • Dr. Halland: Our field of Functional Medicine and Clinical Nutrition has much to offer to support fertility ranging from unexplained fertility (where contributing factors could include nutrient deficiencies that we’d assess and correct in therapeutic dosing) up through known health conditions (example: PCOS is classified as a METABOLIC disorder … meaning that diet and lifestyle is critical for success and it’s absolute change-able).
    • Dr. Allegretti: We also take a look at the entirety of health of the individual(s) involved – as it is not only “hormone imbalances” that contribute to infertility. Infections, diet, digestion, nutrients, antioxidants, minerals… and more play in. That’s just the physiological aspects within the individual. Environmental toxins are of concern and disrupt fertility for men and women and impact long term health of the baby once conceived.
    • Dr. Kneessi: Chiropractic Physical Medicine offers a great opportunity for future, and current, parents to work on getting back to the strongest versions of themselves—both mentally and physically. Not only can improved strength and physical well being get a women’s body better prepared for Labor and Delivery, but the endorphins from physical activity reduce stress and support other fertility processes in both men and women! Check out this link for additional information: https://birthfit.com/about/what-is-birthfit/ and see how Chiropractic and Birthfit can be a healthy part of your fertility Journey!

 

  • What are other challenges surrounding fertility/infertility (economic, emotional, etc.)?
    • Dr. Allegretti: Education and awareness of options.
    • Dr. Para: Emotional factors are huge in fertility and it can but a strain on relationships as well as effect how you view yourself and your role in life/procreation. Couples using assisted reproductive technologies are further strained by the vast financial burden of undergoing treatment.
    • Dr. Phillippi: Careers- often not talking about it with co-workers and bosses and appointments/procedures often happen with less than 24 hours notice. 

 

  • What can people do to help raise awareness during National Infertility Awareness Week (NAIW)?
    • Dr. Phillippi: Talk more about it globally- friends, family, social media, etc.
    • Dr. Halland: Raising awareness of any health issue is helpful – Strategies commonly include actions such as volunteering, encouraging and talking to others, distributing educational information, etc. I’d recommend to please raise awareness by changing social viewpoints through your communication. If you haven’t struggled with infertility: discontinue asking newly married couples when they’ll have a baby, don’t assume hetero-normative family situations, don’t state to women that they’ll understand when they become a mom, asking when the first baby will get another sibling, and other statements that have been traditionally acceptable in society previously but can be unknowingly hurtful.
    • Dr. Allegretti: Share experience, strength, and hope surrounding their journey.
    • Dr. Para: Just be there for your friends who may be struggling. Leave an open door for them to complain about their struggles and let them know about alternative treatment options that may be able to help support them during the process.

 

  • Is there anything about your own experience, personally, that you would like to share?
    • Dr. Phillippi: Going through treatments is like having another job and be sure to be kind to yourself and nurture yourself during this time.
    • Dr. Allegretti: Knowing that I have genetic defects with MTHFR has been a significant driver for how I support myself through foods and specific nutrients. This area functioning well has a strong impact on fertility and development of the child in utero and for their lifetime.
    • Getting second, third, or fourth opinions can be worth it and make all the difference.
    • Have a thorough FM workup prior to conceiving for both partners.
    • Have a team of integrative practitioners to support you throughout – chiropractic and acupuncture.

 

  • Any advice you would give to help couples or individuals seeking support for infertility – or for those currently on a fertility journey?
    • Dr. Phillippi: Find your support system wherever it lies- friends, family, support group, complementary medicine practitioner, therapist, etc. and utilize them
    • Dr. Halland: My best advice would be: the only two (or one) people whose opinions matter is yours / your partner.
    • And, visit many health care providers for assistance (counseling, reproductive endocrinology specialists, gynecologist, functional medicine or nutrition specialists, acupuncturists, and others) – it never hurts to have an initial visit and get more informed.
    • Dr. Para: Be prepared for a long journey, try to remain hopeful without being determined to follow a strict timeline. Everyone’s path to parenthood is different, all you can do is try to take care of yourself physically and emotionally.

 

  • What is one thing you would tell someone who is trying to get pregnant?
    • Dr. Phillippi: It’s a marathon, not a sprint and everything you can do to take care of your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self is helpful.
    • Dr. Allegretti: Trust yourself, regardless of what direction you choose to go with fertility support… have CONVICTION in it.
    • Dr. Para: Follow you gut, ask a lot of questions, work with trusted practitioners and stay off google!
    • Dr. Kneessi: Self-support for yourself and for your partner is key! As demonstrated in this 2013 article from the Journal of Reproductive Biological Endocrinology lifestyle factors such as, “nutrition, weight, exercise, psychological stress, environmental and occupational exposures” as well as “medications, alcohol use, [and] caffeine consumption” have all been shown to “play a key role in determining reproductive health and can positively or negatively influence fertility.” It’s specifically in this modifiable space that Aligned Modern Health is uniquely poised to help it’s patients.

 

  • How has working to help patients with their fertility journey become more relevant in your life?
    • Dr. Phillippi: I knew when I was in school that I wanted to specialize in reproductive medicine because acupuncture + Chinese medicine works so well to harmonize and support the man/woman/couple physically, mentally, and emotionally.
    • Dr. Allegretti: It’s different for everyone and everyone is different. We start at the beginning for each person and do not lump into a group.
    • Dr. Para:I have been working with fertility, patients trying to conceive both naturally and using other interventions for about 2 years. As a young woman not yet having started a family, it makes me aware that there is some prep work to be done in order to get my body ready and regulated. Fertility support and treatment can start way before you are ready to conceive.

 

  • What are risk factors for infertility?
    • Dr. Para: Assisted reproductive therapies can be very hard on your body, your mind and your wallet! Seeking help from a therapist, an acupuncturist or a support group can help you weather the storm.

 

  • Any link between stress and fertility?
    • Dr. Phillippi: Yes! Chronic stress can lead to decreased pelvic blood flow and fallopian tube movement resulting in poor egg and uterine lining nourishment and egg/embryo transportation. Higher levels of stress as measured by salivary stress biomarkers are associated with a longer time-to-pregnancy and an increased risk of infertility
    • Dr. Halland: There’s a strong link physiologically between stress and lack of fertility but I thought this quote by a fertility specialist I know put it best – “stress is the NUMBER ONE killer of fertility.”
    • Dr. Para: Stress makes your body over produce cortisol which impairs your body’s ability to create sex hormones, which will impact fertility. Using therapy, acupuncture, yoga and meditation can be a great way to keep stress under control.

 

  • Any link between diet and fertility?
    • Dr. Para: Eating highly processed foods is inflammatory to your entire system which can cause other imbalances in the body including reproductive issues. Seeking help from a functional medicine practitioner and a functional nutritionist is an excellent way to modify diet and supplementation in order to support fertility.

 

  • Any insights on male fertility?
    • Dr. Phillippi: Because sperm is always being re-generated (versus the quantity of eggs not), it responds really well to treatment
    • Dr. Halland: It’s very clear in the research that 50% of “unexplained fertility” cases are due to male health! Factors that reduce fertility success for men include: consumption of nicotine / marijuana / alcohol all separately proven by research, nutrient deficiencies (such as zinc, Vit D, or CoQ10), low antioxidant status, estrogen dominance, being overweight, and many others. This is what we do in Functional Medicine – we identify causative factors, measure them, treat them with diet, lifestyle, and physician grade supplementation as often as possible.
    • Dr. Para: Very few males get treatment for infertility! Even when a couple has male factor issues, the female will often be the one getting treatment. Men should know that their fertility issues are also treatable with acupuncture and can help them with stress, sperm production and sexual dysfunction.

 

  • Anything else you would like to share?
    • Dr. Halland: My best advice to people who specifically are considering trying-to-conceive in the near future is to begin pre-conception planning with our Functional Medicine team about 6-12 months in advance! The journey will be easier emotionally and more successful if we prepare in advance, just like any other goal.

 

 

If you are trying to conceive, or learn more about fertility, we are here to help! Click here to schedule a consultation or to learn more.