Planning for a successful pregnancy? Many couples are encouraged, after a few months of trying without success, to consider assisted reproductive technology (ART) such as IUI or IVF. Though these fertility procedures help bring the sperm and egg (closer) together, they are rather costly and often stressful- not to mention not always successful. In fact, the success rate for IVF procedures is only 20% to 40% for those in their thirties.
Various factors affect your ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to term. A successful embryo transfer doesn’t necessarily translate into a successful pregnancy. Whether you are trying to conceive naturally or attempting the IVF route, the following are important things to consider:
- Are you experiencing miscarriages? There may be underlying conditions or reasons affecting your ability to carry a baby to term. For example, people with a MTHFR gene defect may be prone to recurrent miscarriages. Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR for short) is an enzyme that is responsible for the conversion of folic acid to its active form folate. If you have a MTHFR gene mutation, your body cannot break down folic acid into folate, and studies show that people with a MTHFR gene mutation are more susceptible to recurrent miscarriages, pre-eclampsia and a baby born with spina bifida. Keep in mind that while recurrent miscarriages are often multi-factorial, Dr. Yik usually tests her patients for MTHFR mutation when frequent pregnancy loss is unexplained so that proper treatment can be given to those with a MTHFR gene defect. Other reasons for recurrent miscarriages include nutrient deficiencies, poor egg quality, immune responses and thyroid hormone imbalances.
- Dr. Yik plays a supportive role in helping each of her patients improve egg quality and uterine lining, promote pelvic circulation and optimise overall health. She has helped women doing IVF successfully conceive (these women are often those who have tried IVF on its own without success). There have even been cases where patients, after adopting a certain dietary and lifestyle regimen, fall pregnant before their scheduled IVF procedure. What about age, you ask? Yes, it’s true that fertility decreases as you age. But did you know that your biological age may be different from your chronological age? The good news is, you can lower your biological age through lifestyle (and naturopathic medicine under the direction of a trained practitioner). There are ways to prevent aging and in some cases, even reverse it.
- What you consume has a direct impact on your fertility! According to a study carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health, women who ate the highest amounts of monounsaturated fat had triple the chance of IVF success. These women were 3.4 times more likely to have a child after IVF. In contrast, women who ate mostly saturated fat, found in butter and red meat, produced fewer good quality eggs for use in fertility treatment. Another study looked at 4000 Danish women and found that women who drink five or more cups of coffee a day actually halve their chance of getting pregnant via IVF. Furthermore, a 2018 study from Human Reproduction concluded that women who consumed a Mediterranean diet had significantly higher success rates of IVF compared to other women. These studies confirm that what we eat can either boost our fertility or curb it. Dr. Yik uses dietary guidelines, medicinal herbs and nutraceuticals to help the body be in optimal state to improve the chances of a successful pregnancy. Many women in Hong Kong may resort to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to boost fertility, using herbs that traditional Chinese doctors prescribe. Some of Dr. Yik’s patients who’ve tried TCM first before seeing Dr. Yik find that they get pregnant sooner on her fertility protocol. She uses a more holistic approach, taking into consideration your age, egg quality, uterine/ ovarian/ reproductive health, hormones, cervical health and general well being. For those who use TCM concurrently, Dr. Yik advises patients to make sure they know the source of the TCM herbs- often they are sourced from China and may contain harmful heavy metals or contaminants.
- Could it be the toxins? A detox (for your body, for your liver) can be a great way to remove toxins which have accumulated in your body all these years. A study done in Hong Kong on 150 infertile couples undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) versus 20 fertile couples found that the infertile couples had significantly higher blood mercury then the fertile group. Over 1/3 of infertile men had abnormally high mercury and about 1/4 of the infertile females had high mercury levels. High levels of PCBs have also been linked to IVF failure. A detox and liver cleanse (scheduled 3 to 6 months prior to conception) can help to remove toxins, rebalance hormones and improve reproductive health.
Remember, numerous factors affect your ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to term. Find a fertility doctor who looks beyond IUI or IVF to help your body prepare for and boost your chances of an optimal pregnancy.