February – National Reproductive Health Month

Homeopathy and Infertility – A different approach
Slightly different to my regular posts, I wanted to share my thoughts on infertility and the other options individuals have when it comes to dealing with this difficult and emotional issue.
February has been declared National Reproductive Health Month in South Africa.
One of the most important questions I ask when it comes to infertility is ‘WHY?’ It is critical to get a detailed history from the couple along with findings from physical investigations e.g. blood tests, ultrasounds and semen analysis to try and determine for that individual person and couple what are their possible causes of their infertility. Everyone is different Therefore a different approach is needed for each. That is why the method of evaluation is so important.
So what is infertility? Infertility for woman is when they have been actively trying to fall pregnant for a minimum of 12 months and have been unsuccessful.
Addressing factors beyond the reproductive system is important when addressing infertility as we have seen the rise of infertility of the past few decades. Some of these factors can be environmental, diet and nutritional deficiencies, under eating, over exercising, high stress levels, lack of quality sleep over and above other hormonal imbalances such as thyroid dysfunction.
Infertility can start from puberty. Signs can range from a delay in the initial start of the menses, irregular cycles and heavy menstruation starting in those teenage years. The mainstream approach to treating this is prescribing the birth control pill. Let me just say here. In no way can a pill which contains artificial hormones that PREVENTS ovulation regulate your menstrual cycle. Use it for what it’s intended if necessary – and that’s preventing pregnancy.

Most of the time when couples have difficulty falling pregnant, they will consult with an OBGYN or fertility specialist first. However, the surprising thing I hear from patients is their specialist didn’t find anything ‘wrong’. It’s unexplained infertility. So what is the option for that couple? Often it is an IVF.

One of the parameters I look at in the initial consult is the waist-to-hip ratio and visceral fat (fat deposition in the mid-section) in my infertility patients, information I obtain from the body composition scan. For women we aim for the waist-to-hip ratio to be less than 0.8. This may be an indication the patient may have elevated levels of insulin which can be confirmed by a blood test. If there is a history of irregular periods with elevated insulin we can be looking at a patient with PCOS undiagnosed (ovarian cysts don’t have to be present to have PCOS so it is often missed).

Due to the rise in insulin resistance and prediabetes in younger people (which is also often missed because generally only patients who are overweight or obese are tested) we have seen the rise in infertility. You can also get the ‘skinny fat’ individual where the muscle to fat ratio is off and this person has a risk of being insulin resistant or prediabetic. Basically thin on the outside but fat on the inside. We can measure this ratio with the body composition scan done at the initial consult. Remember you can have NORMAL glucose levels but ELEVATED insulin levels.

One the first symptoms we can see with infertility and elevated insulin levels is the patient initially struggles to lose weight. I’ve had many female patients tell me their doctor had told them to lose weight first then they will fall pregnant. Which for me is absolutely devastating. Yes – you will increase you chances of falling pregnant if you lose weight but it is not the weight that’s preventing you from falling pregnant. It’s the insulin.

The second blood test I send for is a full thyroid function with thyroid antibodies. Testing thyroid function alone cannot tell you if there’s a possibility of an autoimmune disease because thyroid function can be normal even in the presence of high antibodies. So this can still cause thyroid dysfunction. If thyroid antibodies come back high from a blood test there are additional homeopathic medication and supplements that one would need to take in addition to eliminating gluten from their diet.

Besides gluten contributing to the development of autoimmune diseases in some people, gluten is in many refined, processed foods so eliminating it will help that patient to eat healthier (this does not mean patient should substitute with gluten free refined products because gluten free cakes and cookies can still spike insulin).

Gut health is another important aspect I look at in infertility. Because an imbalanced gut can lead to nutritional deficiencies where a patient may be eating well and healthy but not absorbing these nutrients properly. If there is inflammation in the gut and damage to the gut this can happen. It is so important rebuild and repair the gut. Why it is also important to heal the gut and correct these deficiencies is because there are certain vitamins that are so important for conception and foetal development such as folate and zinc is important for egg and sperm quality – both of which are absorbed through the gut.

In conclusion, there is a place for every modality. So where many have been successful with hormone treatment and IVF, many are not. I have discussed some of the factors I look at when treating infertility. Of course this is in addition to an in depth consultation and homeopathic treatment for hormone regulation, stress and mental health, sleep amongst other things.