“High FSH”…“Poor Responder”…“Old Eggs”…“Advanced Maternal Age”…“Donor Egg Candidate” …
These are the most devastating reproductive diagnoses a woman can receive. The majorities of my patients who have high FSH, are over 35 years of age, and have been labeled this way. Yet, nobody starts out with these diagnoses. Most women end up with these labels after years of failed reproductive treatments.
Laura had been given each of these diagnoses from her reproductive endocrinologist, and has just given birth to her son, whom she conceived naturally. 44 year old Kathleen was told she would never become a mother unless she used a younger woman’s donated eggs. Her doctor was wrong. When her reproductive system was nurtured and cared for naturally, she conceived her healthy daughter on her own.
Last week a reporter queried me on a quote a reproductive endocrinologist gave her:
“2/3 of women over the age of 35 require medical intervention in order to conceive.”
These attitudes are not only wrong, they are downright harmful. Keep in mind there is a large financial incentive for you to believe these demoralizing prognoses – reproductive medicine is an ever growing multi billion dollar per year cash industry, whose financial rewards grow exponentially when you submit to the belief that your only chance of becoming a parent is through medical intervention. They make no money when you conceive on your own. They make maximum profit when multiple women are involved in helping you achieve a pregnancy at all costs.
Certainly, some women do require medical intervention. Yet, it should not be offered as a blanket solution to all infertility problems. It is accepted medical tradition that the simplest, least aggressive, and most cost effective treatments should always be exhausted first. Yet most women who ask their doctors “Is there anything I can do to improve my reproductive status?” are told definitively “No, you are simply too old.” Since most insurance companies don’t cover infertility treatment, and since there is an automatic medicolegal defense against litigation (“You came to me infertile, what’s the damage?”), Western reproductive specialists feel safer in offering a more aggressive approach, and we capitulate to their treatments because we are in a state of panic.
Medical charts abound with these types of unsettling comments: “Mrs. Nesbitt is a three time clomid failure.” “Ms. Callahan is a poor responder to maximum stimulation, and an IVF failure. Recommend donor.” Then they come to me as a last resort, hopeless, and depleted – financially and spiritually. They don’t feel good about themselves, their bodies, or their lives.
My intention is not to bash reproductive medicine, but to put it in its proper perspective. Yes, we hear of reproductive successes when ‘infertile’ celebrities end up with a couple of offspring in toe, most often the result of someone else’s eggs. Yet, month after month, and year after year, I pick up the pieces of broken lives, broken promises, and broken dreams. And the stories don’t ever change. The histories begin with unexplained infertility after one year of unprotected intercourse, and end up with “IVF failure, recommend donor.” Every time.
I propose that reproductive medicine more often than not fails us! Yet we are the ones who are conditioned to feel that it’s our fault when their drugs don’t work on us.
Reproductive medicine has one thing to offer women to help them conceive – that single drug is the all powerful, commanding hormone, FSH. And if you have any of those dreaded reproductive diagnoses listed above, FSH will cease to be effective in your body.
And you know the old adage, “If all you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.” When you are no longer the perfect nail, they try to bend and straighten and flatten you with the only tool they have.
There is another option that has been grossly overlooked. The reason it is overlooked is that physicians do not learn anything about reproductive health when they study medicine. In medical school, we were trained to treat disease. And infertility is not a disease. It is an epidemic of ignorance. We have not been taught how to care for our own reproductive systems.
Let’s pretend for a minute that there are no such things as hammers and nails. Consider the possibility that we have all of our fertility solutions within our very makeup. Ovarian health depends upon three factors – nutritional status, blood flow, and the balance of reproductive hormones with stress hormones.
1) Nutritional status – the reproductive system, like the rest of our body, has certain nutritional requirements. Most of my patients are asked to avoid sugar, wheat, and dairy. They take nutritional supplements specific to their TCM pattern of imbalance. Most women with high FSH or poor ovarian reserve take supergreens like wheatgrass, royal jelly, and Co-Enzyme Q-10, to name a few.
2) Blood flow – a woman of age 40 typically has five times less blood flow to her ovaries than a woman of age 20. This dramatically impedes the attention that the ovary requires during the follicles’ all important growth phase, the 90 day process before ovulation in which the quality of the egg is determined. The follicles insist upon adequate oxygenation and circulation to function efficiently (i.e., with a healthy egg, capable of fertilization and implantation.) I teach women exercises which redirect the circulation to the ovaries. And, as always, their bodies respond.
3) Hormonal balance – the endocrine system is a delicate interplay of the reproductive hormones, stress hormones, and emotions, in symphony with each other. This system operates via feedback, which means that anytime you introduce an outside hormone into its influence, it shuts that system down. Synthetic hormones can’t cure hormonal imbalances, they can only override them. The endocrine system is the most sensitive bodily system which requires the perfect balancing act of multiple factors, inside and out. Like all other mammals, our bodies do not want us pregnant when our endocrine systems are stressed. At our retreats, we employ natural techniques to rebalance the hormones. These methods gently encourage the reproductive system to operate efficiently, while reducing the internal stress response. When we abide by nature’s own directives, an internal order awakens inside, and automatically knows the rules.
Like Laura and Kathleen, when we pay attention to these three factors, our reproductive systems respond beautifully, as if this is what they were waiting for all along.
Christine, age 33, was given the diagnosis of premature ovarian failure when her FSH was found to be marginally elevated. Her doctor put her on three cycles of clomid, an anti-estrogen drug which raises FSH, and her body did all it could to save her – her reproductive system completely shut down in response to the clomid (don’t ever take clomid if your FSH is elevated, even borderline). She quit menstruating, her FSH rose ever higher, and she was left with two options – donor egg or adoption.
Christine didn’t blame her doctor for giving her the wrong medicine, she did what most all infertility patients do, quietly suffer alone in agonizing despair. Then she heard about my retreats, and something within her said, “this makes sense.” Christine came to two retreats, a few months apart. After one month of natural treatment of diet, nutritional supplementation, ovarian exercises, acupuncture and herbs, her period returned. Christine went back to her infertility specialist and asked her if there was any hope for her. Her doctor told her if she conceived on her own, she would “eat her shoe.” During Christine’s second retreat, she looked me in the eye with severe intensity and begged, “Do you think there might be hope?” I looked back with the same intensity in my gaze, said, “Yes, Christine. There is hope.” She believed me. More importantly, she believed in herself, and her body’s ability to heal herself. She had one more period. That is, until she conceived, naturally, with their first miracle child. And, as far as I know, no shoes were ingested.
Listen to your own internal wisdom. Do you want a child, any child, at all costs, or can you allow yourself the gift of reclaiming your reproductive, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.