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Could Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Help Infertile Women Conceive?

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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Help Infertile Women Conceive

As a woman struggling to conceive for almost three years now, I thought I had tried just about every possible medical and holistic treatment for fertility that existed. However, after a recent radio interview that I gave about my infertility memoir, I got a call from a listener who felt compelled to share with me what they felt was the missing piece to their infertility puzzle, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).

According to the definition given by the Mayo clinic ‘hyberbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room.  In a hyperbaric oxygen therapy room, the air pressure is raised up to three times higher than normal air pressure. Under these conditions, your lungs can gather up to three times more oxygen than would be possible breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure. Your blood carries this oxygen throughout your body, stimulating the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing.’

Already widely used in the treatment of decompression sickness and skin conditions like burns, wounds that won’t heal, gangrene or skin grafts there is some research to suggest that HBOT could be helpful in the treatment of female infertility, particularly where the is an issue with the quality of the endometrium lining. In order for an embryo to implant, the endometrium must have reached a certain thickness, ideally 10mm.

According to a study carried out in 2006 by the University Clinic of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the University of Belgrade on a group of 32 women with unexplained infertility ‘desirable quality of endometrium was significantly better in the cycle when HBO therapy had been applied’. Doppler ultrasounds carried out on the uterine arteries of the patients indicated that the uterine blood vessel resistance was slightly higher than expected following HBOT.

The radio listener who had contacted me following my interview told me that she had undergone two previous failed attempts at IVF but her third, when she used HBOT, was successful.

HBOT treatment is non-invasive and a typical session takes about 60 minutes during which a patient can read or listen to music while seated in the oxygen chamber.

Unfortunately, the study from the University of Belgrade appears to be the only extensive research that has been done into HBOT and infertility but it won’t stop me from giving it a try.

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Complementary Therapies

How to Rock Your Fertility Journey, Even if You’re Over 40

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Rick Your Fertility

This past weekend my son Charlie turned 5 years old.

I’ll be 49 in April.  You can do the math.

Charlie was conceived a month before my 43rd birthday, after a roller-coaster ride of miscarriage, doctors visits, testing, lots of negative pregnancy tests, and an emotional maelstrom during which I cursed myself for not trying to have a baby when I was younger.   

My doctor never said the words, “you’re too old” but it was implied when he explained that I didn’t have many eggs left because I was over 40.  When he said that the eggs that I did have were of “compromised quality” and that’s probably what led to my miscarriages. When he predicted that it was highly unlikely that I’d get pregnant with my own eggs and that donor egg IVF was my best chance of having a baby.

Conventional wisdom drives the doctor’s analysis and you’ve heard all this:  women are born with all the eggs that we’ll ever have and through 30+ years of having periods, as well as the natural aging process, cause our fertility to begin to decline in our early 30s, and take a big dive after age 35.  By the time we’re over 40, our fertility has practically fallen off a cliff. By the time we hit menopause, we may not have run out of eggs but the supply is scant and we’re no longer ovulating.

My test results bore this out.  My Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) was high at 16.4, indicating that my ovaries had to work harder to stimulate follicle growth (and egg maturation) than the ovaries of a younger woman.  My Anti-Mullerian Hormone, which measures ovarian reserve, was very low at 0.15 and indicated “undetectable” egg supply. My Antral Follicle Count, which counts resting follicles in the first few days of the cycle and indicates how many follicles may have the potential to grow that cycle, was never higher than 5 (a “normal” or “good” is between 15-25).

My doctor looked at all of these numbers, and that information is what drove his diagnosis of my condition, and his grim prognosis for my success.

The reality, though, is that we are about so much more than our numbers.   

If it were just about the numbers, all the women with strong numbers would have their babies, and the women like me with sub-optimal numbers wouldn’t.  And we just know this is not the case. Read more about how I overcame the odds to get pregnant with my own eggs and without IVF.

Here’s what we know: fertility does decline as we get older.   And that’s all we know.

Luckily, we “older” women can have some tools in our arsenal to help us get pregnant and have a baby, if that’s what we want.  

Here are some things to keep in mind, as well as some tools for your toolkit, if you’re trying to get pregnant at an “advanced age”:

You do have time.  While age is correlated with fertility, it’s not like the minute you turn 40, or 35, or another age, you all of a sudden aren’t able to get pregnant.  Fertility is more of a continuum. Time may be of the essence, and you may need to act quickly, but you do have time.

Fertility in your 40s is going to look different than it did in your 20s.  You are not the same woman, physically, emotionally or spiritually than you were in your 20s.  Like the rest of you, your fertility has changed too. For example, it’s common as we age to produce less cervical fluid than we do when we’re younger.  Cervical fluid is important when trying to get pregnant, especially when trying naturally, so it’s important to be aware of.

In any area related to your fertility, you need to be able to do your research and find ways to mitigate the situation to account for your age.  This is true regardless of your age, but especially if you’re over 40 and trying to conceive.

5th Birthday

The tools in your arsenal are even more important when you’re older.  On your fertility journey, you’ve probably heard that the following things are important:

  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Sleep
  • Knowing how to track your fertility signs and your menstrual cycles
  • Stress reduction
  • Mind/body connection

These things are crucial for anyone on a fertility journey, regardless of age and whether trying to conceive naturally or through treatment.  Being the healthiest you can be will help you achieve optimal fertility. This is especially crucial for you if you’re at an advanced age.

If you’re trying naturally, it’s important to keep in mind that generally speaking, middle-aged couples tend to have intercourse with less frequency than younger couples.  In trying to conceive, you don’t have to have intercourse all the time, but you do need to have it at the right time, and knowing your cycles will help you pinpoint with laser accuracy when that time is.  

Managing your stress will help you endure the trials and tribulations of fertility treatment, and cultivating a mind-body connection will help you silence the negative self-talk that tells you you’re too old or that your time has passed.   

The fertility journey can really mess with your physical body and your mind, and it’s important to have the tools to fight back.  My Big Little Fertility Toolkit gives you the exact tools that I used on my own successful fertility journey.

Listen to your intuition.  When my doctor told me that I likely wouldn’t get pregnant with my own eggs and that donor egg IVF was my best option, I didn’t disbelieve him.  I knew my numbers; I knew the situation was bad. But I also knew deep down that donor egg IVF wasn’t the right path for me to become a mom. This wasn’t based on any hard facts; I just intuitively knew that intrauterine insemination would work for me.  I knew that I had a good egg somewhere in my dwindling supply and that it was up to me to find it.

I encourage you to learn how to listen to your own intuition.  You’ve been with yourself every second of your life. YOU know yourself better than anybody else.  The answers are already within you, and when you take the time to tune in to yourself and to listen to what your intuition is telling you, those answers will always come to you.

Always keep in mind the end goal.  In our quest to get pregnant we can sometimes lose sight of the ultimate goal, which is not necessarily to be pregnant, but to be a mother. Motherhood can come in many shapes and forms – donor egg, sperm or embryo; surrogacy; adoption. As we get older, it’s increasingly important to keep all of those options in mind if your own natural fertility is compromised and the wellness tools in your toolbox aren’t helping.  

It’s a process to work through your feelings and emotions around the other avenues to motherhood, and it may take some time to do that.  But it may become important to do so, if you need to let go of the idea of a traditional pregnancy. We’re fortunate to live in a time with so many options for parenthood!

A good mantra to keep in mind for your journey is:

“Somehow, some way, I will be a mother.”  

You have power over your journey.   I know it may not seem like it, but you do.  You may be acutely aware every day of your age, and, if you’ve already experienced some setbacks in your fertility path, these weigh on you.  

While there’s so much that’s out of your control – like age, biology, egg supply, there’s still so much you can control.  Things like –

  • How you eat
  • How you move your body
  • How much you sleep
  • How you choose to manage your stress
  • How you interact with others
  • How you show up in the world

These things impact your fertility, and your well-being.

Another good mantra to keep in mind for your journey, and to help you feel and own the power that you have is:

“I am more than my numbers.  Infertility does not define me.”

Because there’s a huge grey area.  And while there have been so many medical and scientific advancements in the areas or fertility, pregnancy and birth, the reality is that there is still so much that we don’t know.  

And it’s this grey area, this area of the unknown, where magic can happen.  

Baby dust to you! xo


Also published on Medium.

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Complementary Therapies

Conception Is A Natural Process

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Conception Natural Process

Mike Berkley was the first acupuncturist in the United States to specialise in the care and treatment of infertility. He has been treating individuals for 21 years. Mike is known and well respected by reproductive endocrinologists, gynaecologists and acupuncturists throughout the world. He has lectured extensively; is a member of, and certified by the American Board of Oriental Medicine, the NCCAOM as well as the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. He sees patients from St. Barnabus, NYU, Weill Cornell, The Sher Institute, Batzofin Fertility Services, Columbia Presbyterian, RMA, New hope, Neway and numerous other prestigious reproductive medical centres in New York City, New Jersey and Long Island. He has an extensive knowledge of acupuncture, herbal medicine and Western reproductive medicine.

He is the Founder and Director, The Berkley Centre for Reproductive Medicine. Here he gives his candid views on the importance of acupuncture and herbal medicine in the fertility process.

Conception, pregnancy and birth need to be viewed as a process.

Process
Conception, pregnancy and birth need to be viewed as a process. One definition of the process is, “a series of actions, changes, or functions bringing about a result”. In my view, any natural process is better in every way than an artificial one. A good example is cooking. There is the process of cooking which is a slow, mindful act and there is microwave cooking which is basically a non-participatory act without natural process. There is no relationship between the chef and the outcome of the meal. Which meal tastes better? Just as important, which is healthier to eat?

The process of conception is quite complicated and requires the perfect balance and function of many components all working in a coordinated and harmonious fashion. Sperm must be attracted to the egg, it must find it and then it must penetrate it. Both egg and sperm are required to be of the highest quality. The lining must have qualitative integrity. The embryo must find the lining and must be able to penetrate it. The placenta must develop and nourish the developing foetus and rid the foetus of waste matter. The placenta must protect the foetus from immunological attack. The cytokines, proteins, immune function, blood flow, glycoproteins, hormones must all be in balance and not under or over functioning. There must be the absence of pathological mitigators which can contribute to infertility or promote miscarriage. Each and every player in the orchestra of conception must be in tune. One sour note and pregnancy will not occur, or miscarriage will ensue.

A viable conception, pregnancy and birth all follow this distinct process.

Chinese medicine which consists mainly of acupuncture and herbal medicine does not work by adding to that which is deficient or reducing that which is in excess; Western medicine is good at that. For example, a common practice in treating a deficiency syndrome, i.e., hypothyroidism is to ADD Synthroid. Or a common method at reducing excess insulin is by prescribing Metformin. These medicines which add, suppress or reduce have changed the face of civilization. Without the intervention of Western medicine and surgery our life-span would probably not exceed 40 years of age and eight million babies would not have been born as a result of IVF. How many couples, however, have remained childless even though they have undergone multiple IVFs? I am guessing more than six million.

Here is why: Just as a microwave oven can cook a meal, IVF can create a baby. But, as the microwave does not supplant the relationship between the chef and the food and the process of creating a meal, IVF cannot, in all its glory, in all cases, replace the natural process which is necessary to occur for conception and a take-home-baby to ensue.

Western Medicine

The alternative
Acupuncture and herbal medicine are essentially used to create a state as close to homeostasis as possible. Homeostasis is when everything in the body and mind work perfectly. Obviously, this is not attainable. But, acupuncture and herbs attempt this and through their intervention a greater state of systemic and psycho-emotional health can be, and invariably is, achieved. This is why in many cases, acupuncture and herbs work to help one achieve pregnancy when IVF fails.

I believe the greater one’s physical and psycho-emotional health is, the more likely they will be able to conceive and deliver.

Based upon twenty-one years of clinical experience in the field of infertility it is my professional opinion that the best-case scenario for the infertile patient is to utilize Western medicine in conjunction with acupuncture and herbal medicine. The reason for this is quite simple. When the reproductive endocrinologist retrieves eggs and fertilizes them with sperm the resulting embryo is as good as its constituent components; the egg and sperm. Most IVFs that fail, do so because of poor egg quality and/or poor sperm quality. The reproductive endocrinologist invariably cannot improve egg or sperm quality; acupuncture and herbs invariably can.

Blood
I saw a thirty four year old patient today. She has conceived three times with intercourse only to miscarry each time. She did get pregnant and delivered a baby as a result of insemination. She then had one subsequent failed IVF treatment. Now her doctor has recommended donor egg with IVF. The patient has cold hands and feet, a pale complexion, low energy and gets dizzy. Obviously, she has poor hemodynamics.

Blood is what carries FSH and LH from the brain to the ovaries; blood nourishes the endometrial lining; blood carries oxygen, electrolytes and nutrition to the entire reproductive system and removes waste matter from the reproductive environment. When cells die which they constantly do, they are ‘eaten’ up by macrophages. If the immune function is not functioning normally and debris is not removed, the outer layer of the dead cells breach and the internal toxic substance circulates within the ovarian milieu causing degradation in ovarian/egg quality. Acupuncture and herbal medicine increase blood flow; as a result, this can in many instances, improve the health and function of the target tissue: ovaries and endometrial lining.

Why are you not using acupuncture and herbs?
It is difficult for me to understand why all infertile patients don’t include acupuncture and herbal medicine in their protocols. Why would they not? There has been so much research elucidating the efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of infertility that acupuncture is no longer referred to as ‘alternative’ medicine but rather ‘complementary’ medicine. Herbs have a three thousand year history of positive clinical outcomes.

Herb safety
Regarding the safety profile of herbs, I have this to say: there are at least one million hospitalizations per year in America alone which occur as a result of adverse reactions to Western medicine. Many of these hospitalizations result in death. This does not happen with herbal medicine.

It is ironic, therefore, that many (but no longer all!) doctors don’t want their patients on herbs because “they don’t know what’s in them”. Do you know what’s in Lupron? Or Gonal F? Did you know that ovarian hyperstimulation even from Clomid can be fatal?

Don’t misunderstand, I am 100% pro IUI, IVF and donor egg IVF protocols. But to not partake of a modality with proven results which may change the course from a negative outcome to a positive one especially in the patient who has had multiple IUI/IVF failures is a clinical error.

More information can be found on Mike Berkely’s website.

 

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Complementary Therapies

How Chinese Medicine helped me start a family

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Chinese Medicine helped me start a family

A growing body of evidence support the role of traditional Chinese Medicine in the treatment.

After two years of struggling to conceive naturally, Ms Tran decided go for Chinese Medicine to help conceive. She felt it was taking longer than she anticipated, and she was fed up with take drugs or injections. She said “I did lot of research and studied through the internet on Chinese medicine. GinSen is my no. one choice as my friend’s recommendation. At age 32, I was having lots of pressure for have a baby.”

Ms Tran attended the first consultation in GinSen Clinic on October 2015. “GinSen’s expert team are very professional and experienced, I was comfortable with their consultation, believe me that they gave me such confident and hope. I took their advice, started a 3 month treatment plan combining Acupuncture and Herbal Tea. I agreed with their analysis, they identified my condition straight away, and my infertility was due to a Yang deficiency of Spleen and Kidney” She said.

After the treatments, Ms Tran felt her energy level was increased, her hands and feet were warmer and other symptoms were dispelled. She felt so much better after her treatment. In March 2016, She was pregnant, the baby was born in November 2016. “I am so joyful with my baby” She told us”.

Ms Tran is one of the many helped by GinSen. GinSen has been using finest herbal medicine and Acupuncture to focus to treat women‘s infertility due to FSH high, MH low, Fallopian Tube Blockage, PCOS, Age problems and IVF Support. Founded by Practitioner Li Hua Li, GinSen bases it fertility treatment on Yin and Yang theory of balance.

In Chinese medicine, the primary goal for restoring fertile health is to balance the yin and yang of the body. In respect to fertility, the yin aspect includes blood, fluids and substance. The yang energy stimulates ovulation. In TCM, doctors believe that acupuncture can enhance Qi (The vital Energy), balance the blood deficiencies, promote blood circulation, stimulate the activity of reproductive organs. Another popular recommendation is herbal tea, formulas are prescribed that combine several herbs which will have a multi effect within the body – by addressing any underlying imbalances or deficiencies.

Infertility, TCM takes the position that high quality eggs and sperm will result from a well – established supply of blood and energy. Used in both men and women, TCM can be used on its ownor increasingly in combination with Western assisted fertility procedure. In recent years, the use of TCM is enjoying growing popularity as couples seek to enhance their fertility using natural methods. News of positive experiences and successful outcomes are spreading as natural, holistic alternatives to conventional medical fertility enhancement (IVF) are sought.

In 2000, a British Medical Association survey showed that around half of doctors had prescribed acupuncture in the Uk. In 2016, A British study found that rates of success were twice as high among those having the alternative therapy. The study involved 160 couples suffering from fertility problems. Half were assigned to have four sessions of acupuncture during their IVF cycle. One year on, those who under went the ancient practice, involving fine needles, had achieved pregnancy rates of 46.2 per cent. Among those who had not, pregnancy rates were just 21.7 per cent. Trial researchers have urged the NHS to offer the treatment routinely to all fertility patients. This study shows a statistically significant difference. But some experts are hold opinions that the weakness of the study is that the placebo effect can’t be controlled.

Over the past 17 years, GinSen clinics have succeed in helping fertility patients aged between 20-48 years: since 2006, the clinic has achieved an average fertility success rate of more than 55 per cent in the over-40 age group, treating both medically explained and unexplained fertility problems.

With its proven tracking record, GinSen feels it can stay confidence to help more people in the future.

Find Out More at: ginsen-london.com or 0207 751 5606

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