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When is a Fertility Assessment not really a Fertility Assessment?

If you are struggling with unexplained infertility, the IVF clinic will look like a safe harbour to head for - it looks like somewhere that will offer you an answer to your fertility questions and a solution to your struggle. Most IVF clinics brand themselves as 'Fertility' clinics, which adds to the illusion that they are the place to go to if you are looking to investigate your fertility, and they offer Fertility Assessments so you can go and talk to them, find out why things aren't working for you.

"I went for a Fertility Assessment and they just recommended we have IVF" I have yet to come across a couple in their prime fertility years who were not advised to consider IVF. Even couples in their early 30s, where holistic fertility support has incredible potential for success = often with far better statistics than an IVF clinic. Even if they suggest IUI as a first option, they will usually push on to recommend IVF at the earliest opportunity instead of suggesting you pause and evaluate things holistically first.

Fertility Assessments are not really assessments of your fertility in the wider sense of the word, they are designed to check whether you are a suitable candidate for IVF. In my opinion, in order to assess fertility, you need to see the wider picture and you need to look at things from both a medical and holistic perspective.

"But I want to run tests and investigations . . . "

Yes, I run tests too. I have a far more extensive set of tests at my disposal than an IVF clinic would offer you at a Fertility Assessment. Blood tests, microbiome tests, male fertility tests, specialist scans, etc. I nearly always will look more closely at male fertility than an IVF clinic would - as long as they can see a sperm, then can work with it, but the clinics put little effort into identifying issues that might be lowering the quality of the sperm DNA.

I look at things that an IVF clinic might look at, but with an open mind, not a closed mind - for instance if someone has a horrendous, heavy, painful cycle then I will want to work out how to improve it to see if natural conception is possible and to prepare them for IVF if needed, not just check if there are eggs and sperm and recommend IVF. If a cycle is horrendous, inflammation, iron deficiency and gut issues are almost always in the picture, quietly lowering egg quality, quietly lower the chance of IVF success. It is so important to address this kind of thing BEFORE considering IVF, but that is never the advice my clients have been given.

Together we work out what tests are appropriate, there is no standard path, everyone is different. But to properly assess fertility, you also need to be looking holistically to see which foundational pillars of fertility need a bit of support too.

"But what difference does holistic fertility support really make!?"

Fertility responds really well to holistic support and holistic intervention. If you are working with an experienced holistic fertility support practitioner (acupuncturist, nutritionist etc), you should find:

  • your cycle moves towards the 'ideal' cycle

If you have a rotten menstrual cycle (painful, flooding, irregular, scanty, extensive spotting, unusual discharge pattern etc) - you need holistic fertility support, not a Fertility Assessment at an IVF clinic.

  • your digestion should improve

Issues with digestion such as IBS, bloating, constipation and frequent loose stool all have an impact on egg quality and sperm quality. Poor digestion can mean nutrient deficiencies, poor hormone regulation, inflammation and depletion.

  • your sleep should improve

Poor sleep on a regular basis has a negative impact on egg quality and sperm quality.

  • your immune system regulation should improve

A healthy, well functioning immune system plays an important role in implantation and early pregnancy. Holistic support and appropriate investigations can be hugely significant for recurrent implantation failure and early loss.

  • your mental health should improve

Battling with unexplained infertility can be incredibly stressful. Acupuncture and fertility support and mentoring can have a profound impact on your mental health, on how stressed you feel, and on how you feel about the whole issue of infertility.

And for a surprising number of people, this is all it will take to move them from a state of infertility to a state of fertility.

"But our case is more complicated than that . . . "

It may be.

For some cases, you could work for months and months on the foundations of fertility, but still not get where you want to go because there is something preventing everything from falling into place. If there is something structural going on, if there is an infection, if the immune system is being impacted by a hidden pathogen, then we need to dig deeper.

And that is where my experience comes into play - the majority of my clients are complex cases, and simple, holistic support will only get them so far. In these cases, we need to think outside of the box, we need to run tests that your doctors won't run, we need to investigate things more thoroughly, we need to never stop asking 'WHY?".

When things are complicated, I will usually recommend we invite other specialists onto the team - maybe an expert herbalist, an incredible functional nutritionist, a microbiome specialist, a specialist endometriosis consultant or a reproductive immunology consultant. Working in collaboration, we can often achieve miracles for clients who have come with a horrendous history, and it means that I am not frightened to take on the difficult cases if I think I can see a route through.

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