“And with who’s eggs do you think you will get pregnant with?”
More women are waiting until their 30’s and 40’s to have children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 20 percent of women in the United States now have their first child after age 35. About one-third of couples in which the woman is over 35 have fertility challenges.
Delaying pregnancy does come with its own set of complications. As we age our fertility declines. Unlike a man who reproduces sperm every 24 hours, a woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have. With age, the quality and quantity of eggs decline. For some women, the diagnosis of infertility results in an overwhelming feeling when faced with the financial impact of western medical intervention on top of the emotional impact on relationships. Trying to understand why your body is failing to produce your hearts desire can lead to despair and resentment of friends who so easily conceive.
Infertility, is defined as a disease characterized by the failure to establish a clinical pregnancy after 12 months of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse or due to physiological impairment of a person’s capacity to reproduce. Fertility interventions may be initiated after one year of unsuccessful pregnancy. For women 35 and over, some physicians may treat women after six months of unprotected intercourse.
Are there alternatives besides western intervention for women who are experiencing fertility challenges? The answer is yes, they can be found in the form of Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, and Basal Body Temperature Charting (BBT).
Acupuncture is the gentle insertion of thin needles into the skin at specific sites or acupuncture points. Acupuncture points lie on channels or meridians that correspond with the major organ systems in the body. By stimulating the acupuncture point with a needle it is believed that the Central Nervous system is stimulated to release endorphins which help the body to relax. One way that acupuncture helps with fertility is by helping to reduce stress. When people are under stress the hormone cortisol is released from the brain. Cortisol has the ability to disrupt the delicate balance of hormones and negatively affect the reproductive cycle. Studies have also shown that acupuncture increases blood flow to the uterus and ovaries as well as increases the uterine lining which aids implantation of the fertilized egg.
It is important for women to understand the unique aspect of their menstrual cycle. Basal Body Temperature (BBT) charting, when done correctly, is an effective way to determine the length of follicular phase (estrogen), the length of the luteal phase (progesterone) and determine when ovulation occurs. Upon waking and before getting out of bed, a BBT thermometer is placed in the mouth and the temperature is recorded. At mid-cycle women should notice an increase in temperature that indicates ovulation has occurred. Just prior to ovulation there should be a presence of clear white cervical fluid. The increase in cervical fluid often termed “clear egg white” is the indicator of fertility. The cervical fluid acts as food that allows healthy sperm to make the journey to the fallopian tubes to meet the egg for fertilization. It is important to note the rise in temperature indicates you have ovulated. The clear egg white cervical fluid is the indicator you are fertile.
And with who’s eggs will you get pregnant with? This question was posed to me during a routine exam with a new gynecologist. Since it was my first visit with her I shared that after 12 years of unprotected sex, my husband and I had never conceived. She asked again, “… at age 40, with who’s eggs will you get pregnant with?” Feeling humiliated and a failure, I reminded her that I was in for a routine check-up, not a fertility exam. As painful as this office visit was, I reflect on its lessons as both patient and provider. As a patient, you have the right at any age to seek medical assistance if you are having difficulty conceiving. As a health care provider, it taught me the importance of listening and supporting my patients at every stage. Deciding to conceive can be one of the biggest decisions a woman can make. Safe and effective therapies like Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine and BBT charting can provide support during this journey.