You’ve been trying to have a baby for a couple of years without much success. You haven’t paid too much attention to it until now….when several of your friends have expressed similar concerns.
For many urban Indian couples who are busy with their careers, sometimes the thought of having a baby gets put on the back burner. You indulge in unprotected intercourse several times a month, not really timings your cycle, and don’t really give it much thought unless it’s been a whole year and you are still waiting for that home pregnancy kit to show two clear lines – indicating you now have a bun in your oven.
However, once you’ve reached that stage, you start to take better notice. You talk to friends, family, and maybe even your gynaecologist. And you find out that fertility rates have been declining worldwide. It’s not just you; it’s now a global epidemic. So, why are fertility rates dropping?
Before we begin to understand why fertility rates are on the down-low lets us first understand what we mean by infertility. Infertility is medically defined as the inability to conceive a baby naturally despite regular intercourse, which requires medical intervention. When should you worry?
Infertility can be caused by a variety of different reasons, most of which can be attributed to our modern lifestyles. In a study conducted at Cleveland Clinic, OH, USA, it was found that approximately 10 to 15% of couples are impacted by infertility. Most doctors now believe that lifestyle factors play a pivotal role in the development of infertility. This new information has generated a considerable amount of interest.
Many lifestyle factors can have a negative effect on your fertility rate, irrespective of whether you are male or female. Some examples are: the age at which you plan pregnancy, nutritional deficiencies, pre-existing hormonal issues, weight, sedentary lifestyle, psychological stress, as well as environmental and occupational exposures. Some lifestyle factors such as smoking, illicit drug abuse (even if recreational), regular alcohol use and even excessive caffeine consumption can negatively influence fertility. On the other hand, preventative care methods as well as mindful lifestyle practices may be beneficial for your reproductive health.
With fertility rates dropping all over the world, urban India is no different. Poor diet and lifestyle choices are at the core of this issue. Some prime examples are: insulin resistance, androgen excess and PCOS like issues which are on severe rise in the country. It’s not uncommon to meet young women in their early 20s who have PCOS, and are taking medication to fix the issue, without paying any attention to reversing the lifestyle factors that are the very cause of the disease. As these women age and plan to start families, the underlying hormonal problems become the very cause of their fertility. WHO rates of infertility in India are on the rise.
Let’s see how:
Eating a healthy varied and balanced diet is the key to maintaining optimum health. Fertility is a natural state of good health, which begins with optimum nutrition. Many of us follow fad diets that completely ban carbohydrates (even the good ones) and rely heavily on eating just animal proteins. You’d be surprised to know that studies have found that replacing carbohydrates with animal protein can be detrimental to ovulatory fertility! This is why you need a balanced diet – one that has ample proteins, good carbohydrates and healthy fats. Similarly, a man’s diet may have a positive impact on his fertility as well. Consuming a diet rich in carbohydrates, fiber, folate, and lycopene as well as eating more fruit and vegetables correlates with improved semen quality.
Maintaining a healthy weight is beneficial for your reproductive health. Obesity has an overall negative impact on fertility, affecting both women and men. Similarly, being underweight due to excessive dieting and exercising can also undermine your efforts to get pregnant.
If you’re a couch potato, who’s only movement is to the car and back, then now is the time to change. Studies have found that men and women who are physically active have improved chances of conceiving.
Fertility is all about hormones, after all. So when your hormones are out of sync, you are bound to have troubles conceiving. This could be as simple as bad period pains, missed periods, adult acne, PMS that has suddenly appeared later on in life. Many young women think that small fibroid or ovarian cyst that was detected some years back will have no major repercussions, but this was the beginning of your fertility woes many years ago. Each of these was a sign that your hormones are out of balance, but you probably didn’t think it might one day impact your ability to have a baby. When treating infertile couples, an understanding of the endocrine system and its relationship to reproduction is essential.
According to a study published by The Centre for Reproduction and Advanced Technology, London, there are several factors such as lifestyle factors, an increase in sexually transmitted diseases, rise in obesity and environmental factors involved in urbanisation and urban lifestyle that are affecting fertility and have led to rise in male and female subfertility.
So, can fertility come back? Yes, once you address these issues, fertility can be restored.
WHO fertility guidelines focus on assessment and treatment for people with fertility problems, covering the pathway from advice and information for people concerned about fertility to assisted reproduction techniques.
As we discussed before, fertility is a natural state of good health. Infertility is often a symptom of poor health; one that usually shows up as symptoms much early on in life. Example – irregular or painful periods, PCOS, acne, digestive issues, or thyroid problems – which have either been ignored or fixed with pills. To fix fertility, you have to be willing to fix the underlying problem, which more often than not is your LIFESTYLE. A good diet, healthy weight, regular exercise, and ways to boost hormonal health are all measures you can take for fertility to return.
A special mention here – sometimes hidden hypothyroidism can cause infertility. Most doctors only go by TSH levels to decide proper thyroid functioning. And this, right here, is the problem. Remember: for a healthy egg to be produced, for it to be fertilised by a sperm, for the embryo to grow rapidly into a foetus – all are extremely energy-intensive activities that need a very well-functioning thyroid.
Did you know that IUI and IVF have 1 in 3 chances of success? This is where BHRT or Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy is most beneficial. By using custom-compounded bio-identical hormones that are different from mass-produced hormones used in IVF clinics, you can achieve far better results. Using a combination of T3:T4 that is bio identical, to overcome hidden hypothyroidism, for example, can lead to far better results in fertility.
Dr. Vivek Kadambi, who practices Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) at the Belle Santé Institute of Functional Medicine, India, says, “In my practice of evidence-based, person-centered Functional Medicine, the usual culprits I find in women who are unable to get pregnant are sub-optimal thyroid hormones, low levels of progesterone and insulin resistance. Ideally, these need to be optimized months before planned conception. Bio-Identical hormones are indeed effective and safe to use. The whole fear around the term ‘hormone’ treatment is unfounded. Vitamin D is, in realty, a hormone. Millions of women take standard thyroid medication in the morning. They are simply not aware that they are taking a ‘hormone’. Those medicines aren’t even ‘bio-identical’, meaning they don’t resemble the exact molecular structure of the hormone naturally produced in the body itself. When we use bio-identical hormones to support couples trying to get pregnant, the results are pretty amazing.”
At Sepalika, we believe that restoring your fertility needs a 360-degree approach, so we work with allopathic practitioners like Dr.Kadambi, who are providing a cutting-edge service to those who need it. We also address the root cause of the problem, be it PCOS, thyroid disease, digestion issues, uterine problems or ovarian disorders. Our aim is to combine cutting-edge western lab test analysis with the wisdom of tradtional and functional medicine, so we can address the issue of infertility as a whole – in both man and woman – assuring that you are healthy enough to create a new life and enjoy the pleasures of parenthood.