4 steps for getting started on your fertility journey
Are you looking to get started on your fertility journey and are not sure where to start? Or are you going to see a fertility Acupuncturist but want to make sure you are fully prepared for your initial consult?
Here are the four main points I get patients to start with when starting out on their fertility journey.
Track your cycle + BBT chart
Pelvic ultrasound + fertility hormonal assessment
Start thinking about a preconception period
Okay so let’s get down to business….
TRACK YOUR CYCLE
This should include details like:
When your period starts + how many days it goes for.
What your flow is like - colour, consistency, heaviness, clots.
Any pain throughout your cycle - during menstruation, ovulation, sex or otherwise.
Any bloating or bowel signs.
Any discharge - including but not limited to cloudy, sticky or egg-white type mucus.
This will help us determine whether or not your are ovulating or even having a regular cycle.
Better yet, keep tracking all of the above but also start BBT Charting. This means taking your temperature with a digital thermometer (under your tongue) before getting up each morning. This is then tracked + stored in an app like Fertility Friend.
For a great break down of how and why to BBT chart here is a fantastic blog post.
If you come into your initial fertility appointment with 2-3 months of tracked cycles or BBT charts this means that your acupuncturist will have SO MUCH WONDERFUL information about your hormones. Honestly, BBT charts are the bees knees and I do a happy dance when a new patient comes prepped.
If you feel that your menstrual cycle is a mystery to you then you can start to deep dive with a number of wonderful books and podcasts. Period Power by Maisy Hill or The Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden are favourites of mine. Lara Briden also has a new podcast out or Heavy Flow with Amanda Laird has a fantastic back catalogue.
INTERNAL PELVIC ULTRASOUND & FERTILITY BLOOD
A pelvic ultrasound is an internal medical diagnostic procedure that can be organised through your GP.
The scan will look at:
The shape of your uterus,
The number of ovarian follicles present,
Whether you are ovulating or not and
The thickness of your uterine lining.
Pelvic ultrasounds are also used int the diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome or polyps as well as other conditions.
It is also a fab idea to get bloods done at the start of trying to conceive. These bloods are split into two groups.
On Day 2/3 of your cycle you should have the following bloods checked:
Thyroid panel (TSH/F4/T3
MTHFR gene, plus others.
On Day-21/7 days post ovulation you will then get your Progesterone levels checked.
These bloods are just a snap shot in time of what is going on with your body. In saying that, they will indicate if there are any barriers to fertility i.e. genetics, thyroid issues or anaemia.
I’m sure you already know that it takes two to tango, am I right? Sperm health has a huge part to do with fertility.
Firstly, we need to make sure that the semen-producing part of the equation are actually producing sperm. We then take their results and look at the number of sperm (concentration), how the sperm move (motility) and how they are shaped (morphology). It is essentially a numbers game - we need to check that there are enough well-shaped sperm swimming in the right direction in order for an egg to fertilise and implant.
These three things (plus other parts of male health) have a HUGE impact on how easy it is to get pregnant AND stay pregnant. Because we are not interested in getting you pregnant, we are interested in you having a baby!
Men can get their sperm tested through their GP, your fertility specialist or even me.
START PRECONCEPTION DIET & LIFESTYLE CHANGES
What is preconception care I hear you ask? It is a roughly 3-4 month process that involves dietary and lifestyle changes, supplementation, herbal medicine and other support system interventions to future parents before conception occurs.
The aim is to make the prospective parents as tip-top healthy as possible and reduce factors that contribute to poor maternal, paternal and child health outcomes.
- Egg formation takes around 90 – 100 days.
- Sperm formation can take up to 116 days (not 4 – 5 days like many people believe!)
With this in mind, the 3-4 month process helps both eggs and sperm to be the best they can. The ultimate goal is to improve the health of all involved in the conception process, in both the short and long term. This will help to give your future baby the best health outcomes possible.
Each persons preconception process will be different, depending on their individual health needs.
At the very least, dietary and lifestyle measures include increasing the number of vegetables you eat as well as decreasing the amount of alcohol drunk and minimising sugar, food from a box and coffee. It’s not about loosing weight, it’s about flooding your body with fabulous nutrients and reducing inflammatory factors.
I find that most people need acupuncture, a little bit of dietary and exercise advise, some stress relief, some herbs and generally some supplements. All supplements and herbs need to be prescribed by a registered practitioner.
I hope you’ve found this helpful, wherever are you on your fertility journey. If you have questions, or would like to find out if Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine could work for you, feel free to to get in touch.