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Preconception care is recognized as a critical component of health care for women of reproductive age. The main goal of preconception care is to provide health promotion, screening and interventions for women of reproductive age to reduce risk factors that might affect future pregnancies.
Preconception health care lays the foundations for the best conception chances and grooms the body, mind and spirit for a healthy, vital pregnancy and birth.
The following are all thought of as causes or contributory factors of infertility:- anovulation, short luteal phase, polycystic ovaries, estrogen imbalance, progesterone deficiency, high FSH levels, thin endometrium, endometriosis, low sperm count, low motility, incorrect pH balance of cervical fluid. But what is the cause of these and other imbalances?
Working with the Natural Rhythm
The hormonal system can be thought of as a finely tuned orchestra. The natural rhythms of the body act like a metronome and are seen in the heartbeat, breathing, sleep-wake patterns, and of course the menstrual cycle. Conception and the subsequent division of cells depends on the harmonization of this rhythm so that the body can respond to subtle chemical changes. All of this can be affected by emotions and extraneous factors such as diet and life style and ultimately, from a Chinese perspective, Qi energy.
Recent research has given much support to acupuncture as an effective therapy for infertility. "A review of medical literature regarding the benefits of acupuncture to women's fertility reveals that the ancient technique can help reduce stress, increase blood flow to the reproductive organs and help normalize ovulation -- all of which can help a woman conceive."
Also one "study has also shown that women who used acupuncture without any other fertility treatments were just as likely to conceive in the same period of time as women who took fertility drugs."
"Researchers have also discovered that acupuncture can boost blood flow to women's reproductive organs, providing them with better nourishment. In addition, acupuncture appears to improve the lining of the uterus, the place where the embryo becomes embedded after conception."
SOURCE: Reuter's Health: Fertility and Sterility 2002; 78:1149-1153.
Fertility and Beyond
• Researchers said they have increased success rates by almost 50% in women having in vitro fertilization (IVF) when acupuncture is used as well.
• A comprehensive analysis of acupuncture treatment for breech position discovered that a remarkable 80% of fetuses turned into normal (cephalic) presentation after treatment.
• One of the first acupuncture trials in Great Britain (1986) proved its effectiveness in treating vomiting and nausea.
• A recent trial revealed that acupuncture is excellent in treating back-pain.
• No medicines are used with acupuncture needles. It is safe and free of dangerous side-effects when practiced by a fully trained acupuncturist.
In reality we treat the person, not just the symptoms. If your condition is not listed below acupuncture may still be able to help. If you are not sure feel free to ask.
When a woman comes to my office for help with fertility, I ask her when does she ovulate and how does she know she has ovulated? While some women are able to tell me when they ovulate and what methods they use to predict ovulation, most of the women I see are guessing at when they ovulate and planning babymaking around that guess.
Think back to your junior high or high school Health Education class. You probably learned "how" babies are made, who puts what where and how the sperm meets the egg, etc. But what was that class really designed to do? It was designed to keep you from getting pregnant! In fact, it's likely that most of the information you've encountered about reproduction up until now has been aimed at blocking conception rather than promoting it. Now that you've decided it's time to have a baby, given up your birth control and are actively trying to get pregnant, it's time to get in touch with your body and give it a helping hand.
The truth is, there is only a small window of time during your menstrual cycle in which it is possible for you to become pregnant (about 2 to 4 days, the length of time most women secrete fertile cervical fluid). Even when your timing is perfect you still only have about a 20% chance of conceiving in any given cycle. When you consider all that has to occur and all that has to go perfectly during one cycle, from a new lining being built in your uterus to your partner's sperm meeting your egg in your fallopian tube, it's really a miracle that anyone gets pregnant at all.
So what can you do to assist in the miracle? First, I recommend reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, which comes with software to help you chart your cycle and figure out when you ovulate and are most fertile. Second, I recommend charting for 2 to 3 complete cycles so that you can connect with your body and become familiar with your own fertility signs (you can continue to try to get pregnant, and you may well be successful!). Before you begin you will need: a digital BBT (Basal Body Temperature) thermomometer, a fertile focus ovulation predictor, ovulation predictor kit or a fertility monitor (click on the links for examples of each), a pen and a pad of paper to leave by your bed, and a chart on which to record your findings (paper, software or online). I also liike a product by the name of OVWatch (more expensive but can give you a heads up of up to five days ahead of your LH surge.)
Once you've done some reading and gathered your materials you will start gathering data....as soon as you start your next period. If you are weeks away from your next period and want to practice taking your temperature, go ahead but be sure to record the data in the correct place on your chart (i.e. if you start on cycle day 10, don't call it day 1). On the first day of your period (not the first day of spotting, but the first honest-to-goodness day of menstrual flow), take your temperature in the morning after you've woken up and before you've gotten out of bed. Important: For this method to be accurate, you need to take your temperature at the same time every day and you cannot get out of bed before taking it. Record your temperature, add it to your chart and go on with your day.
If you have an ovulation predictor kit (OPK) or fertility monitor, you can start testing for a surge in LH (leutenizing hormone) as early as cycle day 8. LH surges about 36 hours before ovulation, so it can be a good indicator of your most fertile day (ideally, the sperm should be present 36 to 24 hours before ovulation occurs, so plan accordingly). Important: An LH surge does not necessarily mean you have ovulated. Some women, like those diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), have LH surges throughout the month, so this method will not be accurate. When you see an LH surge, you should record this on your chart and plan to have sex that day and every day until you have ovulated. The software bundled with Toni Wecshler's book will automatically calculate your most fertile days based partly on this information.
Another important fertility sign to add to your chart is cervical fluid. In a perfect world, your cervical fluid will become more abundant and slippery (often described as being the consistency of an egg-white) when you are most fertile. You may notice some discharge on your underwear or when you wipe yourself after using the bathroom. You can also insert two fingers into your vagina and try to touch the tip of your cervix and see if you come away with fluid that sticks to your fingers, has a slippery quality and is stringy when you bring your two fingers together and pull them apart again. For some women, this fluid is easy to see and for others it isn't. If you notice it, put it in your chart and, again, start having sex daily until ovulation occurs. Important: If you never notice a change in cervical fluid, you could miss your most fertile day, so plan to have sex every day or every other day from cycle day 8 until your temperatures indicate that you have ovulated.
Charting also allows you to keep track of things that might disrupt your cycle and change your ovulation date like lack of sleep, increased stress or illness, and gives you a chance to note other fertility signs like dull abdominal or back ache, cramping or a sharp pain. For more details about charting and fertility signs, consult a book like TCOYF (noted above) or talk with your gynecologist.
My hope in writing this article is to help you understand how your reproductive systems functions, help you gain a clearer understanding of when you are most fertile and help you better time babymaking activities. If you have simply been missing ovulation, or if you are just getting started trying to conceive, charting and predicting ovulation may help you get pregnant more quickly.
If you think your chart looks strange, or if charting and predicting ovulation doesn't help you get pregnant within 6-12 months, get some help. See your gynecologist for a thorough exam, have your male partner get a semen analysis, explore the various alternatives that can help prepare your body for conception and pregnancy (acupuncture, herbal medicine, Mayan abdominal massage, massage therapy, chiropractic, etc.). I use my patients charts to help form a diagnosis (i.e. Kidney yin deficiency, Liver Qi stagnation, etc.), so be sure to bring your charts to whichever practitioner you decide to work with.
*This article does not guarantee that you will become pregnant, it only presents information about some of the methods used to predict and pinpoint ovulation. It is also not designed to diagnose or promote self-diagnosis of ovulation problems--if you suspect that you do not ovulate or ovulate very irregularly you should consult with your gynecologist.