It may be surprising to hear, but there are a decent number of women that come through our office reporting symptoms that include “difficulty getting pregnant.” In some situations, they do not report any other symptoms besides infertility, while the great majority of the time, their list of symptoms include a variety of hormonal imbalances, fatigue, and pain. The most common inquiry that I hear from patients that have a hard time conceiving is how to get pregnant naturally when nothing else seems to work.
To be honest, this is a loaded question, and without a perfect answer. The patients in our office that had trouble getting pregnant, and then conceived after we started working with them, had a few things in common that we will go through in this post. Additionally, I will include a few experiences from patients that came into the office with various symptoms, including the desire to get pregnant that were able to conceive naturally when it seemed like nothing else would work.
From a statistical standpoint, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) infertility statistics report that women between the ages of 15-44 that have impaired fecundity (impaired ability to get pregnant or carry a baby to term) is roughly 6.7 million in the United States. This is about 10.9% of the women in this age group. An estimated 1.5 million married women in the same age group report infertility (greater than 12 months of unprotected activity with their spouse without conceiving), resulting in about 6% of married couples.
By the time most patients that want to get pregnant end up in our office, they have already made the traditional doctor’s appointments. (After all, who says “I can’t get pregnant, take me to the chiropractor!”) They have seen their primary care physician, OB/GYN, talked to their friends, tried various herbs, essential oils, and scoured through the internet looking for answers. So how do we help these women figure out what is going on, and end up getting pregnant?
The great secret to our office, is we do not actually treat infertility in women that are trying to get pregnant naturally. What we really try to do is get to the root cause of what is disrupting their health in general. There is a concept within Applied Kinesiology that is called the “Triad of Health.” The Triad of Health basically states that when someone is in balance with their structural (muscles, bones, etc.), chemical (diet, nutrition, etc.), and emotional sides of the triad, they are more likely to be symptom free. Rather than “treating” infertility, we focus on trying to support each patient according to their unique structural, chemical, and emotional imbalances. In doing so, their body is able to function in a more appropriate way, and their symptoms usually begin to improve (even if they are trying to get pregnant when nothing else seems to work).
There are some common trends among women that have a hard time getting pregnant though. Let’s go through the Triad of Health as it relates to a woman that wants to get pregnant naturally when nothing else seems to work.
Structural Considerations when Trying to Get Pregnant Naturally
From a traditional chiropractic standpoint, when bones and joints are out of whack, leading to decreased nerve input to the tissues, the tissues will not work as well as they could. The nerves that go to the reproductive organs come from the lowest part of the back. These nerves also share the same communication pathway as many muscles in the pelvis, legs, and feet. Through a physical exam that incorporates manual muscle testing via Applied Kinesiology and Quantum Neurology methods, we evaluate every major nerve and muscle in the region. Many times, the patient that is having difficulty getting pregnant, has a variety of muscles that are “weak” due to compensations within the nervous system, even if the person can still workout and is not paralyzed. The compensatory weakness are a way that the body tries to conserve function in the presence of imbalance. When we can help strengthen the nervous system to the affected area, the muscles tend to get stronger, range of motion tends to improve, pain typically decreases, and overall function to the affected areas tends to improve. When we create a better environment structurally, and neurologically, the body is in a better position to do what it is designed to do.
Chemical Imbalances with Infertility
Personally, I feel that this side of the Triad of Health plays the biggest role in the majority of women that have a hard time getting pregnant. As a general rule, there are 2 main things we try to do in tweaking the diet, in order to support optimal hormone function. First and foremost, we want to restore balance in the carbohydrate management portion of the hormonal system. Sugars can really mess up the hormonal profile. A good portion of women that cannot get pregnant have blood sugar imbalance, which leads to conditions such as poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), elevated testosterone, and weight gain. Drastically reducing carbohydrates from the diet (including both “good” carbs, and “bad” carbs) is a great first step in supporting the hormonal system. Generally speaking, we encourage women to get less than 20% of their diet from carbohydrates during the initial phase of nutritional support. This allows us to see how they respond, and adapt their diet accordingly.
The next step in supporting the nutritional/chemical imbalances that are associated with infertility, is to remove the inflammatory creating triggers from the diet. These can come in a variety of food sources, but the four most common foods to eliminate when trying to get pregnant are: gluten, dairy, corn, and soy. (Gluten is by far the most common culprit, as numerous papers have been associated with undiagnosed Celiac Disease in the presence of unexplained infertility.) Soy is also estrogenic, which means that it can act like estrogen in the body, and affect hormone balance within the body. The good news, is that by reducing the carbohydrate intake below 20% of the daily intake, many of the sugary grains are going to be removed anyways. The reason that these four foods are at the top of the list of foods to avoid while trying to get pregnant, is because the proteins within these foods has a higher tendency to react with the immune system. This is not to say that these foods are bad per se (even though most of our patients are encouraged to avoid some combination of them), but if a woman is having a hard enough time balancing blood sugar, and cellular inflammation is distracting her body from performing appropriately, then the added burden of food sensitivities can be stroking the fire of infertility.
When it comes to supplement and herbal support, our primary objective is to use targeted nutrition for each individual patient. For some women, we use rosemary to help reduce the effects of estrogen dominance. With estrogen imbalance, there is frequently a decrease in naturally produced progesterone. Using a product that contains wild yam, we can support the progesterone creation process. With supplements, certain vitamins and minerals act as building blocks that allow the hormones to be produced effectively. Imbalances in vitamin B6 can affect the liver’s ability to get rid of estrogen, while vitamin C and zinc can help the production of progesterone as well. Does this mean that every person that cannot get pregnant needs rosemary, wild yam, vitamin B6, C and zinc?! Oh course not, but with a proper review of the patient’s history, labs, and with a physical exam, those may be some of the things that are provided to help support optimal physiology.
Emotional Stress Can Effect Hormonal Balance
One of the most challenging aspects of the infertility experience is the emotional side of the equation. Denial, shock, frustration, anger and disappointment are common emotions that are mentioned with patients that are having trouble getting pregnant. The emotional stress and frustration that accompanies the monthly ebb and flow of hope and disappointment can further exacerbate the effects of emotional stress, creating a vicious cycle. For some patients, just having someone that is willing to listen and provide hope is enough to help with the emotional side of the triad of health. In other situations, approaches such as NeuroEmotional Technique (NET) can help as well. NET is a mind-body technique that uses a methodology of finding and removing neurological imbalances related to the physiology of unresolved stress. Occasionally the help of a trained counselor is in the best interest of the family trying to get pregnant.
Pregnant Patients in the Office
This blog post was prompted by the great news from one of our patients. About eight months ago she came into the office with the hopes of becoming pregnant. She was not ovulating, and could not even remember the last time that she did. She was referred into the office from her friend that has been coming into the office for the traditional chiropractic related things (ie. back pain, headaches, etc.). Nearly 6 months to the day of her first office appointment, this patient came into the office and reported that she was pregnant. The secret? We supported her body’s natural physiology by doing exactly what is mentioned above. She avoided gluten, dairy, corn, and soy. Decreased her alcohol and carbohydrate intake in order to keep her carb intake less than 20% of her diet per day, and we gave her a specific nutritional protocol based on her history and physical exam. She came by the office today to pick up something, and is happy to report that everything is still going great. She was also proudly able to share her ultrasound pictures too.
I do not have a picture to share with this most recent patient that was able to get pregnant, but a quick Facebook search to find another patient that was able to get pregnant in the office provides great insight into the joy that comes from expanding one’s family when hope was lost because nothing else seemed to work.
Even though a picture is worth a thousand words, this particular patient also shared a bit about her journey of getting pregnant in our office, and you can hear her 2.5 year journey to finally overcome infertility naturally.
***Special thanks to our awesome patients that gave us permission to share their wonderful stories through this blog post!