NATURAL FERTILITY ENHANCEMENT:
Adapted from an article by Francesca Naish, Nutrition Care Bulletin, Vol 9, Issue 2, March 2001.
"Statistics are showing an alarming increase in infertility & reproductive health problems. The number of infertile women has tripled in the last 30 years. 1 couple in 6 is now infertile, 1 woman in 5 will have a miscarriage & 1 child in 30 is born with a congenital birth defect. 1 in 3 women experience post-natal depression. Learning & behavioural problems in children are common & the incidence of asthma & allergies is growing. A huge body of evidence points to the effectiveness of preconception health care in the prevention of many of these problems. "Foresight", the Association for the Promotion of Preconceptual Care, has demonstrated that preconception health care significantly improves pregnancy outcomes with increased fertility rates, & decreased rates of miscarriage, premature birth, perinatal death & fetal malformations.
"Prior to conception, the best possible health of both parents will ensure optimum health of sperm & egg at the time of conception. The formation of sperm may take up to 116 days & ova require 100 days prior to ovulation for maturation. During this "preconception time", both are susceptible to damage & need adequate nutrition to ensure healthy development. Both parents must attend to their health & lifestyle for at least 4 months prior to conception to provide the optimum conditions for creation of a healthy fetus.
"Complete preconception health care involves identification & detoxification of heavy metals, avoidance of environmental toxins such as smoking & pesticides, treatment of allergies, any infection, & any reproductive or fertility problems. Nutritional supplementation addresses many of these factors & provides the essential nutrients for healthy fetal growth & development.
"Severe deficiencies of many nutrients are common in the population. For example, zinc deficiency is common, with 67% of Australian men & 85% of women having marginal dietary levels. Zinc is considered to be the most important nutrient for the pregnant woman & is vital for sperm health. Zinc is present in large amounts in semen & supplementation increases sperm count & sperm motility. Zinc status is disrupted by use of the oral contraceptive pill & copper IUDs, & by the inorganic iron supplements frequently recommended in pregnancy.
"Vitamin A deficiency has been linked with miscarriage & cleft palate, & the risk of congenital abnormalities is reduced with Vitamin A supplementation during pregnancy. Vitamin A has been found to be toxic in pregnancy only at doses above 25,000IU, However, to allow a considerable margin for safety, doses below 10,000IU are generally recommended.
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"There are many other nutritional deficiencies which contribute to infertility. Low levels of the B vitamins, betacarotene, magnesium & manganese have all been associated with poor fertility. Even mild nutritional deficiencies may allow free radical damage to sperm. Supplementation with vitamin E improves sperm motility & is effective in the treatment of low sperm count & abnormal sperm. Healthy sperm are also highly dependent on an adequate supply of essential fatty acids. Vitamin C improves all sperm parameters. In the female, vitamin C is necessary for maturation of the pre-ovulatory follicle.
"Similarly, low levels of many nutrients contribute to poor pregnancy outcomes. Low B vitamin status has been associated with miscarriage, neonatal & perinatal death, fetal abnormalities & low birth weight babies. Folic acid is required in the 3 months pre- & post-conception to prevent neural tube defects. Supplementation throughout pregnancy also improves birth weight & APGAR scores. Vitamins B6, B12 & folic acid combine to reduce elevated homocysteine levels, which can cause miscarriage. The developing foetus has high requirements for essential fatty acids, & large amounts are deposited in the last trimester of pregnancy & during early life. Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important for visual & cortical function.
"Many common problems of pregnancy can be easily treated with nutritional supplementation. Glucose tolerance in gestational diabetes can be improved with chromium. Many pregnant women obtain only 1/2 of the recommended daily allowance for magnesium & low magnesium may lead to premature labor, pre-eclampsia, & low birth weight. Vitamin E is effective in preventing habitual miscarriage, & together with vitamin C, has also prevented pre-eclampsia. Supplementation with omega-6 fatty acids may prevent hypertension in pregnancy. Vitamin B6 can relieve fluid retention & the nausea of pregnancy.
"Individual needs must also be considered & may be added to the basic nutritional program where necessary. Protocols for treatment of menstrual disorders, candida, allergy or heavy metal toxicity can be added to the basic nutrition program."
Francesca Naish is the Director of the Jocelyn Centre in Woollahra, Sydney. This is the first clinic in Australia to specialize in natural methods for fertility management, reproductive health & preconception heath care.
Can chiropractic care also help in this area? I can only share anecdotal examples from my own practice & those of my colleagues who have had "success stories" with couples previously struggling to have a child. The catch is that all my successes have occurred when both members of the partnership were attending for care. When I reviewed my "failures", it was always when only one of the couple was being adjusted!