Trying for a baby can be a wonderful and exhilirating experience. On average it takes between 12-18 months for a couple to conceive, however, sadly around one in six will experience fertility problems. Nearly 30% of cases can be attributed to female fertility issues, 30% of cases to male fertility issues, 30% to both and in 10% the problem is unexplained. We live in a fast-paced hectic age where everything is expected to happen instantly, however, nature tends to move at a much slower rhythm. Psychological, environmental and nutritional factors all have a role to play in the bigger picture of fertility and reflexology can offer a safe way of helping with subfertility.
The most common problem affecting female fertility is an ovulation disorder where there is limited or no ovulation. Without ovulation, eggs are not available to be fertilised, signs of which include irregular or no menstrual periods. This could be due to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, thyroid gland disorders, adrenal gland disorders, excessive exercise, diabetes, weight loss, obesity (BMI over 30) or psychological stress.
Stress levels for women trying to conceive are typically high which could potentially lead to anxiety or deperession. When we are under stress, we experience neurochemical changes which can affect ovulation meaning women ovulate less or not at all resulting in fertility issues. Nowadays women lead busy lives with demanding jobs and home lives often resulting in exhaustion, poor health and stress.
Female subfertility could be due to blocked fallopian tubes, perhaps as a result of pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis or an ectopic pregnancy. If fallopian tubes are blocked, the egg cannot move from the ovary to the uterus and fertility problems arise. Other reasons for fertility issues may be immune system problems where women make antibodies against the sperm of some men or the fertilised egg; being aged over 35; PID (pelvic inflammatory diesease); Sexually Transmitted Diseases; adrenal or thyroid deficiencies; fibroids or benign growths in the uterus, some commonly used medications taken mid cycle e.g. ibuprofen and aspirin.
What other conditions can affect Female Fertility?
Progesterone deficiency (this is the hormone released after ovulation)
Menorrhagia (heavy periods)
Polymenorrhoea (irregular frequent bleeds less than 21 days apart)
Oligomenorrheoa (infrequent bleeding with elongated time between periods)
Dysmenorrhoea (painful periods)
Adenomyosis (where cells of the lining of the womb are found in the muscle walls of the womb)
Vaginismus (pain on vaginal penetration)
Cervicitis (inflammation or infection of the cervix)
Reflexology for female subfertility can bring the body back into balance, helping to de-stress the body as well as balancing hormomes. It is a safe, complementary therapy for those trying to conceive naturally. In your session we will discuss your gynaecaological history and I may recommend further tests for investigation.
Assisted conception - what is involved?
It is also safe to have reflexology as part of assisted conception such as IUI, IVF, ICSI. Reflexology can help de-stress and balance hormones prior to an IVF treatment, during the different stages and even after the completed process. If you or your Dr. has decided that assisted conception is the next step in your fertility journey, you will need to undergo a series of tests. These tests enable medical practioners to decide the most appropriate route and what may be the most effective way to help you conceive. The tests can be stressful, uncomfortable and exhausting and could include:
Ultrasound Scan - non-invasive insertion of a probe into vagina to assess thickness of endometrium and any anomolies
Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) - inserting a small tube through the cervix, injecting dye to check blockages in the fallopian tubes
HyCoSy test - more commonaly used than HSG as instead of using an Xray to view reproductive organs, ultrasound is used
Laparoscopy - telescope through abdomen to view reproductive organs under general anaesthetic prior to ovulation
Hysteroscopy - telescope through vagina to check for fibroids, endometriol polyps, scar tissue or other structural problems
Endometrial Biopsy - small scraping of endometrium is removed before menstruation to assess hormone levels
It will be important to also test your Ovarian Reserve. The Ovarian Reserve Test (ORT) provides valuable information on how many eggs there are in the ovaries and is a useful way to establish how responsive you may be to IVF drugs. It is important to remember that this does not identify the quality of the eggs which will also be important when trying to conceive. Testing the AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) is considered the most reliable method. If you are not ovulating you may be offered a drug to help stimulate ovulation such as Clomiphene (Clomid), Letrazole, Metformin or Tamoxifen.
In men, both physical and emotional stress can affect fertility. Sperm counts, sperm motility and structure are all aletered under stress. Both impotence and ejaculation difficluties are also often caused by emotional distress. Poor semen quality can affect fertility and the likelihood of conceiving. The quality of sperm can be affected by temperature (e,g, high fever, hot tubs, tight fitting underwear) or many chemicals and toxic substances in our environment such as radiation and electromagnetic pollution. Environmental factors can affect also sperm concentration such as exposure to lead, other heavy metals and pesticides. Sperm production can be affected by common antibiotics such as penicillin and tetracycline, x-rays, tobacco, marijuana and alcohol. A poor diet can also have an impact on sperm quality as well as caffeine. Being overweight or underweight or too much exercise can negatively impact sperm.
If men have been trying to conceive for more than a year without success, it would be advisable to carry out a semen analysis in order to rule out any issues that need to be addressed. A semen analysis can be carried out at your GP surgery, however, if you suspect any fertility isssues then private tests via an Andrologist can offer a more thorough investigation. It can be difficult to comprehend that 30% of all fertility issues are male related, often because they do not typically show any symptoms to forewarn of any problems.
Tests that may need to be carried out fall into three categories:
It is possible to improve sperm quality by changing habits, nutrition and lifestyle although it will take 3 months to see any changes. Reflexology for male subfertility can assist in boosting both sperm count and quality, helping men to destress as well as balance any hormones.
What else can affect Fertility?
A recent article in the Daily Telegraph highlighted eight things which could affect fertility:
Nightshifts - according to a recent study by Harvard University, women who work nightshifts are more likely to suffer fertility problems and had a 28% reduction in eggs compared to women who worked more sociable hours. They cited disruption to circadin rhythym as having the impact.
Heavy lifting - the same Harvard University study found women who worked in jobs with heavy lifting involved had a 14% reduction in eggs compared to those who didn't.
Consuming high quantitiy of soft drinks - artificial sweetner seen in diet drinks has been associated with higher levels of fertiliy problems whilst sugar in full fat soft drinks has been linked to lower quality of eggs.
Unhealthy diet - a diet high in trans-fat can lead to lower quality embryos and also damage ovaries even if you are not overweight
High pressured work environment
Alcohol - a Danish study of over 6000 women aged 21-45 found that drinking equivalent of 7 glasses of wine a week reduced chances of conceiving by 18%
Appendectomy or Tonsillectomy - A University of Dundee and UCL study found women who had had an appendectomy had an increased chance of pregnancy by 34% whilst those who had a tonsillectomy increased by 49%.
Too much or too little sleep - men who sleep more than 9 hours or less than 6 hours a night had a 40% reduced chance of conception according to an American survey of over 700 couples
Secondary Infertility (or Secondary Subfertility) is defined as the inability to conceive or to carry a pregnancy to term, following the birth of one or more children. To read more about secondary infertility, please visit my blog here.
Fertility Reflexology Treatments
Fertility reflexology treatments are available for both male and female clients. Initial treatment will include a detailed health, diet and lifestyle consultation including an in depth look into your gynaecological / urological history so a personalised treatment plan can be designed for you. I will talk you through the benefits of tracking your cycles and offer you detailed homecare advice on your lifestyle and nutrition as well as recommending any supplements that could be of benefit. It is important to remember that there are many small changes you can make that could have a huge impact your ability to conceive. Whatever stage you are at in the process of trying to conceive, the treatment plan will be developed to help balance your body so that it is at an optimimum level for conception.