Infertility a growing problem in Canadian couples
Infertility is diagnosed when, after one year of unprotected intercourse, conception is not achieved.
Over the last 20 years the rate of infertility in Canadian couples with a female partner age 18-29 has risen from five per cent in 1984 to 13.7 per cent in 2009-10.
Some experts blame the infertility rate on women waiting to start a family until they are in their 30s or 40s. High tech fertility treatments have a failure rate of 90 per cent in 40-year-old women and older.
Certainly in my practice I have helped young couples with infertility get and maintain a pregnancy with naturopathic approaches alone.
Major causes of infertility include: sperm factors, ovarian dysfunction, abnormal tube dysfunction, cervical factors and other unidentified causes.
Male infertility is responsible for 50 per cent of infertile couples although in developing countries pelvic inflammatory disease accounts for 77 per cent of infertility and only 21 per cent to male infertility. The major causes of pelvic inflammatory disease are the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis and mycoplasma species which effect tubal function in women and urethritis, prostatitis, kidney disease and infertility in men.
Both are often found in conjunction with each other and often are present without symptoms and therefore are not tested for.
Male sperm counts are declining and environmental factors such as pesticides, exogenous estrogens (estrogens we absorb from the environment), heavy metals, nutritional deficiencies and electromagnetic radiation may impact the formation of sperm.
In my treatment of infertile couples I always treat the male even if sperm count and motility tests are normal and I include nutrients such as zinc, omega 3 essential fats, selenium (all men should be taking this as it may prevent prostate cancer by 60 per cent) vitamin E mixed tocopherols and vitamin C.
I counsel both partners about the confusion exogenous estrogens create in the human body and discourage the use of microwaving food and drinks especially with plastics, switching to organic dairy and meat products as non-organic sources are typically high in hormones of many types, and organic produce to avoid pesticide residues.
Radiation is also a huge stress on our bodies in this era. Taking a flight that is cruising at 30,000 feet for three hours or more is like having a full body x-ray without the heavy lead protection apron over your thyroid and reproductive organs!
Wearing cell phones near breasts and pelvis in women or inguinal areas in men is also not a good idea due to the frequency generated by a cell phone when it is turned on.
Radiation leads to damaged DNA, mutated genes, damaged chromosomes and cell death.
Other contributing factors are alcohol intake, obesity and sexually transmitted diseases.
While fewer women are smoking, more younger women are drinking heavily, defined as five or more drinks at a time at least once a month.
Among women age 20 to 34 this increased from nine per cent in 1994 to 20 per cent in 2010.
Obesity rates are climbing; in 2007-09, 21 per cent of women ages 20 to 39 in Canada were obese, up from four per cent in 1981. Obesity can interfere with a woman’s normal ovarian function.
In my practice, I have seen the use of birth control pills for 10 or more years in infertility cases. Preconception care for three months before conception is attempted as an important concept in naturopathic medicine.
This is when detoxification programs are recommended for the couple and optimization of nutrition to create a healthy genetic environment for the creation of healthy babies.
For example, birth control pills deplete folic acid and B vitamins so it is imperative to supplement these before pregnancy.
When infertile couples come to see me I encourage them to follow this program for three months before they attempt conception:
2: treat nutritional deficiencies (ie measure 25(OH) vitamin D levels as adequate to help prevent type I diabetes and childhood cancers),
3: screen for infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, (both on the rise),
4: avoid toxins in food and the environment,
5: treat underlying diseases such as endometriosis, polycystic ovaries, unfriendly cervical mucous and under-active thyroid,
6: timing of fertility needs to be clarified and
7: exercise and stress management is crucial.
There are effective treatments and preventive measures using herbs to treat many of the above.
Herbal therapies that are used for bacterial infections include Echinacea, goldenseal and andrographis. Anti-oxidant herbs for radiation exposure include gingko, grapeseed, green tea, turmeric and rosemary, and herbs to stimulate the immune system include astragalus, ginseng, ganoderma and burdock.
Once a woman is pregnant then naturopathic care continues during the pregnancy for the best outcome, but the program changes to pre-natal care from preconception care.
Dr. Ingrid Pincott, naturopathic physician, has been practicing since 1985 and can be reached at 250-286-3655 or www.DrPincott.com.