The Midas Touch, but for Pregnancy
By Dr. Brooke Azie-Rentz
As I was prepping to write this article I came across a website that noted “The average woman in the U.S. spends 3 decades of her life (not necessarily all in a row) trying to avoid pregnancy and about 5 years trying to get pregnant, being pregnant, and going though the postpartum period, to get the 2 children most women say they want.” This is an amazing statement, but if you really think about it, ladies, it’s true!
Some women are fortunate to be very fertile and have no problem getting pregnant, others have to try for years and spend thousands of dollars to figure out why they are having trouble conceiving. I’ve had success for over ten years helping people get pregnant without even trying, and have promoted this view at our clinic. We even joke that there is something in the water, because people don’t come to us specifically for fertility very often, but it has been a wonderful side benefit of helping people become more healthy. At AIM, we believe that optimizing your nutrition, lab values and mental/physical health are the basics needed to prepare your body for the most amazing journey it will go on. Do that, and then just get out of your body’s way.
First, optimizing your labs. When you look at lab results, there are reference ranges. Unfortunately, many of these ranges have not been updated in decades, so the idea of being inside the “normal range” I believe is not taking into account the individual person’s needs. For example, the top end of normal for TSH (a thyroid marker) is 4.5 for a non-pregnant adult, but if you were pregnant in the 1st trimester that top number is 2.5. So it would make sense to me, that if you were trying to conceive, having numbers more in line with where your body should be when you are pregnant would help to maximize the chance that you become pregnant and maintain a pregnancy. At AIM, we tend to tighten the reference ranges for things like thyroid and iron not only for those who are looking to have a child, but for everyone! I find that raising thyroid hormone levels and making sure iron is at least at 50% is a huge step towards supporting a healthy pregnancy.
Next, genetics. Most people think about genetics only in how it pertains to what color eyes or hair their child is going to have or serious diseases that might run in the family. I want people to think about genetics before they even think about becoming pregnant. One genetic mutation that has been key in helping people conceive and maintain a pregnancy is MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase). This gene has to do with the activation and utilization of folate in the body. If there is not enough, a baby can be born with neural tube defects, but most common is for the baby to be spontaneously aborted around the 6-8 week mark. I have asked genetic counselors when do they check for this in a woman having trouble conceiving, and they said only after they have had 3 miscarriages. Because of the early miscarriage timing, I believe that many women don’t even know they were pregnant when they have these miscarriages, they just thought that they had a late period. For this reason, many women don’t get tested for this mutation, which is easily treated with a special form of folate. Supplementing this vitamin has been a huge turning point in many women coming to us for pregnancy support. In fact, when I start people on MTHF treatment I warn the women that this will make them more fertile because I have seen pregnancies occur within a month of starting treatment!
Now, we already discussed optimizing your labs, but what about optimizing your mental and physical health. The easy things to talk about are cutting down on alcohol and if you are smoking, stop! The harder thing to discuss is the mental health and stress around becoming pregnant. The first thing I tell couples trying to become pregnant is that they are no longer in charge of worrying about being pregnant… I am. I don’t want people peeing on ovulation sticks every 24 hours and worrying about their ovulation window. Sometimes the stress of planning the timing of sex to correspond with ovulation puts more stress on both partners to perform, meaning that the act is more robotic and sterile…in other words, not fun! I want people to enjoy sex and their partner. Having a general idea of the week you are most likely to get pregnant is fine, but checking basal body temperature daily and lying in the fetal position after sex may be taking it a touch too far. To help deal with the stress and also the toxic burden our bodies have due to environmental pollution, alcohol, drugs, and stress, I recommend people use acupuncture. Not only is it great at detoxifying the body, but it also is a great stress reliever. In addition, a good acupuncturist can also help optimize the gynecological cycle and help in preparing the uterus for pregnancy.
In my experience, pregnancy is a process that for some seems easy but for others can be a burden. No matter where you fall, there are basic tips to making sure your pregnancy is optimal, for both you and the baby. Diet and nutrition, stress reduction, and optimization of mental and physical health are tools that every person, both male and female, should consider when planning a pregnancy. Here at AIM we don’t claim to be a fertility clinic, but we find that by making sure people are as healthy as they can be, we have a pretty good success rate.