Every time we tell people we are naturopathic doctors, the typical response is “Wow, that’s so cool! So what exactly do you do?” There are so many ways to answer this question, but the simplest way is to say we are trained in medical sciences, with a minimum of 7 years of post-secondary education, and we choose a variety of natural therapies such as diet, herbs, supplements, acupuncture and lifestyle counselling to help our patients. But what does that mean for you, the prospective fertility patient? How can we help you achieve your ultimate goal of having a baby and growing your family?
The fertility journey is exceptionally difficult, and is an ever-growing problem. According to recent government statistics, 1 in 6 couples in Canada is struggling with infertility. Not only is there a significant emotional burden, but the financial burden is also overwhelming. The stakes are high, time is short and women and couples want results. They are often willing to do everything in their power to increase their chances, and this includes lifestyle changes and the use of over-the-counter complementary medicine. However, recent research suggests that women and couples undergoing fertility treatments still make diet and lifestyle choices that can impair their chances of conceiving. All of this to say, getting guidance from informed practitioners is key to ensuring you are actually supporting your fertility as opposed to working against it.
Naturopathic doctors that have a clinical focus in the fertility are uniquely positioned to help you navigate the fertility world while providing treatments to improve your overall success rates. We offer a wide variety of treatment options that cumulatively can make enough of a change to improve success. Fertility-focused naturopaths can:
- Advise as to the best diet to support overall health and fertility – the research suggests that a Mediterranean Diet, with specific emphasis on fruit and veggie consumption is typically the most beneficial. Naturopaths can also individualize the diet plan to best suit their patient’s dietary preferences.
- Evaluate for nutritional status – this can include looking at vitamin D levels, folate levels, iron levels etc., to ensure there are no deficiencies contributing to a patient’s fertility concerns.
- Suggest appropriate amounts of exercise while going through the fertility process - neither too little nor too much exercise is good for fertility. Keeping exercise at a moderate intensity is ideal. We recommend up to 7 hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
- Provide acupuncture to improve blood flow to the pelvic organs, increase relaxation, and improve overall outcomes.
- Prescribe herbs and supplements that can specifically improve fertility and help with management of diagnoses
- these prescriptions are given with thought towards safety in pregnancy, and preventing any possible interactions with fertility medications.
- Evaluate for quality of herbs and supplements being taken – not all supplements are created equally, and dosage does matter, and naturopaths can offer advice in this area.
- Communicate with the rest of your health-care team and fertility specialist to ensure continuity of care – we can also help with answering any of your questions about upcoming treatments and procedures.
- Encourage and educate about good stress management
- fertility related issues are extremely stressful, and having ways to manage this stress, and an ear to listen, can make a big difference.
We also want to stress the importance of finding a naturopath who has a clinical focus in fertility. The knowledge and experience that these NDs bring to the table helps to ensure safety and the best possible outcomes for you. So, while the standard answer to “what do you do as a naturopathic doctor” is accurate, our favourite answer is, “We get to work with amazing people at a challenging time in their lives to help build vibrant, healthy families.”
1. Dr. Cristina Meffe, ND is a naturopathic doctor who practices at Sana Health Centre in Woodbridge, ON. She has a special interest and focus in fertility, women’s health and hormone related issues.
2. Dr. Zeynep Uraz, ND is a naturopathic doctor who practices at ALIVE Holistic Health in Toronto, ON. She is a member of the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society, a professional member of Fertility Matters Canada, and volunteers for Fertility Matters Canada as a member of their Advisory Council.
3. Dr. Meffe, ND and Dr. Uraz, ND are faculty members at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and supervise the Fertility focus at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic. For more information please visit www.rsnc.ca or call 416-498-9763.