1 in 6 couples seek medical help because they have been unable to conceive a baby. Many more have difficulty but don’t seek help, or get pregnant but then miscarry. So although you may feel that everyone else is having babies, actually you are not alone.
Causes of Fertility Problems
Fertility problems have long been considered a female problem and care has been given by gynaecologists but today we know that male factors are equally responsible.
Lifestyle factors have a huge impact. Stress is a major factor. In nature animals do not breed in times of great danger. This stress response is caused by fight or flight hormones such as cortisol, shutting down reproductive hormones temporarily. We are just the same but the stresses of modern life can be long-lasting and shut down our reproductive system for a long time.
Over-exercising also raises cortisol levels, and causes overheating which is especially bad for sperm production. Sitting down all day with the testes between the thighs increases the temperature of the testes. Obesity causes some hormone disruption and also increases heating. Exposure to chemicals, radiation or X-rays at work can destroy eggs and sperm. A small lifestyle factor on each side which you may not think is significant may tip the balance into infertility.
Nutrition is also a major factor. Building a baby requires good nutrition. Dieting and overexercising can be counterproductive. Good fats are needed for the production of eggs and sperm. It takes 74 days to produce mature sperm and so lifestyle and dietary advice is important for men and making improvements can significantly improve your sperm analysis.
Some medical conditions cause fertility problems. Some examples are polycystic ovary syndrome, progesterone deficiency and irregular cycles, for women, and low testosterone levels, varicocoele and prostatitis for men.
There are very few causes of infertility which can’t be treated.
How Reproflexology Helps
Reproflexology is a form of reflexology developed by Barbara Scott, of Seren Natural Fertility, over many years, to help couples improve their fertility. Barbara won Therapist of the Year in 2017. In a study of 180 Reproflexology cases 68% achieved a live birth. If you are comparing Fertility Clinics always make sure that you are comparing the live birth rate, not the pregnancy rate which can be quite different. Reproflexologists work to strict treatment protocols so that each one works in the same way. The Reproflexology treatments for women are designed to work with your menstrual cycle, reminding your body what it should be doing.
Reproflexology is deeply relaxing and so relieves stress and balances hormones. Allowing your body to produce the right hormones to allow a pregnancy to occur.
You will be able to see the results for yourselves.
If your menstrual cycle is irregular or long or short you will be able to see any improvements after a few weeks of weekly treatments.
For men we give weekly treatments for 8 weeks and then repeat the semen analysis to see if it has improved.
Even if you aren’t trying to conceive Reproflexology can really help with gynaecological issues such as period pain, irregular cycle, PCOS and endometriosis.
Support for Medicated Cycles
You will know that the success rate for Assisted Reproductive Techniques is very low ranging between 1.9% – 32.2% depending on your age. They are also very expensive and many areas only allow one NHS cycle. The first cycle actually has the highest failure rate. Also there is a huge emotional factor. Using Reprofelexology to support medicated cycles can improve your chance of having a live birth. Treatments are tailored and timed to support your body at specific times during your IUI, IVF, ICSI or during drugs such as Clomid.
Reproflexology works alongside your doctor’s care, not as an alternative to it.
We work with a number of doctors, other professionals and companies who specialise in different aspects of your fertility journey, so we can refer you to the specialist you need to help you. Some companies such as Ovusense for temperature charting and CellOxess Ltd for supplements offer a discount if you are referred from us.
Your First Appointment
Preferably your first appointment should be about 3 months before you start trying to conceive and it is best if both partners attend. This is a long information gathering session where we will look at your medical history and lifestyle in great detail. Before this appointment I will send you a form to fill in and I will ask you to return it to me before your appointment to give me time to go through it before I see you. This saves appointment time and allows me to decide what extra information I need, and also might give me an idea of what may be wrong so that I can make suggestions for any extra tests or changes that may be needed. We will look at your sleep, diet, work, and exercise, and I will ask a lot of questions that you may not realise are important or relevant.
I will ask a lot of questions about your menstrual cycle. I will also ask about your medical history and any tests you have already had done, and when. It would be helpful to have copies of the results of any tests you have already had done including the findings of laparoscopies/hysteroscopies and semen analysis. Usually doctors have not done all the tests we require, so the ones we need in the first instance are listed below.
At this session I will do a short assessment of your feet, but no treatment at this stage. Once I have gathered the information I need I will go through it taking a holistic approach, and may contact you for more details, or approach the Association of Reproductive Reflexologists for advice. I will not pass on any of your details though.
I will also ask you why you think you haven’t been able to conceive so think about this.
At this session I will talk to you about charting your temperature, cervical secretions and some other parameters, daily. If you want to get started before your appointment there are plenty of apps available for this. I recommend using Kindara which allows you to easily share your charts with me. This should not make you anxious, it is just a tool for us to find out if and when you are ovulating so that I can see if your menstrual cycle is optimum for fertility, and treat you if it is not.
Tests required for female
Thyroid function test including TSH, Free T3, Free T4, Thyroid Peroxidase and Thyroglobulin antibodies as a minimum
Progesterone @7 Days Post Ovulation
The progesterone test at 7 days post-ovulation is often called the 21 day test and some doctors insist on doing it at 21 days even if your cycle is much longer or shorter than 28 days. This test is only accurate if it is done 7 days post-ovulation. Once you are charting your temperature and cervical secretions properly you will know when you are ovulating and can time the day of your test accurately.
Tests required for male
Thyroid function test
Comprehensive semen analysis
These are tests that your doctor should do for you. If you have any trouble with this I can write a letter to him for you. You may need more tests that are not provided on the NHS, but we will use your doctor where we can.
An example of a further test is the COMET test which is to find out if the sperm have damaged DNA. This test is not available on the NHS and not done at all IVF clinics. Damaged DNA does not show up on routine sperm analysis and may be a cause of both infertility and multiple miscarriages. Finding out early if you have sperm DNA damage can save you the financial and emotional costs of failed IVF.
Try not to be anxious about one poor semen analysis. Sperm are produced continuously and take about 74 days to mature. Changes of lifestyle over this time period can significantly improve your test result. Even if your sperm analysis is very poor we may be able to improve it enough to make ICSI possible, allowing you to have a genetic child rather than using donated sperm.
Your Treatment Plan
A typical treatment plan will be:
Women will need weekly treatments for at least one whole menstrual cycle. If your cycle is regular and I am happy that you are ovulating and the luteal phase is long enough we can then move to treatments twice per month, one in week 2 before ovulation but after menstruation has finished, and one in the week after ovulation. These bimonthly treatments should continue until you are pregnant, and even after the start of pregnancy for some conditions, to maintain the pregnancy. I may teach you to do some reflexology yourself at home, to allow more frequent treatments.
Men will need one treatment per week for 8 weeks. After 8 weeks we will repeat the semen analysis and will be able to see any improvements.
For More Information
I am one of only two members of the Association of Reproductive Reflexologists in Dorset.
Please don’t hesitate to email me for more information or to make an appointment. You can also try to phone me on 07768 562686 but I can’t answer the phone when I’m working. Send me a text message and I will call you back.