Infertility is more common than you might expect, affecting up to one in seven couples. There are two types:
Primary infertility: when a couple who has regular, unprotected sex fails to conceive within a year.
Secondary infertility: when someone who has been pregnant in the past struggles to conceive again or carry a baby to full term.
Failing to fall pregnant when you want to (which is what fertility means) often comes as a shock, and losing a baby is deeply distressing.
There is a lot you can do to support your fertility naturally.
Causes of infertility
There’s no one cause of infertility. In women, it can be a result of:
- Failure to ovulate, arising from irregular menstrual cycles, thyroid problems, polycystic ovarian syndrome and other hormonal conditions
- Problems with the uterus, including fibroids, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease and scarring from previous surgery
- Taking medications, such as high-dose painkillers and spironolactone
In men, problems can stem from:
- Poor quality semen, which includes a lack of sperm, sperm that don’t move properly or sperm that are abnormally shaped
- Testicular issues, such as infections or injury, which affect sperm production
- Medicines or drugs, including illicit substances, which further damage sperm
A quarter of infertility cases are ‘unexplained’. This means there isn’t an obvious medical reason for the failure to fall or remain pregnant—which is why it can be worth exploring imbalances in the body more widely.
How does fertility treatment work?
Conventional fertility treatment works by stimulating ovulation and managing fertilisation. As a first stage, a woman might receive a drug (typically clomiphene citrate) to induce ovulation.
If she does not fall pregnant within six months, she and her partner may be offered some form of assisted fertility treatment. This could be:
- IUI (intrauterine insemination), where healthy sperm is placed directly into a woman’s uterus.
- IVF (in vitro fertilisation), where an egg is first fertilised in a lab, and then transferred to the woman’s uterus as an embryo.
Hormone tests can be helpful, but they don’t paint a full picture.
A woman will usually have a blood test to see how her hormones are functioning. Some tests may include:
- Sex hormones such as progesterone, FSH and LH
- Thyroid hormones such as TSH and T4
These techniques can be successful for some people, but they don’t address the underlying cause of infertility. Our functional medicine approach explores the imbalances in the body that may be affecting fertility.
How to boost fertility in your 30s
The average age for women to become first-time mums in the UK is 28.9 years. This age is getting older every year—which means more and more people only become aware of their fertility in their 30s.
Whether you’re a man and woman, there is a lot you can do to boost your chances to conceiving naturally.
- Eat well. Load up on fresh fruit and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats, and keep your weight within a healthy range.
- Reduce your toxic load. Cigarettes, drugs and excess alcohol all may impact your fertility—so take steps to cut them out of your life.
- Exercise sensibly. Both too much and too little exercise can reduce fertility. Exercise until you feel energised, not depleted.
- Sleep soundly. A robust circadian rhythm is essential for a healthy reproductive cycle. Prioritise getting your 7–8 hours’ sleep each night.
- Supplement smartly. Certain nutrients are essential for fertility (in both men and women). It’s wise to consult a practitioner to see what’s best for you.
How do we support infertility treatment?
We adopt a functional medicine approach that aims to discover the reasons behind your infertility. We conduct a thorough clinical assessment to explore imbalances in your body that may be driving fertility issues.
Each approach is tailored to the individual or couple, but we may look at:
- Nutrient status We test for nutrient deficiencies, and advise how to optimise your diet. We also recommend targeted supplements.
- Hormonal function We use the comprehensive DUTCH test to look at female hormone levels, and we also use blood tests to investigate thyroid issues.
- Toxicity We use stool testing and toxicity screens to investigate toxic overload and oxidative stress, both of which negatively affect fertility.
- Vaginal microbiome Emerging research suggests that the vaginal microbiome can affect fertility. We use a pioneering, non-invasive test to look into imbalances.
- Lifestyle factors We take the time to learn about your stress levels, sleep patterns, exercise habits and more, as these affect your fertility too.
Drawing on all this information, you’ll get a targeted plan to boost your fertility and dramatically increase your chances of conceiving naturally.