Helping Nature Along

If tales of octuplets or your own struggles with infertility have you questioning the ethics and efficacy of invasive fertility treatments, natural alternatives may be right for you. Manhattan fertility expert Dr. Shari Brasner, author of Advice from a Pregnant Obstetrician, sheds light on natural, noninvasive ways to boost fertility.

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According to RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, infertility affects 10 percent of the population — and doesn’t discriminate. Whether you’ve been trying to conceive or have been struggling with miscarriages, infertility is devastating.

Infertility: a health and economic issue

Fertility treatments can be financially devastating. And if invasive fertility treatments result in multiple babies, complications or health issues for you and the babies, the financial impact grows.

Brasner, mother of 13-year old twins and a delivering doctor for more than 1,000 babies, says there are natural alternatives to invasive fertility treatments that are not only effective, but they are also affordable and do not increase the risk of multiple babies.

Back to basics

"When it comes to natural ways to boost fertility, I often boil things down to very basic but important points," states Brasner. "Exercise, good nutrition and a general sense of well-being are very important when it comes to fertility."

Brasner also spends a fair amount of time reviewing the key points of timing in a menstrual cycle — the most natural approach to getting pregnant. "I meet more and more patients who want to maximize their chances for success without turning to the cost, inconvenience and invasiveness of reproductive technology," she adds.

A healthy lifestyle is key

Society today has propelled women — and men — into a go, go, go type of lifestyle that leaves little time for self-care and stress management. Unfortunately, many women don’t realize how busy or stressed they are until they are faced with infertility; then, they are even more inundated with things to do (time ovulation, see the doctor, etc.) and additional stress (i.e., "What if I don’t get pregnant? What’s wrong with me?").

A healthy lifestyle that includes balanced nutrition, regular exercise, adequate sleep and less stress improve your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby — and help you be a healthy mom.

Brasner stresses the importance of maintaining a healthy weight (it is a factor in regular periods) and says that, though stress is hard to measure and varies from woman to woman, reducing stress does help women get pregnant. "I haven't been too impressed with the data on acupuncture and massage, although I do believe that it cannot hurt in most cases — but I continue to hear stories of couples who conceived on the vacation they took just to relax before they embarked on an IVF trial." 

Improve your chances of conceiving at home

Making frequent visits to a fertility clinic or your doctor's office for invasive fertility treatments can prove exhausting, and being mentally and physically wiped out can hurt your chances of getting pregnant.

Brasner recommends a more convenient, less expensive, effective approach to increasing the likelihood of conceiving. "One product that patients appreciate learning about is the Conception Kit ($300). And it doesn’t increase the risk of multiples, which is appealing for a lot of people right now," she explains. It's an at-home kit that is proven to be as effective as intrauterine insemination (IUI). Convenient for couples, it essentially packages everything a couple needs to maximize their chances for getting pregnant in three consecutive cycles: educational materials, charting materials, ovulation predictor sticks, a unique conception cap and pregnancy tests.

A natural approach combined with other treatments

No question: A basic natural approach to improving your health — comprising diet, exercise, sleep and less stress — is a more economical and private way to improve your fertility. This approach can be partnered with other treatments to increase their efficacy.

"If there is an obvious tubal occlusion or obvious lack of ovulation, then these natural approaches are not appropriate," Brasner says. "But there's no reason that these ideas can't be used simultaneously with other reproductive technologies."

Seek out responsible doctors

For most couples, the goal of fertility treatments is to get pregnant and have a healthy baby. Unfortunately, the fertility-enhancing drugs or invasive fertility treatments given by irresponsible doctors can result in multiple births (i.e. the California octuplets) and increased risk to both mother and babies.

"Even as the mother of twins, I remind patients that our goal is and should be one baby at a time," stresses Brasner. "This keeps the complication rates for Mom and babies at the lowest possible."

Brasner suggests that women seek out doctors who focus on more than just pregnancy rates. "There should be a focus on achieving the best possible outcomes and minimizing risk," she adds.

In addition, she says fertility-enhancing drugs should be used only under the supervision of specialists who keep the ultimate goal of a healthy baby in sight. "There are guidelines for recommending the number of embryos that should be transferred in different situations, and these guidelines should be adhered to."

Regardless of your approach to improving your fertility, Brasner offers hope. She concludes, "Most women should remember that, in 2009, their chances for conceiving, either by working to boost their fertility naturally or with the help of artificial reproductive technology, are better than ever before."

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Are you pregnant? Early signs of pregnancy
Top 10 tips to get pregnant


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