I have always been a strong advocate of Complementary Medicine. Rather than visit my G.P. I prefer to turn to Reflexology, Shiatsu or Acupuncture as my first port of call. As the word complementary suggests, this does not mean that I am totally against antibiotics or other western intervention, just that I will use it judiciously. So, with this in mind, when my husband was diagnosed with fertility problems, I knew that western medical intervention was not our only option for achieving a pregnancy and birth.
This belief was further fuelled by that fact that routine sperm tests (via our Doctor's surgery) had come back fine. If we had taken them at face value it could have been years before we sought additional help. As it was our joint instinct was to request a consultation. A few months later we were seen by the UK's top fertility team, under Professor Winston's guidance, at The Hammersmith Hospital. He confirmed that although I had no discernible problems and my husband's sperm quantity was good, the motility and shape of the sperm meant that we were highly unlikely to ever achieve a natural conception.
This was a devastating diagnosis. Not only was my husband officially infertile but we were told we would need ICSI - the procedure where they manually inject the sperm into my egg - to stand the best chance of conceiving. There was little disagreement between my husband and I over the best course of action. I was only in my early 30's, we were lucky enough to have time on our side, so we decided that initially we would give all the alternative methods a chance. Over and above any time limit it also just didn't seem right to either of us that I, as the person who had no fertility problems, would be the one who would have to be injected with a massive amount of drugs.
So, we swung into action. We both started to visit an acupuncturist specialising in fertility issues. We rattled with vitamin supplements (supplied by a dedicated nutritionist) to increase fertility. We both also took Tibetan herbal concoctions, and to ensure we were in peak physical condition, we both cut back on alcohol, caffeine and adopted a healthy diet and lifestyle. I personally was also very dedicated about using the visualisation and manifesting techniques that I had been practicing for many years.
The result? Within 3 years I was pregnant and gave birth to our daughter, Ella Grace.
The purpose of writing this article is two-fold. Obviously I want to encourage anyone reading who finds themselves in a similar situation to try alternative methods before embarking on IVF. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to realise that eating well and eradicating certain foods is going to increase your overall health and therefore your probabilities of conceiving. If you also try Acupuncture and Tibetan Medicine it may increase your chances even further. Do visualisation techniques work? All I can say is that I have had some astounding successes. My second reason for writing this, however, is to tell you that if you do decide to use IVF or ICSI you still don't have to be pumped full of drugs.
I feel quite trepidacious about admitting this because I know that for some of you reading the pain of not having one child is unbearable but, as many other women will attest, the delight and enjoyment in having one child soon turns into a near obsession about giving them a sibling. My pregnancy was not easy but that is another story, however it meant that I didn't seriously start wanting another child until our daughter was a toddler. At that point my husband had some more 'swim up' tests and they confirmed what we obviously knew - the advance in his sperm quality. Now though the tables had turned; age was against me this time and my fecundity was rapidly waning . Eventually after months of mechanically trying to get pregnant again, we gave in and admitted that I would need additional medical intervention.
Through a process of luck and visualisation I was guided to a natural fertility clinic called 'Create'' run by Dr Geeta Nargund, in London. Geeta is the most fantastic Doctor and she does some pioneering work. I can't recommend her highly enough. She totally understands that there should be options available to women that don't automatically include using drugs. Under the care of Dr Nargund and Professor Stuart Campbell I had a procedure known as an IUI (Inter Uterine Insemination). This is a method of injecting my husbands specially selected, top-quality 'washed' sperm into my womb at the precise time of follicle release to assist in natural reproduction. The only drug used in natural cycle IUI is the follicle release drug and this is only necessary so that the procedure can be accurately timed for the sperm to meet the egg at the most beneficial time.
Unfortunately this method did not work for us and after almost one year of repeated attempts we had to admit defeat. By now I was just into my forties and statistically the chances of conception had significantly reduced due to my age. Together we decided to reassess the situation and a few more months passed before we returned. This time Dr Nargund agreed to my wish to undergo a Natural Cycle IVF procedure. There is much in the news at this time about Mild IVF but Natural Cycle IVF is even 'milder' - it is virtually drug free (assuming you are producing eggs you just need one shot of the follicle release hormone). My suggestion to anyone who is fearful of the long term effects of drugs on your body and any baby you produce would be to give the Natural Cycle method a go, or try Mild IVF if there help is needed with egg production. At the bottom of this page is a link to an article about Natural Cycle IVF. In this it says:
Conventional IVF treatment has a success rate of 10 to 28 per cent, depending on age. Amazingly natural-cycle IVF has a comparable success rate, but evidence presented by fertility Doctors shows that some older women have more success with natural IVF treatment than with conventional!
Of course the drug companies would prefer you didn't know about this statistic, and neither do some of the more unscrupulous clinics shout it from their rooftops as it may affect their profits. The other reason that clinics don't like to 'push' natural IVF is because it takes away much of their control of the patient. Egg stimulation and release can be precisely managed in the normal IVF protocol but with natural IVF the timetable has to be a little more flexible. On the conveyor belt that is the reality of modern day baby making, time is money. However it is your body and your money and there are people like Dr Nargund who are only too willing to take the time needed to help. The benefit for you of natural cycle procedures is that you are not subjecting your body, or potential embryo, to a mass of drugs (only the follicle release drug is required). Plus, if it doesn't work, you can immediately try again with no waiting time like there is in conventional IVF.
Unfortunately I never did get my second baby but just so that I could never have any regrets, or say that we didn't try everything, I even resorted to one full drug IVF, one donor IVF and an ICSI procedure. In retrospect would I say that visualisation techniques and complementary therapies don't work? Was it because Dr Nargund insisted I came off all my Tibetan Medicines before being treated ? Certainly not. If I have to locate the physical reasons, I would say it was the quality of my eggs, as by then I was 42/43. Many women still do not appreciate that it is not how many eggs you have left or how regular your cycles but the quality of the eggs that matters.
I will also believe to my dying day that there was a psychological component. I feel that, subconsciously (in retrospect) I didn't really want to conceive an IVF baby. I feel it's possible that at some deep level I possibly even blocked any pregnancy. Despite a traumatic and long labour I had refused drugs for the birth of my daughter, I had refused all vaccinations for her, so this felt at some stages like I was selling out and I would have very 'unequal children'.
If I had been given the time to address these issues I may have been able to overcome them and gone on to have my second child, but it obviously wasn't meant to be. Furthermore, although there is still a wound there in my heart about never having more than one child, I recognise that it is only because of these experiences and the birth of my first child that I am doing the work I do today - helping other people to achieve goals they were told, or believe, are impossible.
I hope the first part of this article has inspired you to never give up hope of having a baby. The second part is offered to remind you to pursue all your options and to not discount the psychological component of fertility treatments. Overall though I hope that you will remember that, whatever the outcome for you, something good and positive always emerges from every experience.
About The Author
Kathryn Cassidy is a Vision Coach and astrologer. Kathryn does not believe that astrology can definitively reveal when you will, or won't, get pregnant but it can help to know certain times to avoid and others to embrace. She can offer advice and techniques to help you through the process of conceiving. Contact her via http://www.kathryncassidy.com
To read about Natural Cycle IVF go here http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/families/article754452.ece
Contact Dr Nargund at Create Clinics here http://www.createhealth.org/
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