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The Integrative Approach to Fertility

Andrea Pennington, MD, C. Ac. is a physician, acupuncturist, anti-aging expert and author of The Pennington Plan, 5 Simple Steps to Vibrant Health, Emotional Wellbeing and Spiritual Growth. She is the president of The Pennington Institute for Health and Wellness in Silver Spring, Maryland where she offers integrative medical services and spa therapies for achieving optimal health. Visit her website at www.PenningtonInstitute.com

The human body is an intricately designed work of genius. This becomes most apparent when we examine how its numerous systems must be precisely balanced for the miracle of life to take place. The brain, the ovaries and testes, the lining of the uterus and even our psyche must each operate correctly and interact smoothly if pregnancy is to occur and to be carried to term. In knowing this, we understand now more than ever that we must pay close attention to our entire nature and nurture, our whole being, in order to be open and receptive to the creation of new life.

Many complementary and alternative medical systems operate on the premise of humans being more than flesh alone. Indeed, we are more than the sum of our chemicals, hormones, and tissues. We encompass an intangible energy and essence that influences our health and wellbeing in ways that are now being studied in our most prestigious medical institutions. These therapeutic modalities are even making their way into mainstream medical practice. A number of fertility clinics today incorporate acupuncturists, qi gong teachers and herbalists in treatment programs to help balance the body and mind to improve conception rates.

This column will shed light on the practices that have legitimate value and educate you about the judicious use of alternative remedies. Studies have shown that acupuncture, for instance, can help to improve a woman's chances of conceiving by balancing the hormones released by the brain and improving blood flow to the uterus, allowing it to be more receptive to implantation.

Many herbal remedies have also been shown to improve the chance of conceiving. But few of these approaches work alone as you will see. Harmony and balance in your whole nature must be sought and achieved through appropriate lifestyle, habits and even thought patterns. What and how you eat is critical.

Fitness and nutrition also play an important role in achieving hormonal balance and optimal organ function. While you may be stressed and have a diminished appetite, it is critical to eat regularly and healthy. Your body, in its infinite wisdom, knows that it would not be wise to bring about new life with existing vitamin and nutrient deficiencies.

Because of the significant amount of stress couples endure as they attempt to conceive, their normal fitness and diet routines often fall by the wayside. This is a serious mistake in most cases, however, as the brain and reproductive organs operate more efficiently when the diet and physical movement are integrated.
The energy and attitude with which we approach making a baby can influence our success in subtle ways. Bringing a frazzled, harried or stressed energy to the bedroom does not bode well for conception. And we're not looking at the moment of conception in isolation here.

Your attitude and demeanor throughout the day influence the regulated release of hormones. Experts believe that people undergoing fertility treatments, for instance, are as stressed internally as cancer patients. That stress will naturally take its toll on the body. By properly nourishing yourself with a healthy diet, you help to quench some of the ill-effects of high stress hormone levels. Likewise, getting regular physical activity helps to lower blood pressure, stress levels and promote a receptive body and mind.

As you move toward balancing your lifestyle try not to become more obsessed. Be easy with yourself and just take note of the environment you are creating - both internally and externally. I look forward to sharing this journey of exploration and empowerment over the next several articles.

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