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This episode has me so excited! What if this was the missing puzzle piece in conceiving or carrying your baby to term? What if your health benefits cover some, if not all, appointments? Think about this for a second: If you are on the wait list for government funding and chose this route to help support you, and you got pregnant naturally.
How often do we overlook the influence of nutrition, acupuncture, and genetics on fertility? Let's unravel this complex web with Dr. Holly Johnston, a naturopathic doctor focusing uniquely on fertility and perinatal health. In our compelling conversation, she illuminates the path of nutrition and hormonal balance, particularly for those trying to conceive after 35. Her insights on the right nutrients and egg quality will leave you informed and ready to take control of your fertility journey.
Moreover, we explore the connection between gut health, stress management, egg quality and sperm health with fertility - an intersection rarely discussed but paramount to conception.
Our final discussion revolves around the power of mindset and manifestation in fertility. So, if you're on the path to parenthood, join us as we explore the world of fertility with insights from an expert naturopathic doctor. It's time to equip yourself with the knowledge and mindset you need to navigate this life-changing journey.
****Medical Disclaimer**** This does not replace medical advice or suggest taking supplements without consulting a medical practitioner. This episode aims to showcase how an ND can help your fertility journey. Each client/patient has a unique case. If you are interested in contacting a Naturopathic Doctor, contact Dr. Holly if you are in our local area or seek one nearby.
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Welcome to the Fertility Mind podcast. I am your host, jessica Friesen, a certified fertility mindset coach, a sound healer and an international best-selling author. My mission for this podcast is to give you weekly episodes where you hear my own success with IVF and how mindset and manifestation changed it all for me. You will also hear from my guests who share their success stories in the fertility world. I want you to know that you are not alone, even when things feel tough and when things feel like they aren't going your way. The tools and techniques you will get in this podcast, I know, can change everything for you too. So thanks for being here with me today and let's dive in. Hello and welcome back. Today I have a special guest with me, holly Johnston. Dr Holly Johnston, she's actually my naturopathic doctor and we're just going to talk today about how a naturopathic doctor can help you on your fertility journey. So, holly, take it away and introduce yourself.Speaker 2:
Thanks for having me. This is really exciting. So yeah, I'm a naturopathic doctor. I've been practicing for about nine years now. I would say my focus is infertility and perinatal health pregnancy, postpartum. I kind of got into this like just as soon as I graduated. I've done some doula work. I don't really do much doula work anymore, but yeah, this is kind of what I enjoyed seeing Amazing.Speaker 1:
So, Holly, how would you say so? I'm going to ask you a few different scenarios. So, if you are finding yourself struggling to get pregnant, you haven't entered the fertility world. How can you help a new client or a new patient?Speaker 2:
Yeah. So I see. So my patients kind of come to me all along their journey. So sometimes people come in like a year before they want to conceive. Sometimes people come in when they're already have gone into the fertility clinic, maybe they've done IUI or IVF and they're just about kind of doing other transfer. So I see people like all along the spectrum. So there's lots that we can do prior to people entering a fertility clinic. However, I do see people that are already at the fertility clinic. So it just kind of depends on like what their goals are, what the timeline is, kind of thing. So, prior to entering a fertility clinic, my role is basically just like how can you be your most optimal health and wellness, like going into pregnancy. So, yes, we want to conceive, but we also want to have a good pregnancy and a healthy baby. So we focus a lot on just making sure people are like have the right nutrients, age to balance their hormones to be able to conceive but also to have, again, like a healthy baby. So nutrition is definitely something that we focus on. Lately I've been focusing a lot on a quality and sperm health prior to entering a fertility clinic. That's really important, especially if you're thinking of doing IUI or IVF because, as you know, it's definitely a process when you're in the fertility clinic. So typically I recommend people come in at least six months before trying to conceive, whether that's naturally or if they're going to be like entering the fertility clinic and that's just like. We do need time to shift things. It takes about three months for sure to shift egg quality and sperm health and it takes a lot longer than that to shift hormones and just to feel your best.Speaker 1:
Amazing. I would like to talk about egg quality for a second. This is something from someone that was like been in the fertility world and I know every fertility clinic is so different, but no one ever talked to me about egg quality, so they focused on my AMH. They focused on different things, but I don't know if it's because we were automatically categorized because my husband had had a vasectomy and then had it reversed and there was things going on there with his motility and things like that, but even then. So when I met you, you had spoke with me about like vitamins to help Sperm and you'd even mentioned that you, that you, can help egg quality, and I thought I have never heard that no one has ever mentioned, like mentioned to me about egg quality, and I know that's something that you and I never got into, but I think that's something incredible for women to know that they have more control, because unless you present and at least this is my experience unless you present certain things when you're in a fertility clinic, they don't talk to you about your egg quality. So can you talk a little bit about egg quality and how you can change that?Speaker 2:
Yeah, I find sometimes, like you said, it can kind of be a narrow lens, like, okay, we have identified this issue, like this is all we're gonna focus on, but there is like so much more to the puzzle. For sure, there's definitely been lots of research studies on egg quality, especially in the last like five years, and I am noticing that fertility clinics are talking about it a little bit more now, but like 10 years ago they weren't really talking about it. So egg quality is really important, I would say for everyone, but especially if you're trying to conceive after age 35. So after age 35, the mitochondria, which are like kind of the batteries of the cell, can start to not work as well, and so I kind of used the analogy of like like an apple. If you were to peel an apple and let it sit in oxygen, like out on the counter, it would brown really quickly. So by focusing on supporting egg quality, we're working on the mitochondria, so we're actually maintaining the length of that apple, making sure like it doesn't oxidize as quickly, and so this can have a huge impact on being able to conceive naturally. It can have a huge impact on being able to conceive through IUI, especially through IVF, and so, yeah, I think it's a really important topic and it's actually I would say that and a few other things that really like excites me about working with fertility, because I feel like that is something that's not really talked about and it's such an easy thing to shift. There's lots that you can do nutritionally. There's nutritional supplements that can help shift egg quality and it only takes about three months to shift things and like, really in the fertility world, three months is really kind of a short window. For some people, I know it can feel really long and it can feel like that extra step, especially if you're already kind of in a clinic and you're already doing all these things and there's medications and it's like, oh my gosh, one other thing but it can really like make the difference between having like a successful IVF or IUI and like one versus two kind of thing. So, yeah, and outside of the fertility clinic, I would say super important for like conceiving naturally too. So egg quality is definitely something that I talk about with everyone because I think it's super important and, like I said, it's really easy to shift People that have maybe insulin resistance or PCOS. There's definitely a link with those conditions and poor egg quality, and unfortunately there's not really a test to say, yes, you have good quality eggs or no, you don't. So AMH is a somewhat useful test to measure reserve, but it's not really checking like if the follicles are actually have really healthy mitochondria, and so egg quality can. Also. It's being studied recently in terms of the link between egg quality and early pregnancy loss, and so that's a really important thing too. Obviously, we want to like get pregnant, but we also want to carry the term too. So, yeah, I think it's a really important topic for sure.Speaker 1:
Thank you for sharing that because, truly, like for me, this podcast is just to help give information to anyone. And then listeners, I'm going to provide all the links to Holly in the show notes so that if you want to reach out, if you're in the local area and she can help you, I'll let you guys deal with that, but at least you have a way to contact Holly. But I honestly think so many different things happen in a fertility world. So say you've been on a fertility journey for a couple years. How can you help a patient navigate that way and can you work with the fertility? Like obviously you're working with a patient, but a lot of people that I come across with they have sometimes they have old school doctors where they're like no, this is your medical protocol, this is what you're doing, you don't need to see another doctor, and things like that. Like how can you assist their bodies that you know? Do you understand what I'm saying? Like I want them to know that they can still be in the fertility clinic and still, you know, see a naturopathic doctor to help optimize everything else as well.Speaker 2:
For sure. I mean, like you shouldn't ever have to choose one of the other. Anything that I do will not be contraindicated with like medications that you may be on. Typically, we focus mostly on nutritional work, so whether that's through diet or that's through nutritional supplements, sometimes we do use herbs, but often when you're already in the fertility clinic those herbs can be contraindicated with medications, so we don't even really go there. But acupuncture is also a tool that I use a lot. It's been studied a lot in conjunction with, I would say, mostly, ivf and IUI, but I use it a lot for people who are naturally trying to conceive. And so I would say, like most fertility doctors that I've come across, like recently, are pretty open-minded. You know they're kind of like, yeah, you can do whatever you want, but just like, make sure that, like you do the medications the way that they're supposed to be prescribed and etc. Right. So, and like I would never want to change that, I would say like Another role that I have would be and another benefit to doing, let's say, acupuncture if not everyone does acupuncture, but I do a lot of fertility acupuncture can be really helpful for the nervous system to navigate the fertility process, because it can be a lot, and it's a lot of appointments and it's a lot of interventions and it's a lot of medications and a lot of shifts in your body, and so acupuncture can kind of be that time where people really can just like have for themselves. So it's about regulating the nervous system, but also the other benefit to it would be bringing blood flow to the area, the pelvis.Speaker 1:
So Sorry go ahead?Speaker 2:
Yeah, no, go ahead. How often can you do acupuncture? So it depends where people are at in their journey. So I would say most times people are already at their fertility when they're contacting me or fertility clinic when they're contacting me for acupuncture. And so it depends if they've already done their retrieval or if they're doing their transfer, so with acupuncture and retrieval. So usually we start acupuncture in like the in the priming process. For people If I haven't kind of gotten in touch with them and they're already beyond priming, then we do acupuncture like a week, two weeks before the retrieval and then if they are doing so, this would be for IVF. Obviously. If they are doing that, when the time comes for the transfer, we do acupuncture right before the transfer and right after the transfer. If they're doing IUI, we still kind of do the same type of protocols. So we do acupuncture leading up to the procedure and then we do acupuncture about five days after the procedure to help with implantation. So the timing just kind of differs a little bit depending on if you're doing IUI or IVF. If you're trying to conceive, naturally, generally people come in weekly or biweekly For usually I would say at least three or four sessions, but maybe it might look like six to eight, depending on what you have going on. I mean, I've had people come in for one and that's all they need to do, so it just kind of depends.Speaker 1:
Amazing and then. So how can you help sperm?Speaker 2:
health. Sperm health, yeah. So same thing with egg quality. It takes about three to four months to shift sperm health. Sperm health is actually probably the easiest thing to treat because men get a whole new set of sperm I think it's like every 120 days Whereas females, we have our eggs with us our entire life and so everything that we've gone through in our entire life. Our eggs kind of are along for the ride, whereas men, they get a whole new set of sperm within three or four months. So they could have a sperm analysis and they might have motility issues. There might be issues with viscosity or count and depending on what parameter is off, I would say the most common thing I see would be motility is off. That will depend on, like, what we do. So if it's a motility issue, generally we support mitochondria again. So mitochondria are the like battery of the cell and so motility just means that they're not like swimming as far as they should. So generally do we do mitochondria support. So that looks like different nutritional supplements to help. That I would say like Coen's on Q10, anacetylcysteine, alkanitine. Those are like would be the top ones that I would use, but it really depends on what's going on with them. I don't like to just look at sperm health. Like generally we do an entire assessment to see are there any other issues going on? Are there like stress factors? Is there a slight hormone issue? A big thing that I've seen sometimes is there might be like an underlying infection that hasn't been treated. So it just kind of depends on, like, what the issue is. But it's very easy to shift. Generally we work on diet as well if diet's an issue. So yeah, that's kind of what we do for sperm health. I would say I don't generally do acupuncture for sperm health. It's generally like supplements or nutritional counseling, sometimes herbs.Speaker 1:
But yeah, I think that's incredible. I feel like my only words right now where I think this is incredible? Simply because when I first started my fertility journey, I never even thought to go to a naturopathic doctor and this is dating back to 2014, but it was not even a thought in my mind. And I had seen nutritionists in my past. I know that they're different, but again, it was just, it was not that thought. And when I was in my first fertility clinic, like I asked them, I said is there anything else that you could do? And my clinic at that time was not talking about acupuncture or anything. Now, when I fast forward to 2019 and I was in my second clinic and everything else, they were very much promoting acupuncture and doing what you can, which I thought was really really interesting to see how much things had shifted, like shifted from 2014 to 2019. And just even my medical protocol was so different, like just even from like retrieval. You know, before I was on a nasal spray and all these different things were like oh gosh, we haven't done that for years. I'm thinking, oh, okay, and they were. It was easier to make sure that you weren't overstimulated and things like that in the process of your egg retrieval. So what advice would you give to anyone, just in general, about how naturopathic doctors can help you?Speaker 2:
And yeah, so we're just, we just want you to be the healthiest that you can be, like going into the pregnancy. We want you to feel good going into the pregnancy. So, like I would say, that is the biggest thing that we are. We just want you to feel good, we want you to have good sleep, we want you to feel energized. We don't want you to feel stressed. So I would say like that is our main role and yes, there's lots of fertility specific things that we do, but generally it is. You know, often we can be the person that is kind of the middleman to where it's like okay, you've got all of these things going on with the fertility clinic and so sometimes it's like really just like answering your questions really about certain things and whether you're in the fertility clinic or not, like there's lots that can come up for people. But generally we just want you to feel good. I think that's like our biggest role. I don't know if that answers your question.Speaker 1:
Yeah, I just I want anyone that's listening to feel like, just it's about education, it's about, you know, depending on where you are, depending on, like, your upbringing, your environment, everything and or how long you've been on your fertility journey, you just the end result. You want to have your desired family, you want to have your baby and you just want to do whatever you can do. And, depending on how long you've been on your fertility journey, like the stress that you go through on your body, and sometimes you're like, just tell me what I have to do and I'll do it. And that's the extent. And, like I said, I wish I had a lot more information than I did back then. And it wasn't necessarily that doctors weren't telling me, it was just like I was so laser focused on wanting to have a baby and I just listened to what one doctor said and I was like, just tell me what I'll do and I'll do it, and that's it. I never questioned, I never thought of anything and and you know, I just. That's why I love doing this and having guests on to talk about different things that are available to you, because, again, at the end you just you want to have a healthy pregnancy. You want to have a healthy baby and you want to feel your best, and I think you know from someone that has had multiple egg retrievals and multiple implantations and different things like that, what hormones can do to your body, changes from day to day. And now, knowing about acupuncture and, like you mentioned, like the nervous system, it's amazing the overwhelm that you can feel when you're juggling. You know work, going to appointments, making sure you're taking, you know your specific medical protocol at specific times and if you're going into this as a secondary infertility and things like that, you know you're managing kids on top of this as well, and it's just, it's the overwhelm. And I think that you have the ability to do acupuncture, which can help your nervous system with stress and everything else. So I think it's incredible. So is there anything else that you want to share or want to mention?Speaker 2:
I was just thinking, like in response to one of your earlier questions, like what other things can we do to help support? So I mentioned we do lots of acupuncture, we do lots of nutritional counseling. One thing that I've been into recently is actually looking at genetics. So not looking at genetics to see if you know your baby could have a potential genetic issue, but more so seeing if genetics is impacting your fertility. So that would look like. So some people have genetic issues with converting vitamin B12 or folate or vitamin A and that can affect their ovulation. So I think that's like also a really new thing in the last few years. That I think is super exciting. Can you imagine if all you needed was like some extra vitamin A and now you ovulate and like you didn't have to do anything else? So I've been doing that recently with with patients as well, and it's been really helpful in terms of I mean, it can be a lot of information, which sometimes can be overwhelming. But yeah, it's just like looking at those little pieces that I feel like the fertility clinic maybe can't, if that makes sense, like it's not, like they're choosing not to. It's just there's so many things to look at and their role is like they are going to use the tools that they know how to use to get you pregnant. There's not a lot of wiggle room to like look at your diet and look at like how much alcohol you're consuming and or caffeine or like all of those things, and no, I'm not saying like you can't have any of those, but you know there's no conversation about what are the little factors that we can kind of shift to make the outcome a lot better. And so I think that's like our biggest role is like looking at those little things and saying like, oh, like I realized that you had this in the past, maybe you know, like this is tied to what's going on now, or I realized that you're really stressed, like we need to work on that before you enter into the fertility clinic, or like whatever it is right. So, yeah, there's so many little pieces that I find that we can do to support people that are also naturally trying to conceive, like I do see lots of people naturally trying to conceive that haven't made it to the fertility clinic yet. There's also a lot of, I would say, conditions that meet not a lot. Well, there's a few conditions that aren't maybe necessarily managed as well in the medical world, and I would say like PCOS is one of those things insulin resistance and there is definitely a lot of people, I think, struggling trying to conceive with either of those things, and I find that is one thing that we can easily shift for people prior to entering a fertility clinic. So, yeah, it's just not about like me versus them. It's like really about we all want to work together for the best outcome of you. However that looks like, you know like, and you know, maybe, depending on risk factors or whatever there might be, you know more medications they have to take or whatever, right? So, yeah, we just look at the body more holistically, so we're looking at how all of the things like interact to kind of come up with, okay, how can you feel your best? How can we get you to conceive? How can you have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby? So, yeah, that's kind of our role in terms of supporting people.Speaker 1:
Yeah, I love this because I want to relate to the masses as much as possible and I'm still in so many like fertility groups online and there's some people that you know they've experienced secondary fertility and they're just. They can't imagine having to go into a fertility clinic because they got pregnant pretty fast, you know, with their first baby. Now they want to have a second baby, or just people that fall into the unknown. And when you fall into the unknown category and you're in a clinic, the things that your mind can play on you is you know, that's a whole other level of things. But just like when you think about spending so much money on fertility and you think, okay, well, now I have to go to this and this and this, but I what I do when I talk to people. As I said, it's so much better to find someone that's going to work with you and find the root of the problem. Then just keep throwing money at the same medical protocol, the same everything, and just hope for the best. Now I work with a lot of like mindset and manifestation. I'm Lulu, if you will.Speaker 2:
I don't think that's Lulu. I think that's such an important piece. Like sometimes people come in and it's like oh, we're actually just going to work on journaling and like some meditations, because that's what you need. You know what I mean.Speaker 1:
Absolutely Like and so my clients that I do one-on-one with them, like I get them to journal in the morning, which is like setting their expectations, and I get them to journal in the evening to reflect on their day and start to see their patterns, where they're thinking, and start to see where they're holding energy in their body and different things like that. But just talking to people, and when they share their fertility journey or they share, maybe there's a religious reason why they have to get pregnant. Naturally they can't enter the fertility world and I think if they could see someone like you to help this process, instead of living in the disappointment every single month of I'm trying and I'm not pregnant, and then you start thinking my clock is ticking and this isn't working, and then it goes into a whole level, like a whole nother level of I'm not enough and our nervous system does so much for our body and stress and mindset and everything is all part of that. But yeah, I just I like to apply to the masses when I say like if you can go before you start the fertility clinic or if you've been on a fertility journey for 10 plus years, like, just like you said, it's these moving pieces and you have to figure out the pieces to the puzzle sometimes, and I think it's amazing that you can now start working on genetics, because if it is like you know, it's whatever your body's not absorbing or not doing like. I think science is incredible of what it can do, yeah, yeah for sure.Speaker 2:
And I feel like there's a lot of people that fit in that unknown category, like you know, even like I've had lots of patients where we run all of the hormone tests. You know they are feeling good generally, like they're not stressed, and I'm like, OK, well, like why isn't it working? You know what I mean. And like it is 5050. I do find that like we do need to start having more conversations about not just the female you know, it's only 50%. You and I think we take a lot of that on of like I need to do all the things so that we can get pregnant. It's like, well, actually, maybe you don't, maybe you need to not do anything, or whatever, Right? So it is like there's a lot of people that fit in that unknown and so that can be really frustrating, right? Because, like we want, we want a clear answer, we want, we want to be like oh, my progesterone's low, so that's why you know it's not working. Or I have a thyroid issue and like I, you know, that's why, you know, we want to find something. I think we're just naturally like that. But I think for those people that fit in the unknown yes, we work on. I would say egg quality for sure, because maybe that is part of it and there's no test to really know. Or we work on, you know, just like optimal health and well-being from a nutritional standpoint. But if those things still aren't working, then and I wouldn't say actually, if those things are working, I would say mindset and journaling, and that and working with the energy body are just as important as making sure you're eating healthy. You know, taking your prenatal I find the more work I do with people, I think that stuff is actually more important. Like I used to when I first started seeing people. We would talk a lot about, okay, like this is what cervical mucus looks like and this is how to like track your basal body temperature to see when you're ovulating, and we used to be like really focused on that and I actually like don't do that anymore because it just adds that whole extra layer of stress. I mean, yes, you generally want to know when you're ovulating so you can time things, but I think we need to like heal back a lot of that stuff and just focus on, like you said, just journaling, mindset, body work, energy work, whether that's with like doing Reiki or seeing an osteopath, Like I think those things are just as important and I think that's why acupuncture can be really helpful for people, because it does work on the energy body. It helps with unblocking maybe areas of stagnation in the body that maybe need a little bit more help or support. So I think yeah, that's not who at all. I think we should be talking more about it honestly. I think that is like the key to a lot of things and I also think there's so much work we can do with that and I think we're all still like learning about it too. But like going back to the nervous system, the vagus nerve, so the vagus nerve is the rest and digest kind of nervous system. It's the big nerve that runs all the way from our brain down to our pelvis and that I would say a lot of people have vagus nerve issues where they're not feeling relaxed, and the vagus nerve ends on the cervix. We need the cervix to be working, to be able to conceive, and so I think that the nervous system is like probably the biggest piece honestly to trying to conceive. But that's hard when they're like you said. You might have kids at home, you might be financially not able to do all of the things, you might have a really stressful job. There's so many things that we can't just take away, but we just have to learn how to manage all of those stressors so that they're not impacting our body and also just so we feel good in general.Speaker 1:
Yeah, absolutely. It's like, yeah, I can say, from understanding my mindset and things, from my first fertility journey to my second fertility journey, it was completely different Understanding how my mindset works in my day to day life. And I will be the first to say, like someone who has studied universal laws, someone that practices things to reduce stress, like there's still a lot of stress in my life, as you know For sure, and but I think it's just so important to know that, like when we were on our first fertility journey, we had absolutely no money in our bank to be doing fertility treatments and I was still the first one to say to my husband we're going to keep going. And he's like, jay, we can't go any further. I'm like we're going to find the money, we're going to figure this out, we're going to have a baby. And there was a lot of stress between the two of us. Like you know, I'm just like, I'm very much like I believe in manifesting things, where my husband's like okay, I believe it, I want to believe it, but you kind of have to show me before it can happen. And I think you know for people that finances is a big struggle. I can relate completely. And if there's something that you can do, like a naturopathic doctor can do, to help you, that you don't have to enter the fertility world, or something that can maybe be the missing piece to the puzzle, that you're not going to have multiple IUIs or multiple transfers because you're looking at things differently and like I'll be a broken record. I wish I would have thought, or someone would have mentioned, like go see a naturopathic doctor and see if there's something I've never been diagnosed with, like PCOS or anything. But you know, like the more I read and the more I track my periods and my body, I think maybe there was an underlying issue that I didn't know about back then. Maybe I just fell in the unknown category. Because when I was in my very first fertility clinic, like I filled out a questionnaire, they asked if I ovulate regularly. I showed them like my period app and like yep, pretty much here's the same time. And you know they said to me, like you ovulate beautifully. I'm like what does that mean? I'm glad I do. But after having three failed transfers in a row, you start to think like what's going on with me? And I had a really good AMH and at my egg retrieval, like you know they retrieved a lot of eggs and different things like that, but no one ever talked to me about numbers either. And listeners, please don't listen about numbers in that sense, because every person's body is so different and I don't want you to go to the comparison game, but I'm sharing this. So I like they retrieved 39 eggs, 27 fertilized and by, like by day five, 10 went to blastocyst. So you think about these numbers and I remember, like my mind going, like how do you go from 39 to 27 or 23, or 27 down to 10, and only 10 froze and of those 10, only two babies came to be, which are my twins, and I had three failed implantations leading up to the fourth one which was my twins, and no one ever talked to me about egg quality or how this could happen. And I wish I had that option to look at the bigger picture. So, holly, can you talk a little bit about, like, what that could mean having so many eggs retrieved? And I know there's lots and lots of factors, but like having those numbers go down, because I know some people might only get 10 eggs, some people might get three eggs, like every person's AMH is different, but when they're looking at the AMH. Like you said, they're not looking at the egg quality either.Speaker 2:
No. So AMH generally when it's low, it can mean that you have low ovarian reserves. That just means that the number of follicles that you have is low, and so that can make it harder to conceive. A high AMH generally is related to PCOS, so that just means that you have a lot of follicles. So PCOS just basically stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome. So that means that you have lots of follicles but they actually don't necessarily ripen. We use kind of the word ripen, so it just means that you have lots of them. You release them. Maybe you don't actually release them because obviously or sometimes it can impact ovulation, but it just means A they don't ripen properly, or B, so that ripen would just mean mature. B it could mean that the mitochondria needs some support. So I would say if you had a lot of eggs retrieved, a, that could mean that you were just maybe dosed a bit too high with medication and so you kind of went into OHSS, which is a variant hyperstimulation which can happen. Or it could mean that maybe the egg quality wasn't super great for 30 of those eggs and maybe two of them were really great quality, and so it can be really disappointing to see OK, we've got lots of eggs retrieved and, oh my gosh, it's only one fertilized, and so that can be really frustrating. So yeah, I would say egg quality is probably part of that. I wouldn't say it's necessarily hormonal, but it could either be egg quality or too much medication.Speaker 1:
Amazing and I should mention yes, I was hyperstimulated the first time that I was so many and, yeah, we had to take a whole cycle and everything off because it took a while. However, so is there a way to determine if you have endometriosis or PCOS or you have an underlying condition? Because I know just your family doctor they don't necessarily go into that and they send you to an OB. But if you are diagnosed, is there things that you can do to help that process along?Speaker 2:
Yeah, for sure. So what I didn't mention is naturopaths in Ontario can order lab work. So generally we do lab work or I do lab work with most patients, depending. I mean, if they've already had lab work done, then I'll just look at it, but if they haven't had lab work done, they're kind of coming in and wanting to conceive in the next how many months. Usually we start with lab work. So we do run AMH, we do run hormones, we check insulin resistance, we check if there's any inflammation going on, we check thyroid. So often I would say maybe half of those tests wouldn't be checked by your family doctor and that's not because they don't want to. That is an OHIP thing and I mean I probably won't go into it. But let's just say yeah, let's just say they only generally order 50% of the labs that could be ordered. So I think that's a really important piece because, yeah, we want to identify if there's anything that's been missed. And so I would say the most common things that I see that are not tested by your family doctor or fertility clinic that can have an impact would be insulin resistance and thyroid antibodies. So lots of people have thyroid conditions. People generally go on medication for thyroid conditions. Maybe they've been on medication for a long time, but thyroid antibodies are generally not checked, and so what that means is, if you have positive thyroid antibodies, it means you have something called Hashimoto's. That means that your immune system is creating inflammation around your thyroid gland that can have a direct impact on the rest of your hormones. So there is a link with Hashimoto's and fertility in terms of it can be harder to conceive. So I will never order lab work if I can't do anything about it, because what's the point in knowing something, if I mean, it is important to know if you have something, but ultimately I don't want to order something if I can't help you. And so there's lots of ways that we can actually work with, let's say, hashimoto's, for example, because it's a really common thing that I see that is actually a lot of digestive work that we work on. It's a lot of working on the nervous system, it's working on the immune system, and so now you find like you've come in for fertility. We're actually like working on your digestive health. So it seems like a bit of a different kind of turn, but ultimately that is the root cause, and so now we're actually focusing more on that and then people start to conceive. So it's not even like we're doing anything fertility specific. We just identified that, okay, there's positive antibodies here. That's something that we need to work on. Or insulin resistance, for example. If you have insulin resistance, it can actually be harder for you to grow new blood vessels when you're pregnant, and so that's an issue because that can affect implantation and it can actually affect just the circulation of the pelvis in general. And so there's no medication that I know of. I mean maybe ozempic recently, but that's a whole other thing. There's no medication generally that can manage insulin resistance, so it's never checked. Some people with PCOS do go on Metformin to help them conceive, but generally there's no thing to manage antibody, thyroid antibodies or insulin resistance in our mainstream medicine world. So there's a lot of people that have those things that I think are impacting their fertility. If we can just manage that before they enter into a fertility clinic, then maybe they don't even have to go there. So that's what I feel, or that's what I see. Most commonly would be some of these things that just aren't really looked at from like your family doctor.Speaker 1:
I think it just yeah, there's like my mind is going a million miles a minute. I want everyone listening to understand how many options and if you are in a place where you have just experienced a loss or you have a cycle that's been canceled, so you're kind of in the limbo phase, you're the waiting phase, waiting for your next period to start and things like that they could come see you or see a naturopathic doctor and start the process into seeing things and where they're going as well. Again, I wish I would have had these services because ultimately, I would have loved to conceive. Naturally. I truly do believe I went on this journey for a reason. It's allowed me to create this podcast and write my book and do all the things that I've done, and just so many people don't know the information that's out there or even where to look and, like you've said, the pieces to the puzzle that you can start things that we don't even think about. I do workouts with Beachbody it's now called Body, but one of the super trainers she was talking about that. She they did the program and she provides a nutritional meal plan for them and she really said she had a lot of people commenting how they got pregnant and they had been trying for months and months and months. They're like what did you do? And she said you just focused on eating something differently. You focused on changing your gut health a little bit, and I would have never assumed gut health to affect my fertility or anything like that. And it's things that when you are in the overwhelm, and especially if you've been trying even for two or three months, like your hopes are so exciting, and then you're like, oh, it didn't work, it didn't work. And then each month that goes on, it just starts to be like okay, you start to have that doubt in your mind. This isn't going to work. This isn't going to work. And you know what? Some people are emotional eaters. Some people find comfort in food, and that's when you start to think well, you know what. I'm waiting for my period to start anyway. It doesn't matter All the things, and I'm not here to judge. I'm not here to say I've done all the things. I used to drink ice caps like crazy. That was my form of release. I just drive to my local coffee shop and get an ice cap and sit in my car and cry. So people didn't have to see me do the ugly cry. So I don't hold judgment and I'm just. I'm saying that because it was a piece that they didn't even think of. They were just that 30 minute exercise, they were just working out, they weren't thinking about anything and they followed a simple meal plan and things changed, not because they weren't focusing on fertility or not because of any of those things, but it just how our whole body works together. And it's things that we don't think about, especially when you are in an overwhelmed state and when you think about, oh, I have to go see a naturopathic doctor or I have to go on a new medical protocol or I have to do XYZ. It's just, it's that much more. And I think, with the education of knowing that, like it could be the missing puzzle piece, or just knowing that there's something else that you can do and flip the perspective, that it doesn't have to be overwhelming, you're finding answers so that when the next procedure, or you know where you are in your cycle, you can really change and how much control you have over your body, that we don't think about. We just think, oh well, I guess maybe it wasn't meant to happen, so I would have never thought, like you know lack of insulin or like how my body produces insulin or insulin resistance, I think is what you said. You know how that would have anything to do with it. Like I don't, I've never thought of those things and I'm sure lots of people don't think of those things Still in science class today. Like two of my stepdaughters are going off to university and like they, high school science does not really talk a lot about. Like it's still like oh yeah, have sex and get pregnant and you're thinking like be into this society and that doesn't happen. Like so many people are struggling and the amount of infertility is just. You know, like seeing bigger clinics, they're like seeing thousands of patients in a waiting room. You think, like how is it possible? A waiting room is that big? Go to a really big city and you see things you're like and you're all there at 7am to try and get into an appointment and thinking this is crazy. Like the world needs information of how they can help themselves and how they can do things to have their desired family and have the things that they want.Speaker 2:
Well, and maybe that means like I mean, I've seen lots of my patients, you know, I'm going to say accidentally get pregnant and we weren't doing nothing for fertility. We were working on their gut health or we were working on their thyroid. I mean, yes, they were eventually going to have children, but it just wasn't something that we were talking about. It wasn't something that we were working on. And so I think sometimes, if you step away from that because fertility clinics too they're just looking at okay, we're looking at your uterus, we're looking at your ovaries, we're looking at just your room space, basically, but we're not looking at anything else Like maybe you have really terrible digestion and you feel like you're in pain every day or you have you're so low energy because your thyroid isn't really like working as well, and so I think that we just like look at those things and like what, if that's what needs to shift, and also just so you feel better, right. So I think that there's a lot of value in stepping away from actually like fertility, specific treatments and just looking at other things that are central to your overall health, like gut health, for example. There's so many things that happen in our gut that we don't think about Like that can be the source of inflammation for people. That's where a lot of our immune system cells hang out. We have a gut brain, like another type of nervous system in our gut. Like gut health is really important, and so maybe we're not even absorbing the nutrients that we need to get pregnant, like there's so many things that even from a gut health perspective that we probably should be looking at in terms of like managing or looking at infertility or fertility. I think it's, yeah, looking at that big piece and looking. It's more so looking at you as an individual and like supporting you. It's not even actually about the diagnosis, really. I mean, yes, it is, but it's about how can we best support you as a person individually. And so, yes, I would say fertility clinic do approach things from an individualized perspective. People are given different medication regimes and that kind of thing, but that is usually based on what your lab work says or what you're kind of like labeled with, whereas we're just really focused on, okay, how can we best support you, not really necessarily the diagnosis Depending. I mean, if you have endometriosis, then we're going to be doing things to help manage endometriosis so that you can conceive quicker. But I think it's just about stepping away from those labels a little bit and just like even going back to the mindset stuff. Just focusing on you, I think, is like the biggest thing to do.Speaker 1:
Absolutely. So yeah, I feel like we could probably talk forever, because I find science and nutrition and the whole kit and kibbutto basically, is absolutely fascinating. But, yeah, is there anything else you want to share or recommend to anyone that's entering the fertility clinic or that has been there for a while, like if you've started with IUIs, for example, and now you're transitioning into doing full IVF? Is there anything that you would recommend? Or is it more just kind of individualized per person, per couple?Speaker 2:
I would say it's pretty individualized. I mean it depends on what you've already done and what you haven't done. I mean, going back to sperm health and egg quality, those are like the foundations for me for sure. Yeah, I think that, gosh, it's so hard. Yeah, we could talk forever. There's so many things. There's so many things to help kind of manage not manage, but support you wherever you are. And so I think that, like, ideally, I would love to see people you know prior to the fertility clinic. But that doesn't always work out right Because, like you said, some you might come across maybe you've never heard of a naturopath or maybe you, you know, there's lots of people that haven't heard of naturopath or using a naturopath, like in the fertility journey. And so I recognize that, like some people, we get calls sometimes where it's like I'm getting my transfer like next week, and it's like, okay, well, I mean maybe we can do one acupuncture, but ideally it is better to come in earlier than you think, than you need to. Yeah, and I always tell you, like you know, I've had some people come in and they're like my transfer is in three months and I'm like, okay, great, Well, I actually don't need to see you until you know two months from now, and they're like, okay, great, okay, well, rather than you know my transfers next week, and it's like, well, I don't know if there's like there's you know some things I can do, but the earlier you come in, the better especially if we want to do any lab work or if we want to start acupuncture or any of those things. I think earlier the better. And there's some people that we even go through. Maybe I want to cut them to come in a year before because we want to work on like detox or something right. Like that's a whole other thing that I mean I probably won't get into here, but there's just, there's so many things and I think it's just like I would say no one that I've seen has had the same recommendations, like not even close. So I think that's like it's. It's, I guess, hard for me to say come in at this time or do this in between, because it is so individualized, yeah.Speaker 1:
So is there like do you have to be in a fertility clinic to do sperm testing? I don't think I've ever asked that question before.Speaker 2:
We can do sperm testing, okay, it's just not. It'd be through life labs, so it wouldn't be super comfortable. I mean, people can do it, but I think it's better to get it through a fertility clinic. Yeah, I actually did see and I have to look into it. There was like this new company that you can buy sperm tests online, like in Ontario. I looked at it. It looked like pretty decent. They had will be guidance advocating for it. It looked like this at home sperm test, which I thought would be pretty amazing. I'm sure, like some days, soon that'll be an option, because just not ideal to be doing a sperm test anywhere really. But the one thing that I would say, so one thing that's important for sperm health, is testing for DNA fragmentation. So if you have a motility issue, sometimes you can have something called DNA fragmentation, which basically means that the DNA in the head of the sperm is damaged, which can make it harder for them to swim, it can make it harder for them to conceive and it can also be a big risk factor for miscarriage as well. So we actually don't even generally we don't talk about male sperm health in relation to miscarriage and that's like that's a whole other conversation, but DNA fragmentation is a really important test to ask for. You do have to pay for it, you have to pay extra for it, and only certain fertility clinics actually do it, and so if you are going to get sperm testing done, I would highly suggest getting that extra test, because if you do have that, then you definitely need to do some mitochondrial support. So again, it looks like those nutrients that I just rhymed off. Which ones you would do depends on everything else about you, but I would say, yes, we can do sperm testing. I don't do it often. I generally just get you to go to the fertility clinic because then you can get lots of other assessments done there too that I can't necessarily do for you. But, that being said, lots of people that I see in my practice if they're trying to conceive naturally, I just work on sperm quality anyways. Okay, like I don't necessarily test for it right away, I just work on it because there's no harm in working on sperm quality, there's no harm in making them healthier. It would be more of like okay, let's say we've been supporting sperm quality or not quality health for six months and there's no obvious reason for either partner of why we're not conceiving, then that would be okay. Maybe we should go to a fertility clinic, maybe get some extra testing for sperm health. But I don't always refer or I don't always send people for sperm testing. A because it's not very comfortable to do it. B we might as well just support you anyways. But the one thing I would say is, if you do do sperm testing and there is an issue, then we can really focus on that issue rather than like, if I don't know, I am kind of just like throwing everything that I have at you, which can be overwhelming for some people.Speaker 1:
The reason I asked is because my husband and I tried for nine months After we had his vasectomy reversed, the doctor even said. He said I can't tell you this. He said but I don't think you'll have a problem trying to have a baby. He said there's lots of stuff there, you're good. I thought, okay, that's amazing, nine months after trying. I thought go back and see your urologist who did your vasectomy reversal and see if this is normal, that it should be taking this long, because I know I definitely had the feelings that there was something wrong with me. It depends on your dynamic with your relationship with your partner as well, and just different things that you can do. We fast-tracked, in a sense, the fertility because he did a test and he's like no, your motility is low. Here's a referral to a fertility clinic. There is many people that I personally know. I don't know I'm not that up to date on how long it takes but typically it's like you have to be trying for at least two years before you're referred to a fertility clinic. Then if you need government funding, it's now up to four years. People get overwhelmed thinking, oh my God, I'm waiting for government funding for up to four years. I'm already this age. I could potentially be into my 40 or 40s. I don't want to wait that long. Often men don't assume that it's anything to do with them. I'm not trying to be derogatory or anything like that. But women, like we mentioned at the beginning of the conversation, we take a lot upon ourselves and we'll take the supplements. We'll do everything that you tell us when it may not be us. That's why I asked if there's something that, if you were going into fertility clinic or you're on the wait list for government funding and, yes, you're still trying, naturally, but mentally you're still holding the thought, whatever the diagnosis is, that you can't have a baby, naturally you just think, okay, well, I can be intimate with my partner, but there's no hope for us having a baby. I think, well, while you're waiting on the government funding, there is things that you could do, like getting a sperm test or optimizing your egg health and everything else like that. I'm very excited for this conversation to be out for people to just allow their minds to start working and to start thinking, because a lot of people that have come and asked for my services they said I'm waiting four years, though. Do you have contacts to other fertility clinics that you could get me in faster. I'm thinking I don't. I can tell you the list of fertility clinics in Ontario, but for me, I was so saddened when I heard that it's up to four years because of COVID and everything else that happened. The funding is that much further along. I would feel instantly devastated and lose a massive amount of hope if I was told well, four years before we can do anything, and we still can't guarantee a pregnancy and we can't guarantee it's going to happen on the first try, knowing that there's things that you can do beforehand while you're waiting, that I should ask this question Are naturopathic doctors covered under benefits, or is this all that you have to do out of pocket?Speaker 2:
Good question. Yes, naturopathic doctors are covered under benefits, depending on your insurance provider. Some insurance providers just cover the services that would include whether we're just chatting about your overall health or we do acupuncture. That would all be built under naturopathic services. Some insurance companies also cover supplements or lab work. You would really have to ask your insurance provider what they cover and how much they cover. Yes, definitely, insurance companies will cover naturopathic services generally for people. That might even help you in the door a little bit, especially depending on when you're covered. Renews it, renews yearly. That can really help people out in terms of if they are in that waiting game or even if they're not Just to experience or even to have that first consult of. Okay, here are all the things that we can do. You can decide if you want to do them or not or whatever you feel comfortable with. Here's what I have to offer. Here is the game plan type of thing. There's so much that you can do in that waiting game. I think for men especially. I don't know why we don't talk about them more. I just feel like there's so many things we can talk about in terms of men's health that we don't Going back to sperm quality. There's so many things that can affect sperm quality. There's like alcohol can affect it, marijuana can affect sperm quality. Heavy metals how many guys might be exposed to heavy metals at their work? Or chemicals? Those are all things that we can help. We can't change that about their job, but we can change the health of their sperm cells. That could be such an easy thing to do while you're waiting for that referral Also, so that you don't even have to go. It would be really nice. I see people all across the board. I see people conceived naturally. I see people conceived through the fertility clinic, whether it's through IUI or IVF. But everyone has a different journey. I think, like you said earlier, not reading too much into why it's not working is helpful. Like you said, for you, you were meant to go on this IVF journey a few times. Like you said, you have this podcast now and you have this book and that was your journey. Probably, looking back, you probably look back and you're like, oh my gosh, how did I get here? I think that's an important thing to know too, that maybe and this is so hard to say because most people want to get pregnant tomorrow or today, it's really hard to say it'll happen when it's supposed to. No one wants to hear that. Right, that's not helpful in the moment. I think that there is some truth to it'll happen when everything's all lined up. Whatever that looks like for you. Maybe you do conceive naturally, or maybe you go through three IUIs and it was the first IVF that's successful. I think releasing expectations. Still, you want to have hope. Obviously, you want to be excited, you want to have hope and you want to feel good, but I think releasing those expectations is like you need to. We can't control it. We think we can, but we can't, even with all of the science and all of the things in the world. We will do our best to make sure that your body, your vessel, is as healthy as possible, but ultimately it is in some ways timing, which is like. I hate saying that, but it is. I see people that come in and they're doing all the things. Sometimes I look at them and I'm like, oh my gosh you're eating better than I am, You're healthier than me. I feel like I should be the one that's doing more. I'm like, okay. Then I'm like, okay, well, why aren't they getting pregnant? Then I see other people come in that maybe I would say, oh my gosh, you've got a lot of health conditions. This is going to be really difficult. I'm looking at what's going on with them and in my head I'm like, okay, this is going to be really difficult for them to conceive and then they can see tomorrow. Then they carry it to them. That happens. It's frustrating, I guess, to do all the things right and have all of the pieces and why is it not working? That's very frustrating. But I think try and release expectation and control of what's happening and let it happen, Because we can't explain everything.Speaker 1:
Yeah, honestly, I tell all my clients, I tell them I'm like. You can hate me now, but please listen to this. It is right, divine timing. I said I hated those words when someone said it to me. You're not trying to have children, you don't have children. You can't tell me the right divine timing. Yeah, I was like you know. But when you do the birds eye view and I look back when I was trying naturally with my husband, if we would have gotten pregnant, I don't think we would have had our twins. Truthfully, if we would have gotten pregnant in that time frame, there was so much stuff going on in our life I don't know if I could have enjoyed my pregnancy. I don't know if I would have carried to full term. I don't think I would have enjoyed the time off that I had with my twins, with all the amount of stuff. But, of course, when you're in the moment going through the trenches of everything, you don't think of any of those things. You're just like, oh, once I get pregnant and I have my baby, it's all going to be fine. When I did have my children, it was literally the most perfect timing and I could have never seen that by. You know you can't connect the dots until you look backwards Exactly, but it really did happen in its right divine time and I did spend time questioning like why did I have to go through this? Like this isn't fair. And then I really did choose to flip the perspective and I call it blessing and releasing, like you know what. I really have got to a point where I truly believe I was meant to go on these journeys and experience all the crap that I experienced. There's a lot of expletives I would like to say right there, but really, like I flipped the perspective to get to the point of like I have a voice and I'm using it the way that feels good to me. And no, I don't spend time thinking why did I have to go through this? This was crap, this was so unfair, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, xyz. I really do say I feel like everything happened in its right divine time. I can't say why we didn't get pregnant naturally or why science didn't work or doing all the right things didn't happen, but I really do believe in the universe, I believe in universal laws, I believe in mindset and manifestation and I do believe also seeking help, like you know, going to a naturopathic doctor and also going through the fertility clinic. They ultimately are the ones that you know, retrieve my eggs, fertilize my eggs, froze them, thawed them, implanted them for me. So we all played an integral part together. But yeah, I just, I think it's important for men and women to both be looked at so that they can understand that it's not just one or the other, maybe it's both. And I like how you talked about genetics that it could simply be something that is preventing it that you would never think of. I know for me, when I looked at like my mom, I thought she had kids easy, so I should have kids easy. I would have never thought you know genes or anything would play an effect. I know that probably makes me seem like really naive, but when you, when you think about having a family, you don't think about any of these things. It's just you know what. I'm excited to start my family. And then the ball starts rolling and you end up where you end up. But yeah, I just, I think it's amazing that you can look at genetics. I think it's amazing that you can look at, you know sperm and egg quality and and go from there and potentially not have to go into a fertility clinic. That would be absolutely incredible if you didn't have to do that or really do trust in the process and trust in that, if you can focus your mindset, if you can make sure that you're working your body optimally, the right divine timing can and should and will happen. And I hate saying those things because I tell all my clients to I cannot guarantee you a baby, no one can. But you can do so much along the way to enjoy the journey and not be in the state of you know what. I can be happy when I'm pregnant, or I can be happy when the baby comes.Speaker 2:
You want to be enjoying the whole process, not waiting and not live in this state and I think that's like with anything right, like we always tell ourselves I'll be happier when this happens or everything will be a lot better when this happens. And, like you said, I think we just have to be on the journey and I'm sure, like you, can look back and be like, oh my gosh, I became so much more connected with myself on that journey. I learned so much about myself on that journey. You know, maybe that really helped your relationship with your partner. Like there's so many like things that could be part of it and, like you said, we can do all the things that we possibly can to support your body in this time, but ultimately, like there's other things happening that, like you said, I think divine timing is really important and it's hard to hear, but, yeah, I think that it is one of the most yeah, the biggest pieces that we don't really talk about Absolutely, absolutely, yeah.Speaker 1:
So, without going on and on and on which, I'm so incredibly grateful to have you here with me today and to share all of your knowledge. So again, listeners, I will have links to Holly in the show notes and reach out to me. Reach out to Holly. We are here to help in any way that we can. And again, holly, thank you so much for being here with me today. It has been an incredible conversation and I know whoever's listening needs to hear this and they will take whatever action that they can to help them. So, yeah, thank you for having me. You're very welcome. Have an amazing day.Speaker 2: