We have all heard about Infertility, but what is Secondary Infertility?
Secondary infertility refers to a person with a uterus who previously carried a pregnancy to term and had a successful live birth, but now is unable to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term. At the time of writing this, Statistics Canada does not provide a differentiation between rates of primary versus secondary infertility, making it difficult to estimate the prevalence across Canada. One recent study in the Lancet found that approximately 9-12% of women who became pregnant easily the first time will experience secondary infertility.
We are joined by Dr. Laura von Hagen, Naturopathic Doctor, to answer your questions regarding secondary infertility and what to be aware of.
What are some tips you suggest when a family is trying for the second baby?
Make sure you get a proper workup. Couples who already have a child are often told to ‘keep trying’ for much longer than couples who are experiencing primary infertility. As well, childless couples are four to five times more likely to seek help than couples with at least one child. Even if you became pregnancy quickly the first time around, your body and your hormones may have changed significantly since then. As a Naturopathic Doctor, I routinely run blood work on my patients as I prefer the test, don’t guess method. However we are not authorized to perform ultrasounds and this must done through a fertility clinic.
Secondary infertility can be incredibly stressful. After you have one child, friends/family assume the second will follow quickly, and start to ask questions when it doesn’t happen. It can also be difficult for people to understand who feel you should just be happy to have one kid. Seeking professional help from a fertility counsellor who has experiencing working with couples can do wonders. I personally recommend my patients to Dara Edney at Informed Fertility because of her light-hearted and non-judgemental approach.
Support egg and sperm quality
Both egg and sperm are delicate structures that are easily damaged by oxidative stress. A woman’s egg quality steadily declines over time, until age 35 when there is a sudden, sharp drop-off. Acupuncture, herbal medicine, and diet can all help support egg quality and healthy implantation. The same goes for sperm, although this decline quality happens around age 45. We want to look at all aspects of healthy (diet, toxin exposure, exercise, stress etc.) in order to optimize sperm health.
When would you recommend that a client contacts you for fertility support?
It takes approximately 100 days to build both a healthy egg and sperm. Therefore, I recommend patients come in for an appointment three months before they start trying. For patients who are already receiving care at a fertility clinic, I recommend coming in right away. There is strong evidence for the use of complementary care, especially acupuncture, in improving fertility outcomes.
Can you combine naturopathic treatments with traditional medical fertility care?
Absolutely! One of the things I pride myself on most is creating great relationships with other health care professionals. One of my patients asked her fertility specialist last week about her supplements and his response was ‘she knows what she’s doing.’ My goal is never to undermine or remove conventional treatment, but to provide a more well-rounded treatment approach. Most fertility clinics in Toronto now have acupuncture rooms right in their IVF suite. This allows me to come onsite the day of their embryo transfer and provide care.I love working collaboratively with midwives and doulas to ensure the be care possible. Each of us has our own strengths and skills that help put women at ease during this huge life transition.
What would you say is the biggest misconception around becoming pregnant?
That the period tracking app on their phone knows when they are ovulating! This gets me so worked up! Period tracking apps on phones are great for tracking your cycle lengths, your PMS symptoms and your total days of active flow. They tell you NOTHING about when you actually ovulate. If you are trying to conceive using timed intercourse, there are so many other tools and signs from the body you need to listen to. This is something I cover extensively with all my patients to make sure they are intune with their body and know exactly when they are most fertile.
Tell us a little about you, your practice and the clients you treat
I stumbled across Naturopathic Medicine during my Master’s of Science in Clinical Anatomy. I had the life-changing opportunity to travel to Rwanda where I wrote my thesis entitled Lifestyle Interventions for Improving Gestational Outcomes: A Cross-Cultural Report. Seeing first hand the negative effects of under and overnutrition during pregnancy, I wanted to help all women have the healthiest pregnancy possible. Naturopathic Medicine was the perfect fit because I always wanted to be a doctor, but with a focus on lifestyle, nutrition and preventive medicine. I consider myself lucky because I absolutely love my job; I treat people, not illnesses. At my private practice in Toronto, I have a special clinical focus in hormones, perinatal care and women’s health. If you are currently going through IVF, I offer integrated fertility care, including acupuncture, to help increase your chances of a successful pregnancy.
My mission is to help you balance your hormones, say goodbye to PMS, make healthy babies and ease the transition through menopause. I currently work at two locations in Toronto. You find me at Dr. Cyndi Gilbert, ND & Associates downtown in Little Italy, and Higher Health Centre in Uptown Toronto.
Where you can connect with Dr. von Hagen
The best way to connect with me is on my website at lauravonhagen.com. If you are looking for some delicious recipe inspiration and quick health tips, definitely, check out my Instagram page @drvonhagen. For upcoming events and workshops, head over to focusedfertility.com and click on the events link at the top of the page.