Fertility on a budget: Making a baby without breaking the bank
Making a baby is big business these days. Years ago, I listened as Dr. Robert Winston – Lord Winston in fact – the pioneering fertility doctor stood on stage and said "there is no reason for fertility treatment to cost what it does".
The NHS offers assisted reproduction, but whether you meet the criteria is another question. The offering is different across the clinical commissioning groups and depends on age, length of time trying to conceive, the problem, and possibly more. Private treatment is more accessible if you have the financial ability. However, the classic medical model is not the only way to assist your reproductive system. There are effective therapies for fertility that the NHS does not offer as part of their service and will not break the bank.
Thorough knowledge of your body
I have been through our school system, albeit a long time ago, but I am aware of the limits. I did not get any education on my reproductive system and its functioning. Unfortunately, neither did my parents, or their parents. So, there was no passing down of knowledge through the generations. I am not alone. I speak with many people who also lack this knowledge.
In my opinion, the first step on a fertility journey is to educate yourself fully on how your reproductive system works. For people with ovaries, fallopian tubes and a uterus, this is slightly more complicated than those with a penis and testes. However, both have a process that is relevant. I recommend two books, Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler and Period Power by Maisie Hill.
I also believe it important to understand what, why and how external influences affect your reproductive system, for example, how the food you put into your body affects it.
What therapies can help you on your fertility journey?
Acupuncture is a Chinese medicine that involves inserting thin needles into specific points of the body. There are two thousand acupuncture points on the body that connect with fourteen major pathways known as meridians. Practitioners of acupuncture believe that the meridians conduct qi, or energy, between the surfaces of the body and internal organs. Acupuncture helps keep this flow of qi, which regulates spiritual, emotional, mental and physical balance, unblocked. Acupuncture can help reduce stress, balance the endocrine system, help with emotions, manage thyroid dysfunction and increase blood flow to the reproductive organs.
Homeopathic remedies come from minerals, plants, animals, and human hormones. Homeopathy works on something known as the 'law of similars' or 'treating like with like'. The founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, discovered this over 200 years ago. It works by prescribing a minute dose of something - when given in large doses it could cause the symptoms a sick person experiences. For example, coffee is a stimulant and can disturb sleep. When the homeopathic remedy, coffea, is taken by a person experiencing sleep disturbances, it will create the opposite effect and improve disturbed sleeping patterns.
Reflexology says there are reflex areas in the feet and hands, which correspond to all organs and parts of the body. Reflexology can alleviate everyday stress and tension. Reflexology is often performed on the feet and can feel like a nice massage. The reflexologist will massage in a precise way, putting pressure on specific points. Reflexology can be particularly relaxing. One reflexologist says that, based on a study, polycystic ovaries, cervical problems, scar tissue, pelvic inflammatory disease, premenstrual syndrome, hormonal imbalances, blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, endometriosis, and menstrual problems, have all shown improvement from reflexology.
One nutritional therapist says nutritional therapy can help with a fertility journey by first having a consultation to check for nutritional deficiencies, food sensitivities or allergies, and then creating a diet plan to boost the health of the egg or sperm, improve any health conditions, such as irregular cycles, PCOS, endometriosis or yeast overgrowth. It can then help balance hormones and eliminate toxin overloads, increase blood flow to the uterus and manage weight, as well as support stress levels and address digestive issues, such as IBS or leaky gut. Nutritional therapy can also optimise reproductive health to prepare for assisted conception and support detoxification following assisted conception.
A small study published in Fertility and Sterility Journal investigated whether hypnotherapy helps people with an absence of menstruation and ovulation - functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA). The study explored whether hypnotherapy helped resume menstruation and ovulation in people whose FHA lasted more than six months. The participants in the study received one 45–70-minute session of hypnotherapy.
After 12 weeks, the participants had an assessment in which they confirmed whether they had at least one period lasting at least three days. All participants gave positive feedback, reporting benefits from the hypnotherapy session. One participant conceived after the first menstruation, three participants experienced regular menstruation of typical length, two experienced menstruations with a slightly longer cycle, and three more menstruated once. 75% of the participants reported menstruation within twelve weeks of the hypnotherapy session.
A 28-year study published in the Journal of the Indian Medical Association in 2013 explored the benefits of hypnosis to 554 couples with unexplained infertility. Psychotherapeutic intervention with indirect and direct hypnosis was part of the standard protocol. The therapy focused on general stress relief first and specific stressors afterward.
The couples in the study had no specified problems other than stress in the environment, which impeded their ability to conceive. Success was in terms of pregnancy, which occurred in 397 couples.
All the above treatments will help you on your fertility journey from beginning to end. You can use them as stand-alone therapies or in conjunction with the medical model. The above therapies will help you physically and emotionally, so you can use them to help you conceive or help with the emotions or physical upsets that happen alongside trying to conceive.