“Unexplained Infertility” Explained!
By Dr. Sinead Dufour, Pelvic Health Physiotherapist and Mom to two amazing kids
In viewing a recent “Health Matters” segment where my amazing colleague Dr. Erica Robinson was interviewed regarding ways to improve fertility, it occurred to me that she, myself and the rest of our expert team at the World of my Baby™ (WOMB) are addressing aspects of fertility every day that are often categorized as “unexplained infertility”.
As someone who has been personally impacted by this frustrating label, I wanted to share both my personal story with infertility and shed some light on some key features of fertility that have very clear expectations, provided you go to the right source.
In the months before I turned thirty my husband I decided it was time to grow our family, we had been married for almost three years, were very much in love and both wanted children. It was time! It soon became apparent that it wasn’t time after all. Month after month there was so sign of conception and the “baby making” that had once been fun and exciting became mechanical, draining and at times bordered on unpleasant. This devastated me. My whole life I held a philosophy that hard work and following the rules garnered thedesired results. My whole foundation was shattered.
Finally, about a year and a half after “trying” I succumbed to the realization that I needed help. I had heard fabulous reviews of a reproductive endocrinologist (aka fertility specialist) who was practicing within 15 minutes of where I lived. I finally got the nerve to call and make the appointment only to be told that there was a five month wait list. More frustration. For anyone who has been through the agonizing process and grief associated with not being able to conceive, you can appreciate that “waiting” becomes the Bain of your existence. You wait until ovulation is approaching, you wait until you can do an accurate pregnancy test, you see the dreaded single line on the test and the waiting starts all over again.
I will say that when I did meet this doctor the wait was worth it. I adored her and within 7 months of being in her care I was pregnant. However, there is more to the story with respect to the “unexplained infertility” piece and this is important for women to understand so please keep reading.
Through all my diagnostic work up with my fertility doctor my husband was diagnosed as possibility having low sperm count, maybe? It was never clear on that end. I was diagnosed as simply having anovulatory cycles. So, even though my periods were regular I didn’t consistently ovulate. The fix? Clomid. On my first treatment round, lowest dose, I had a “fabulous response” two fully mature eggs, “the response to treatment could not have been better”. Wow, I thought, this fertility help is pretty easy, why on earth did I wait so long to sign up? I am sure you can guess that I did not conceive that month. Furthermore, I will also say having a nurse call you to inform you of a negative pregnancy result in many ways is worse than seeing the single line on your own self-administered test. More waiting.
My treatments went like this for 4 more cycles using two medications…great response, no pregnancy. Finally the nurse at the fertility clinic said to me “there are so many people like you who just have unexplained infertility”. Unexplained? As a health care provider and researcher (I was half way through my PhD as this point in my life), that answer or reason or whatever you want to call it was simply not good enough. Unexplained by who? Unexplained by what? The answer is – unexplained by the allopathic medical model.
So, I sought out a naturopathic doctor in town who had a great reputation. When I met her and she reviewed my history and “explained” a number of reasons why I would likely be having difficulty conceiving. Estrogen dominance, elevated cortisol levels and luteal phase deficiencies were all aspects of fertility that she discussed with me and she had various options in how we could address those issues. She “explained” that a system that is nutritionally and hormonally out of balance is less receptive to conception. I took a two-month breath from my fertility medication to work on restoring the capacity in my system through my NDs advice. However, I still didn’t get pregnant.
After two months of no fertility treatment I decided to combine the insights of my two doctors (MD and ND) and this is when the magic happened – I found out I was pregnant that month…hallelujah!! It gets better…a few weeks later I found out twins were on the way…truly amazing!
This whole process in addition to some issues I experienced after having twins, steered me to become specialized in Women’s Health in my clinical practice. So now, together with my team at The WOMB, I help women who have “unexplained infertility” to conceive and it is the most rewarding part of my practice. Many conditions that cause pelvic pain, such as endometriosis, interstitial cystitis and pelvic congestion syndrome have also been connected to infertility and the synchronized intervention by physicians and physiotherapists is becoming increasingly more necessary for successful outcomes. I use a combination of evidence-based manual therapies, neuro-modulation techniques and exercise prescription to optimizing the health of the pelvic region for enhanced receptivity for conception.
Women need to help women. Please, if someone you know has been told they have “unexplained infertility”. Please send them to www.thewomb.ca where they can get help and learn how a variety or professionals can assist with conception – “unexplained infertility”finally explained.