First let me tell you that my heart goes out to you, because Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) can be a devastating diagnosis.
But there are specific steps you can take to figure out the root cause of your POF.
Remember YOUR survival is more important that procreation.
You MUST get to the root cause of WHY you can’t conceive.
I am here to tell you that there is HOPE.
When we take a holistic view of your health and use the tools of functional medicine we can eventually reverse infertility.
When I was diagnosed with POF at 28 I never realized I could do something to help the diagnosis.
I was told that I would never have my own children, and that I would need to use donor eggs.
Being a person of action, this is what I did. Luckily for me I have two wonderful children through donor eggs. Read more about my story in my book Fabulously Fertile - Supercharge Your Fertility Naturally.
Years later I discovered that root cause of my POF was a food intolerance and gut infection.
I discovered this Iong after I had gone into menopause, so I will never know for sure if I would have been able to conceive. But after all the research I've done in functional medicine and the women that I have helped I believe I could have had my own biological children.
I am on a mission to spread the word that you can do something to improve your chances of conception.
If you do need to opt for donor eggs like I did, when you address the root cause you can increase your chances of success.
The fertility clinics are not able to guarantee you a baby. The average success rate of IUI is 10%, IVF 30% and donor egg 50%. When you use the tools of functional medicine you can dramatically improve these odds. I've seen it first hand.
To me going ahead with any Assisted Reproductive Technology without addressing the root cause of why you can't conceive in the first place, is throwing good money down the drain. Yes you could be one of the fortune ones to bring home a baby, but what if you are the one that slips through the cracks and struggles with infertility for years.
It is important to build a strong foundation during your preconception period. Without a strong foundation you could be facing disease or illness instead of optimal health.
When you take the time (at least 90 days - as it takes 90 days for the egg to renew itself) to prepare your body for pregnancy, you increase your chances of a smooth postpartum period and a healthy thriving child.
Let's take a moment to look at the statistics.
- POF affects 1 in every 1000 women between the ages of (15 and 29) and 1 in 100 between (30-39) - American Pregnancy Association
- Western medicine unfortunately can do little to help POF. Usually the recommendation is estrogen replacement therapy. This is not an option for women trying to conceive, as it shuts down the whole hormonal system.
What should you do?
- Change your Diet - dietary changes such as avoiding gluten, dairy, processed sugar, refined carbohydrates and most animal products (the bulk of your diet should come from plant sources) will help to prepare your body for conception and are especially important if you have POF. The best place to start is with an elimination diet. My Fertility Preparation Program has got you covered. It is a guided program that helps you take out the top allergens and then gradually re-introduce the foods back into your diet. The re-introduction phase is the most critical and where many people go wrong. It includes a specific checklist to determine if you are having a reaction to the food that your are re-introducing. Do not underestimate this step. It is important to be 100% compliant to get the best results. Going dairy-light or gluten-light will not work, because if there is even a small amount of a food that is causing sensitivity in your body may take weeks or months to heal. Recommendation: eliminate dairy and gluten for a minimum of 60 days.
- Lifestyle – reduce stress with meditation, yoga or visualization techniques. As you begin to practice mindfulness techniques, and deep breathing exercises this will give you tools to help deal with stressful situations. Mind body techniques like the ones listed above are proven to increase the success rate of pregnancy. Check out this study on mind body techniques and success with pregnancy. Emotional Support is key and it is very important to get honest about your stressors. A fertility coaching program can be very effective to ensure you stick to your goals and you get the results that can help you conceive faster. Recommendation: commit to one minute of deep breathing exercises every morning before you get out of bed
- Blood Chemistry Review - You may have been told that all your lab work is "normal". This is where functional medicine can give you that much needed second opinion! A conventional doctor refers to pathological reference ranges. These are used to diagnose disease. If the test results are out of range, it usually indicates potential for pathology or disease. Glancing down a lab report and saying everything is “normal” because it falls within a pathological reference range is a huge disservice to the patient. A blood chemistry review is an excellent starting point and includes the functional medicine ranges (these are reference ranges for the healthiest people). Blood testing screens for some diseases and can catch a trend toward a disease while there is still time to reverse it. Plus this information can help us make targeted diet, lifestyle and supplement suggestions that can fast track your success to a baby. This is a comprehensive review of your blood work. (Some areas of focus may include full thyroid panel, vitamin D, B12, Iron, Fasting Insulin and MTHFR). Recommendation: get a second opinion, the western approach for POF offers very few solutions
- Functional Testing - lab testing is foundational in functional medicine. The tests can show you what is causing your symptoms (yes infertility and in this case POF does not happen in a bubble - there are other health issues that offer clues as to why the ovaries have shut down), if you are headed towards disease (even if you don’t have symptoms), track your progress of your protocol and motivate you to stick with your protocol. Recommendation: when you do opt for functional testing it is important to know, if the tests reveal an area to focus on - eg. gut infection, food sensitivity, hormonal imbalance such as high cortisol (the stress hormone) - it is extremely important to follow through with the protocol. We will give you a natural protocol that is gentle on your system. If you have new diet/lifestyle recommendations it is important to follow the recommendations or hire a coach to ensure you are consistent and follow through.
Food Sensitivity Testing – if a food you are eating regularly causes inflammation, this contributes to chronic health disorders
Hormone Testing – hormone imbalance profoundly impact health and ability to get pregnant and maintain a pregnancy
Adrenal Testing – reveals the relationship between your health and stress handling.
Stool Testing – identifies parasites, bacterial infections and yeast overgrowth which may be hindering your ability to get pregnant or maintain a pregnancy
- Acupuncture – Acupuncture is scientifically proven to help boost fertility. This can be especially helpful with POF. Check out my blog on how TCM and acupuncture helps with infertility. TCM and acupuncture blog
- Get support – I know first hand how devastating this diagnosis can be, get support. You are not alone. Seek out a fertility support group. Ask to join the Fab Fertile Support Group. We're a group of like minded women who understand what's it like to face infertility.
When I was pregnant with my children in 2001 and 2004 no one even knew what I was talking about when I shared my story about donor eggs. I literally got blank stares when I told them what I was going through. A lot has changed since then, but infertility as a whole is on the rise with 1 in 6 in Canada and 1 in 8 in the US struggling to conceive.
These statistics, although heartbreaking, don't surprise me, given how unhealthy the standard western diet/lifestyle is for us and our future children.
Know that although you may be feeling overwhelmed or scared that there are specific steps to take to improve your chances of conceiving, even with POF.
I am finding that more and more women are hearing my story about donor eggs. They are seeking me out to help them optimize their chances with donor eggs, low ovarian reserve and premature ovarian failure. This work literally lights up my life. I am honoured to be part of their journey to bring a life into this world.
I offer a FREE 30 minute Supercharge Your Fertility Discovery Call. You can book your call HERE and we'll come up with a plan for your next steps.
Sarah Clark empowers couples to discover how lifestyle and diet can dramatically impact their chances of conceiving. She was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure at 28 and had both her children with donor eggs. Not until years later did she discover that the root cause of her infertility was a food intolerance. Ready to gaze into your baby's eyes....but struggling. Download 10 step Checklist here