The Top 10 “Alternative Medicine” Providers You Need on your Fertility Team

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How long have you been trying to get pregnant- a few months?  A year?  Many years?  Really, no matter how long your journey has been so far, I am SURE you have asked yourself, “gosh, what can I do to FIX this?” or said, “I’d pretty much do anything to just get pregnant!”.

But what have you tried?  Do you even know what’s out there? 

There are so many providers out there who can offer support of various kinds, aimed at addressing the ROOT CAUSES of infertility.  This is a pretty different approach versus conventional fertility care, which looks to overcome your fertility challenges with technology.  (This is not a conversation of good or bad with either approach- in fact they are INCREDIBLY complimentary!  But these approaches are distinctly different.)  Here, I’m going to share with you the top 10 clinicians you should consider seeing to support your fertility.

Before we dive in, I have to confess, I don’t love the term “alternative” medicine.  It describes something you do that is different and outside of “regular” medicine.  But, that’s the term you recognize, and actually, DOES describe what often happens today for couples trying to conceive.  That is changing.  These therapies we’re about to discuss are slowly integrating into conventional fertility care, and they are more quickly integrating into the public conversation and into published clinical research, which is exciting!  So, who should you see?

Naturopathic Doctor 

Naturopathic physicians are trained in 4-year medical schools which teach the same basic sciences as a conventional medical school, but differ when it comes to treatment modalities.  While conventional physicians are taught drug and surgery-based treatment approaches, Naturopathic Doctors, also known as NDs, don’t cover most surgical approaches (other than minor in-office surgeries like stitches or biopsy) and instead cover things like nutrition, herbal medicine, physical medicine, counseling, and more in addition to the same pharmaceutical (drug) approaches.

Naturopathic doctors are trained to “find the root cause” of disease, rather than simply give a drug (or herb or vitamin) to a patient with a diagnosis.  We believe that patients aren’t simply random victims of their diagnosis.  This goes for fertility also- so much can go into harming fertility, from lifestyle choices to environmental exposures to hormonal imbalance- NDs are trained to be the detective to identify and treat those root causes. Naturopathic doctors will make personalized recommendations based on published research on what has been shown to improve your specific type of infertility.  

NDs often use nutritional supplements, herbal medicines, lifestyle modification, counseling and less frequently acupuncture, physical medicine, and prescription medications.

How to find a great provider:

Licensed naturopathic physicians have attended 4-year medical schools and completed a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical training.  Find a licensed naturopathic doctor at www.naturopathic.org

Also, contact me!  I have taught thousands of Naturopathic Doctors across the US & Canada.  I only see clients online, but if you are looking to connect with someone local and in-person, I’m happy to provide a referral with a real fertility expert.

Acupuncturist

Acupuncture is a technique in which practitioners stimulate specific points on the body—most often by inserting tiny needles through the skin. It is one of the practices used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Acupuncturists have a long history of treating infertility. Good data exists supporting acupuncture to treat infertility, especially around the time of embryo transfer with IVF, improving success rates.

Acupuncture can do SO much more though!  A skilled acupuncturist can help you balance your hormones, reduce stress, improve blood flow to your reproductive organs, and much more.  I recommend you find an acupuncturist with specific training and experience with infertility, and see them 1-2 times weekly.  You will likely feel the difference after just a few visits.

Many acupuncturists also have masters degrees in Chinese Medicine and are experienced in Chinese herbs.  If you find someone who can also customize herbs for you, even better!

How to find a great provider: 

Acufinder.com has a long list of acupuncturists.  Be sure to try to find someone with specific experience in infertility & pregnancy/obstetrics, and generally a minimum of 3-4 years experience. 

Chiropractor

Chiropractors are specifically trained to ensure proper structural alignment, primarily of the spine.  The spine offers protection to the spinal cord, which is a bundle of nerve fibers that literally have a voice in nearly every single function in your body.  Patients think of chiropractors when they have pain (which is great- they are so helpful for pain!) but proper alignment of the spine can ensure there is no impingement of nerves as they leave the spine to go to organs and tissues.

Proper nerve conduction means better communication- kind of important for your body to hear the messages coming from your brain!   Additionally, proper alignment allows for proper flow of cerebrospinal fluid, which surrounds the brain- home of the the pituitary and hypothalamus, the brain’s hormone centers. 

The research on chiropractic care and fertility is nonspecific from what I can find- there are a few review articles which cite more specific data.  However, I have worked with hundreds of couples and they often share that chiropractic care has improved their well-being.  We know that that proper structural integrity is essential for organ function.  I believe chiropractic care is a great addition to your wellness plan when trying to conceive.

How to find a great provider

I would recommend looking at ICPA.org to find a chiropractor who has been trained in Webster technique, a technique designed for pregnancy, but relevant for women trying to conceive as well.    Webster technique is focused on achieving proper alignment of the pelvis, allowing the uterus to sit optimally within it.

Functional Medicine Practitioner

“Functional Medicine” describes an approach to medicine where practitioners look into the underlying functional issues that drive disease.  Some of these include inflammation, oxidative stress, etc.  Functional medicine is really based upon naturopathic medicine- in fact it was NDs who designed & wrote the training curriculum for the main institute teaching this approach.  A functional medicine practitioner may be a naturopathic physician, a chiropractor, a medical doctor, a nutritionist, a nurse or other healthcare practitioner.

Functional medicine and naturopathic medicine have a lot of overlap, but you might research and see which approach is best for you.  I will say that in my experience, functional medicine training programs do not teach at all

How to find a great provider:

The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) offers a certification program and you can search their website for providers.

Arvigo Massage (or Maya Uterine/Abdominal Massage) 

Uterine massage has a deep history dating back to ancient Mayan traditions.  It refers to a technique of massaging the abdomen from the outside in order to reposition internal organs and enhance blood flow lymph flow, nerve communication, and chi. 

The uterus is positioned in the lower abdomen, about one and a half inches above the pubic bone, and is held in place by muscles, the vaginal wall, and ligaments that attach it to the pelvic bones.  The ligaments and muscles can tighten and loosen and this can cause the uterus to change position.  Additionally, adhesions can form around the uterus due to invasive treatments in the abdominal area, or even from the birthing process!  Mayan massage is a deep massage around the abdomen which focuses to restore proper positioning and improve flow of blood and chi to the pelvis.

This may be especially helpful for women with known adhesions within the pelvis, like fibroids or endometriosis, or for women with a uterus which is tilted.

How to find a great provider

Visit https://arvigotherapy.com/practitioners to search for a practitioner in your area.  I would recommend finding someone with experience and licensing as a massage therapist, physical therapist, or occupational therapist first, who has pursued additional training in abdominal massage.

Counseling

Infertility is stressful.  I think that is an undebatable understatement if there ever is one!

Stress has it’s own negative impacts on hormone levels and on fertility in other ways.  In my opinion, everyone struggling with infertility could use additional support, whether in the form of access to a support group (in person or online), friends, family & practitioners who can hold you up, or one on one counseling.

Studies show that counseling of various types can be helpful.  I think what is most important is finding a method and a person that jives with you.  If you are struggling with real depression and/or anxiety, getting the clinical support you need is essential.  But otherwise, many practitioner types can help you reframe your experience and find ways to move through with grace, hope and optimism.

A psychotherapist, a licensed mental health counselor, a marriage and family therapist, and even some life coaches and reiki practitioners could offer help if that’s the method that you connect with. 

How to find a great provider:

There are so many great providers out there!  www.aamft.org is the association representing Marriage & Family Therapists.  They have extensive experience working with both individuals and couples and can offer a lot of help with not only your experience, but the impact on your relationship.

Other online resources like Resolve offer an opportunity to connect with other couples with infertility- asking in an online forum also provides the opportunity to find someone in your area through a referral.

Finally, you can ask your healthcare provider for others they recommend in your local area

Meditation class

Are you intimidated by meditation?  I know I was! 

I ventured into meditation first through my experience with yoga.  After practicing consistently for 2-3 months, I found myself settling in to a different state shortly after starting my practice.  This was because once I started to feel more comfortable with the physical postures, I could naturally focus more on my breath. 

Stress is a big driver of infertility (you’ll see more blog posts on this this spring, I promise- it’s a HUGE area of research for me right now!).  Meditation helps you to decrease stress and more importantly, to move from a place where you might react to a place where you can observe what’s happening (like, for instance, a surge of emotion) and put it into better perspective before you respond. 

Meditation can change your relationship to others, and to yourself.  And it can certainly change your relationship with fertility.  I believe this mindset and personal learning is an essential part of cultivating fertility in your life!

How to find a great provider:

Check out local yoga studios and community centers and you can probably find classes you can sit in on and try.  You might find you gravitate towards a guided meditation, or maybe you prefer a quiet space.  There are also meditation CDs available, even specific to fertility, like those by Alice Domar, a researcher in this area. 

If you want to really learn meditation, I recommend finding a course in Mindfulness Meditation.  This is a 12 week structured program offered all around the country (often at universities) and is a great fundamental start! 

Nutritionist

You are what you eat, and so are your eggs & sperm! 

You’ve got to put the good stuff in.  I won’t spend too much time covering what to do- you can find that elsewhere on the site.  But if your doctor recommends a specific diet and you don’t know where to start, jump on with a nutritionist.  (Or if your doctor doesn’t talk to you about nutrition, find a nutritionist- you WILL improve!)

How to find a great provider:

Don’t feel stuck with a registered dietician.  There are great dieticians out there, but there are also ones whose learning was very conventional, and they may not offer the whole foods, integrative approach you’d expect.

Dieticians for Integrative & Functional Medicine (DIFM) is a great resource, and other nutritionists like Certified Nutrition Specialists (CNS) and others offer a holistic, wholesome approach to nutrition.  Try to find someone who has worked with fertility patients before to ensure it is tailored to your needs.

Health Coach

Health coaches don’t always have the same depth of knowledge early on in their career as a nutritionist or physician level provider, as the schooling is shorter, but they can fill a really unique role on your care team- literally a coach!  They may have suggestions on your lifestyle and diet, and most of all, they can give you the handholding and TLC you need to implement your doctor’s plan successfully & healthfully!

How to find a great provider:

There are so many great programs out there!  Look for the health coach certification from the Institute for Functional Medicine or the Institute of Integrative Nutrition- both offer strong programs.

Life Coach

Life coaches may not always have expertise in wellness, but they are experts in MINDSET!  Mindset refers to the little voice inside your head that dictates the way you view the world.  A life coach is often amazing at reflecting back to you what you explain to them in a way that you get a bit of a shift in how you view the world & your world. 

Feeling stuck?  Try a life coach!  Have a tough decision?  Life coach!   They are not counselors, but can be an awesome partner for you through the fertility process.

How to find a great provider:

 This is a tricky one- I don’t actually know of schools or online resources that can reliably find you someone great.  Instead, check out your trusted forums or ask around to find someone in your area.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Resources.  There are SO many fantastic resources out there for you to call on, no matter what your needs are!  Don't ever feel like you're walking this journey alone.

Don't know where to start?  When I work with clients, I often make referrals to providers that can help couples in the right ways.  After collecting a comprehensive view of your story and situation, usually there are some key goals that jump out and I often connect clients to the right people to help them reach those goals, if we need other members on your care team.  Don't hesitate to reach out or set up a visit if you'd like to get started!