As a naturopath with a large hormone focus in my practice, I see many couples with fertility struggles. The diagnosis that most commonly brings people to a me is ‘unexplained infertility’. This confusing diagnosis leaves couples unsure of what to do next – should they move forward with invasive fertility treatments, or simply keep trying themselves?
Below are ten things I wish everyone knew about unexplained infertility to move through this diagnosis with optimal support.
1. Unexplained infertility simply means undiagnosed.
This point is the most important. In many cases, there has not been adequate testing done to identify the issue causing fertility struggles. If you have only had very basic bloodwork, one round of cycle monitoring and a semen analysis, keep looking!
2. Endometriosis is the most common cause of unexplained infertility.
Because endometriosis is not a condition that can be tested on bloodwork or seen on ultrasound, it is not often identified in a preliminary fertility workup. If you have painful periods (usually since puberty), painful intercourse, very heavy flow, or cramps leading up to menstruation, this could be the answer. Unfortunately, endometriosis can only be accurately diagnosed through laparoscopic surgery, but there are natural ways to reduce pelvic inflammation that can help.
3. Stress can affect your fertility.
Stress affects your ovulation response, progesterone levels, thyroid function and amplifies most health conditions. If everything else looks normal, look for ways to support stress management, such as yoga, acupuncture or mindfulness. Stress alone is rarely the answer, but it amplifies any other issues that may be present.
4. Your immune system can also affect fertility.
If you have immune conditions such as significant environmental allergies, eczema, asthma or an autoimmune condition (ex. thyroid disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac disease, crohn’s disease or colitis), your immune system may not be receptive to pregnancy. Supporting your immune system and lowering inflammation through diet can be very helpful.
5. Egg quality can be an issue, even in your early thirties, and is very likely an issue in your late thirties or early forties.
Unfortunately our eggs age as we do, and in some cases prematurely. When all hormonal tests look normal, consider testing your ovarian reserve with a test called “Anti-Müllerian” hormone as an indicator. On a positive note, supplements such as coenzyme Q10 which support mitochondrial function can help support egg quality.