Jun 12, 2014 1:00 AM

Author: Libby Mitchell

Needles, artificial hormones, and big medical bills are just a few of the things that spring to mind when the topic of fertility treatments comes up. However, there are other treatments that focus on increasing natural fertility, rather than on artificial means. Dr. Joseph B. Stanford, MD, of the University of Utah South Jordan Health Center focuses his practice on identifying the problem causing infertility, and then working to solve it in the least invasive way possible. “The goal with a natural treatment is to restore natural reproductive function so pregnancy will happen from natural intercourse,” he says.

It’s that fact that appealed to Joan Steinmann when she decided she wanted to conceive, but believed she may have problems due to a polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I liked the idea of trying to get pregnant as naturally as possible,” she says, “I like the concept of looking at the entire person and fixing the whole rather than only concentrating on the problem.” For another patient of Dr. Stanford, her religious beliefs also played a role. “We are very faithful Catholics, so artificial reproductive technology was never an option.  We had decided that if God wanted us to have a baby that we would accomplish this only through natural means” says Vanessa Hecker, “I am also very strongly opposed to artificial hormones, procedures, and medications that mess with the body's natural processes.  So this route made the most sense for both of those reasons.”

The process begins with patients learning more about their bodies. “We teach the women to monitor biomarkers of her cycle to know if ovulation is happening, when it’s happening,” Stanford says, “and we do what we can to improve semen production.” Both Steinmann and Hecker tracked their cycles using the Creighton Model, and began making lifestyle changes. For Steinmann that meant changing her diet and exercise routine. “Over the course of that year I lost over 35 pounds,” she says “My body felt really strong and healthy by the time I got pregnant.” Dr. Stanford also prescribed two cycles of medication to stimulate ovulation to help her conceive. In Hecker’s case bioidentical hormones were prescribed in addition to lifestyle changes.

“Most couples are eligible,” for natural fertility treatments Stanford says, and “couples should come in early when they think there might be a problem and get started in a way that won’t involve a lot of cost or extra testing.” But while Stanford encourages couples having trouble trying to conceive should look at natural fertility, he says there are some times when the treatments are not appropriate. “Women who have extremely diminished ovarian reserve or men with no sperm would not be eligible,” he says, “We can deal with low sperm counts, but when there is no sperm or no eggs that is when this is not going to work.”

The natural fertility process is not a short one, but it sees results. One year after starting treatments both Hecker and Steinmann became pregnant. Now both say they would recommend those having problems with infertility look into it as well. “There is no overriding the body's normal functions to force it to do something unnatural,” says Hecker, “And that, in my mind, is the best thing about it.” Adds Steinmann, “The things I learned about my body help me understand and respect it so much more than I did before.”

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