I’ve been through the journey of miscarriage, and it sucks. I then spent so much time searching google for advice on how to prevent miscarriage! And while we can never prevent the risk 100%, there are things you can do to lower the possibility of problems associated with hormone imbalance and nutrient deficiencies.
In this interview with Iva Keene, a natural fertility expert that I often look to for advice, she explains things we can do to lower that risk. I also asked her about fertility after a miscarriage. We also started the conversation talking about fertility after 40 – because while I had her, I wanted to ask the questions I often get in my email from our natural fertility and wellness community members.
Iva Keene is an internationally recognized natural fertility specialist who has helped thousands of couples struggling with infertility. She has a Masters Degree in Reproductive Medicine as well as a Bachelors degree in Health Science in Naturopathy. She is the founder of Natural-Fertility-Prescription.com and the author of over 100 published articles on treating infertility naturally.
She is dedicated to educating couples about safe, effective, and affordable ways to improve fertility naturally and without IVF. In addition to her consulting and publishing activities, she is frequently invited abroad to coach and consult with clients. Iva has also presented a case study on reversing male infertility at the largest natural medicine congress in the world.
You listen to our interview in full here:
While I suggest listening to the above podcasts, below is a shortened version of our talk together.
What got you started in working with couples on increasing their fertility naturally?
When I was a young woman, I was really fascinated with the reproductive cycle and system. What got me interested in the fertility side of things was when I started seeing a lot of young women with PCOS and endometriosis who started expressing their desire to have babies.
That’s when I looked deeper into how to treat chronic conditions naturally. Those conditions are not really well-managed with drugs and conventional medical treatments, especially when it comes to having babies.
What are some of the most common causes of infertility that you see among the couples you work with?
Infertility is not just one cause or condition. Most couples, by the time they see me, have already been through multiple IVF cycles or at least have tried some fertility drugs or they have suffered from recurrent miscarriages.
There could be female factor infertility or male factor infertility involved. On top of that, there are usually some systemic conditions which could be immune or metabolic in nature. By this stage I have to deal with a complex picture.
In women, I see a lot of polycystic ovaries, which is not necessarily polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I also see endometriosis, fibroids, and oftentimes all of these things together. For men, suboptimal sperm quality oftentimes causes infertility.
Is there a specific dietary protocol you recommend for patients?
It depends very much on what the underlying cause is. For someone with polycystic ovaries or PCOS, it is definitely looking at sugar and balancing insulin. We look at reducing foods which are high in refined carbs and processed foods. Then we also focus on foods with high protein content and good essential fatty acid content.
You can apply some general dietary principles such as making sure you eat organic food whenever possible, eat food that is as fresh as possible, and avoid processed foods.[Iva goes into more detail about nutrition from 5:13 to 7:30 in part 1 of the audio]
Fertility after 40
What are some factors that make it more difficult to conceive after age 40?
By the time you reach age 40, you have spent more time drinking coffee and being exposed to environmental pollution, household chemicals, food additives, and nutrient deficiencies than someone in her 20s. If you had a nutrient deficiency that you developed sometime in your 20s, and you never tested for it, after a couple of years it would not have created a lot of harm. But after 10 or 20 years that deficiency has a bigger effect.
When we talk about fertility we also have to take into account that the reproductive system is not crucial to your survival. As such, the body will not give it a lot of energy and nutrients unless it has some to spare. The heart, lungs, and brain will get all of the attention first. When you are looking at couples approaching 40 or older, that’s when those nutrient deficiencies and toxin overloads can be felt.
How can a couple work to correct nutrient deficiencies and toxin buildup?
Have yourself tested to see which nutrients may be deficient. Have a hair mineral analysis done to see if you have heavy metal toxicity. Certain heavy metals will displace key minerals from the cellular matrix. Things like selenium and zinc can be displaced by cadmium, lead, or mercury. These are very common heavy metals that we get exposed to through sea food, traffic pollution, smoke, and tap water.
Look for a double carbon particle water filter which filters out particles smaller than 1 micron. If your diet is mainly fast food or convenience food, change your diet where appropriate.
Coffee, alcohol, smoking, and certain prescription medications could also affect your fertility. Checking your thyroid function is very important because the thyroid can become sluggish as we get older.
How can couples going through assistive reproductive technologies decrease the negative effects from synthetic hormones and medications on the bodies?
In situations where IVF is absolutely necessary, I still recommend you prepare for conception 120 days prior to the IVF procedure. The reason for this is it takes approximately 120 days for the primordial follicles to mature into the follicles we ovulate every month. Some of the nutrients that are important in this scenario are antioxidants and CoQ10.[Iva talks more about the 120-day cycle from 13:36 to 14:35 in part 1 of the audio.]
What do antioxidants and CoQ10 do for IVF patients?
When you are using IVF, there is a lot of human handling. So you are using cells which are normally tucked away in the body and protected from the external environmental influences as much as possible. Now you are exposing them to light, air, human handling, chemicals, and sometimes freezing and defrosting.
At all of these stages a little bit of the quality and vitality of those cells is lost. By ensuring that the eggs and sperm have enough antioxidants reserved and CoQ10 in them from the beginning, their chances of damage is minimized.
What are some of the causes for miscarriage and recurrent miscarriage?
Some of the causes we see in the natural field for miscarriage are:
- Poor Vitamin D
- Autoimmunity or abnormal immunity – immunity that is more aggressive toward ones own cells and not as aggressive toward viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.
- Poor egg and sperm quality – based primarily on the nutrient status of those cells at time of conception
- Nutrient deficiencies – Vitamin D is very common
- Infections that take advantage of lowered immunity during pregnancy
- High levels of electromagnetic radiation
- Chemical exposure
It is very important during the first trimester to minimize contact with chemicals and electromagnetic radiation so the baby’s organs can develop properly.
It is also crucial to be sure your thyroid function is very good because the thyroid’s function determines your basal body temperature. Embryos need a certain body temperature for optimal cellular division. If your basal body temperature is too low, the embryo will not be able to divide properly. This is where you come up with DNA mistakes and errors and, consequently, miscarriage. If someone has had recurrent miscarriages, chances are their thyroid function is sub-optimal.
How to prevent miscarriage, part two of the interview
Is there a way to help prevent miscarriage?
Yes, there is. You have to look at your case on an individual basis to see where the problem lies for you.
Some things you can do are:
- Test your thyroid function
- Make sure you don’t have any STDs or other infections
- Check your immune cells to make sure your immunity is not attacking the baby or the sperm cells
- Check yourself for nutrient deficiencies
- Minimize exposure to chemicals from household and body care products
There is a whole group of factors that could be contributing to the situation. Some could be genetic or systemic. You could have a gluten intolerance that is keeping your body from absorbing nutrients.
For a woman who has had a miscarriage, are there things she can do to help facilitate balanced hormones and increased fertility?
It’s important to wait and not to rush. I know for a lot of women the grief is so much to bear that they just can’t wait to get pregnant again. That can oftentimes be a mistake.
Hormones are produced in 3-month batches. So it takes 3 months for hormones to balance. That’s the minimum time a woman should wait before trying to get pregnant again. We advise 120 days as to ensure those eggs she will be trying to conceive again with are of optimal quality.
In the mean time, have all the necessary tests. Check the thyroid gland. Make sure there are no nutrient deficiencies. Check immunity. Switch to a fertility diet. Stop drinking coffee and alcohol.
When these issues come up, it is best to take the strictest approach possible. [Iva talks more about why a strict approach is best and also how deficiencies in iodine, zinc, and selenium affect the thyroid from 7:30 to 9:25 in part 2 of the audio.] [From 9:26 to 11:50 Iva talked about a fertility retreat that was held in September 2013, at Sanoviv Medical Institute in Baja, California.]
How can couples figure out exactly which lab tests they need to ask for?
A thyroid test is one test doctors will perform as part of the hormone panel. But sometimes they only check for TSH – thyroid stimulating hormone. You may have to specifically ask to have free T3 and free T4 tested to see how much of the inactive thyroid hormone is being converted to the active thyroid hormone.
Things like hair mineral analysis can be ordered online. There are lots of great labs that will do that. The reason we recommend hair mineral analysis as opposed to a urine test for heavy metals is that urine tests will only show what your body is excreting at this moment. It won’t show how much you actually have stored in your body. Heavy metals are usually stored in organs and bones.
For immune function, hospitals and fertility clinics will test you for antibodies for your own tissues. What they won’t do is food intolerance tests. This is something that is very important because if you have a food intolerance and you keep eating that food your immune system becomes alerted and aggressive. Over time this can predispose your immune system to be overly aggressive.
We recommend you have an IGG foods test. IGG is the series of antibodies which are found in the gut. The testing method is called ELISA. You can get this from some doctors or through a naturopath or you can go through a lab called MetaMetrics, but you will need your naturopath to write you a prescription.
She also recommends people use an integrative approach to get the best of the technology that conventional medicine can offer and also the best of the natural medicine that herbalists, naturopaths, and osteopaths can offer. While there are many things we can research and change on our own, having the wisdom of a fabulous practitioner is worth it’s weight in gold.