The Real Culprits Causing Infertility with Dr. Kathryn Moloney – #10
Dr. Kathryn Moloney, N.D. is one of the dynamic fertility coaches at Natural Fertility Prescription and Fertility Coach. From her experience in working at a leading Australian Fertility Center and coaching clients worldwide Kathryn joins us today with a wealth of knowledge and deep understanding of fertility issues. In this episode we discuss what are some of the biggest factors affecting fertility today. Kathryn discusses the role of Chromosomal health and sperm quality as two of the biggest culprits behind fertility issues. She also gives important information on appropriate lab reference ranges when trying to conceive as well as dietary do’s and don’ts.
About Episode Guest
Kathryn Moloney ND. is a qualified naturopathic physician who specializes in natural fertility and has post-graduate qualifications in fertility education as well as birth preparation and support.
Kathryn has helped hundreds of women and couples to conceive who previously have had fertility issues. She has practiced in a leading Australian fertility center and is a member of the Natural Fertility Prescription Coaching Program team.
You can find out more about Kathryn Moloney at her website and by following her on LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook.
Having practised in various multi-disciplinary clinics in Melbourne and central Victoria, Kathryn has had experience in treating a wide range of people and health conditions. She specialises and has great success in the treatment of PCOS, post pill amenorrhoea, unexplained infertility, recurrent miscarriage, IVF support, same-sex couples attempting conception, luteal phase defects and male sperm issues as well as other fertility issues.
Kathryn is passionate about preventative health care and preconception care to create healthy babies. To this end she co-created and ran ‘Creating a Fertile Life’ a monthly preconception workshop at Fertile Ground Health Group. Her work at Fertile Ground Health Group has allowed her to cement her knowledge in her chosen specialist field of Fertility support.
Interview with Kathryn Moloney - Episode Highlights
8:26 KM discusses the decline of sperm health and how “normal” sperm results are contributing to fertility issues.
16:18 KM explains genetic polymorphisms.
17:44 KM explains the role of genetic polymorphisms in fertility.
24:34 KM discusses the biggest underlying factors that cause infertility and the diagnostic tests that are available to assess these conditions.
27:31 KM talks about TSH reference ranges that are optimal for fertility.
29:13 KM discusses some of the underlying factors that contribute to thyroid conditions.
31:25 KM gives tips on taking care of the adrenals.
40:50 KM explains why ICSI and IUI can not bypass poor sperm quality/DNA issues and what can.
44:35 KM talks about how a man can improve his sperm health.
45:47 KM gives advice to couples who feel they are doing everything and nothing is working.
51:29 KM discusses her biggest frustration with mainstream fertility treatments.
55:01 KM talks about an ideal fertility diet as well as foods to avoid.
59:06 KM discusses toxins in the environment, how to minimize exposure to and how they play a role in fertility issues.
62:47 KM discusses supplements and supplement quality when trying to conceive.
69.18 KM reveals what she thinks is the biggest mistake couples make when trying to conceive.
Natural Fertility Prescription Program
0:26 Charlene Lincoln: Today, we are honored to have naturopathic physician Dr. Kathryn Moloney on with us. Thank you so much for being on, Kathryn. Where are you in Australia?
Dr. Kathryn Moloney: Hi, Charlene. I’m in Melbourne, so down the south of Australia.
2:52 CL: How did you get into the field of natural fertility?
KM: Well, I was actually really impressed by the effects of naturopathy when I was a kid because my mother actually suffered lifelong eczema and she actually went to see a naturopath and afterwards, she was well for 10 years. It was unbelievable, the difference that the naturopath made for her. She had seen every doctor and specialist under the sun – no relief. So the results are extremely impressive.
The naturopath was Chinese, so I always thought that naturopathy certainly came from the east and you couldn’t study it here. But when I was looking through the university guide when I was 17, I saw that it was offered in Australia and I just got enormous butterflies in my stomach. I just knew that that was something I wanted to do. Previously, I had wanted to be a chiropractor but when I learned I could actually be a naturopath, that’s when I instantly knew that that’s what I wanted to do and so I did.
Then towards the end of my studies, I started developing an interest in the female reproductive system and I straight away went on to do the post-graduate study in natural fertility education, so that’s where I learned to teach women to identify their fertile windows in the cycle and to be able to use it for natural contraception and also conception. I began running workshops on the topic and working with my clients which then developed into a passion for treating fertility issues.
So I then went on to practice from a large fertility clinic in Melbourne, so that’s where I developed a lot of experience working with couples who are doing IVF and with very complex fertility issues as well as lots of pregnant women who were successful. Then so when I was on my long service leave, I was living in Italy. I actually discovered the wonders of practicing over Skype and so when I returned to live in Melbourne, that’s when I began coaching for the Natural Fertility Prescription Program with Iva Keene.
5:05 CL: My experience with you is that you’re extremely knowledgeable but also something that I think is equally important, you’re extremely empathetic and kind and you seem to have a real understanding. Is this from your personal experience? Do you have any children?
KM: Not to blow my own trumpet, but yeah, I’m probably that way by nature which is probably a good and a bad thing for me. But yeah, I am actually currently 15 weeks pregnant. It’s very, very exciting.
So I have actually had a journey which has certainly deepened my understanding and my empathy towards women who are trying to conceive. So yeah, 3 ½ years ago, my partner and I found out that his sperm wasn’t really optimal for conception and particularly after working with fertility patients for so long, I did find it very challenging because I think when you’re working in this field, you sort of need to be a little bit cocky. You think, “Oh, well. That’s not going to happen to me,” because then you can just be completely present with your patients.
When I did learn that that could potentially be a problem for us, it was quite challenging to learn but luckily, my husband is very, very into having children. He wanted them as much and possibly if not more than I did. So he did absolutely everything he possibly could to improve his health and also his fertility and, of course, I knew what to do to help him and we also sought the assistance of our own naturopath just because it’s better for somebody else to tell my husband what to do rather than me. It’s much better for the relationship.
Actually, his fertility issues is actually what inspired us to take a long service leave and go and travel in Europe. We wanted to have a break from work and life and just some time to work on our own health and also have some downtime and also have some adventures before children did finally come along, which we were quite lucky because when we found that out, we were in our early 30’s so we sort of didn’t have the time pressure that a lot of our clients do have.
But yeah, it was really good for me to take that break. It was great mentally that I wasn’t working with fertility patients full-time. Throughout that time, I was still working with some clients on Skype, but just have that break from working full-time allowed me to actually focus on my health as well.
As frightening as it was to think that maybe we wouldn’t be able to have our own children and maybe also that we need to do IVF, I think that experience has actually definitely added to my empathy that I have for my clients and certainly increase my compassion and also my drive to help people as much as I possibly can and also seeing that I know that what I do works but to actually experience that for myself has given me even more of a passion and a drive to help people to do the same thing.
8:36 CL: All the focus is on the woman but more and more research is showing that men are 50% of the equation, that sperm quality has decreased year after year and a lot of times it is a male factor that is causing the infertility issues. Right?
KM: Absolutely. I see this time and time and time again where I can see a couple who has tried to conceive for two or three years and I have a look at their sperm analysis from all those years and right at the beginning you’ll see that the sperm analysis is suboptimal. The problem with the sperm analysis these days is because the World Health Organization changed the reference range particularly when it comes to morphology, so the shape of the sperm, they changed that to normal being only 4% of the sperm actually have to be normal shape to actually be considered a normal sperm analysis.
Now, I think this is a real problem because it used to actually be 15%. It had to be over 15% to be considered normal. So now, we’re getting the sperm analysis back, they say, “oh yeah, 4% morphology, that’s normal.” But it’s not optimal for conception. That’s not optimal for natural conception.
Also, the reason that they changed those guidelines is because it’s an average of the morphology that comes back on the sperm analysis these days. They did an average of it to get that reference range. But as what I said, that’s not optimal for conceiving.
10:17 CL: It’s disturbing when you hear those numbers.
KM: I think it really is. Yeah, sperm counts have dropped dramatically. Sperm morphology has really been impacted by, you know, and what is causing it. We think that it’s environmental issues and health issues. People consuming lots of alcohol, smoking. Certainly the impact of negative lifestyle issues that are affecting people’s health and therefore their fertility.
I see the sperm analysis from years ago and it’s barely been touched on, let alone worked on and since then the woman has had all sorts of procedures and they’ve been working on their health but the guys have been pretty much overlooked.
11:08 CL: I know in my practice rarely would the man ever come in. It was really all women that were getting treated.
KM: That’s right. Then if we are able to correctly analyze the sperm analysis, say okay, this is in the normal range but actually it’s not optimal, you need to do this, this, this. Well, that gives the guy a lot more incentive to actually want to cut out smoking or stop drinking or reduce their alcohol consumption. Whereas if their fertility specialist or their doctors are saying to them “Oh, your sperm is fine,” well, they’ve got no incentive to make those changes.
12:21 CL: Can you tell our listeners or audience about your approach to helping couples with fertility issues?
KM: I’m extremely thorough in my approach. I love to know everything about the people that I’m working with so that then I can make them the most informed possible recommendations. Then we recommend further assessments and individual dietary and lifestyle changes that would be necessary for each person. I’d also make recommendations for stress relief and exercise and also recommend other practitioners or specialists that they may need to see. Particularly, I love to have my patients also see an acupuncturist.
I also like to do genetic testing to find out what polymorphism they might have so that then I can assess what actual forms of each nutrient that person needs for their individual situation and also which other supplements might be good for them.
I also like to work on how to make people’s lives better. When we’re treating fertility, we often say you need to cut out all the fun stuff like caffeine, sugar, dairy and wheat. I like to help people to find a way in which they can do that in their lives so that it continues to be fun and healthy.
People can actually often be surprised by how much their lives can improve when they’re trying to conceive because when you’re actually looking for other activities that don’t involve going out drinking or meeting for coffee, you can find more interesting and engaging ways and activities to do in your life.
13:59 CL: I had to adjust my lifestyle. Cut out the wine and coffee. I will be honest it was challenging but well worth it. You feel like you have this short window of opportunity and you want to take advantage of it. Take the time to prepare your body to support a healthy pregnancy.
KM: It is. It can be really challenging. So yes, finding ways which it doesn’t just completely devastate people’s lives is a really important factor in my practice.
14:50 CL: Is there anything that you felt like you had to really change when you were trying to conceive?
KM: Yes. I do live a very healthy lifestyle and having studied naturopathy since I was 19, I have pretty much lived a very healthy lifestyle. It was more for us digging deeper. For us, it was looking into gut parasites and doing the genetic testing to find out what polymorphisms we had. Just going in that deeper, deeper level and being a lot more thorough in what we’re looking for at. For us, we ate more vegetables. I definitely cut out some alcohol. I didn’t drink coffee anyway. Cutting out coffee was harder for Luke but he did really well with that.
And other things, he became obsessed with turmeric lattes. He found alternatives. He found alternatives to drinking beer and to drinking alcohol. He’s certainly loving it now that I am pregnant.
15:52 CL: You’ve talked a couple of times about genetic polymorphisms. That is not common terminology.
KM: Probably lots of people who are trying to conceive have maybe heard of the MTHFR gene mutation, so that is a genetic polymorphism. That’s when you have a mutation in one of your genetics and which prevents you from absorbing certain nutrients.
16:54 CL: Close to a decade ago, you really didn’t hear about genetic polymorphisms/MTHFR gene mutations and then all of a sudden it was a thing.
KM: I would say I became aware of the MTHFR gene mutation probably 5 or 6 years ago. Since then, now we can map our genome, we can do the 23andMe testing and find out lots more about our genome and about other genetic SNPs. It’s certainly an area that’s really made a lot of advancements and it’s really helped us in the fertility field.
17:41 CL: How does genetic polymorphism affect someone’s fertility?
KM: For instance, the MTHFR gene mutation, that means that they have a reduced ability to absorb folate. I actually see that in a lot of guys with morphology issues in their sperm. The reason being is because folate is, as we know, you need to take folate to prevent neural tube issues and also to have healthy chromosomes. If you’re not absorbing the folate, then you’re not creating healthy chromosomes and therefore you will not have healthy sperm.
What happens if somebody has an MTHFR gene mutation, we will give them an alternative form of folate, so that might be folinic acid or methylfolate, depending on the person and it depends on a few things. It’s a little bit complex to go into here. But we will give them either one of those folate. What it does is it bypasses that mutation that prevents them from absorbing or converting the folate to folinic acid in the first place. We give the folinic acid so that they can then absorb it.
I have certainly seen men’s sperm analysis really improve in that situation when they start taking that folate for three months. Also women who’ve had recurrent miscarriage, if they have this MTHFR mutation, this could be potentially a cause because they’re not able to have healthy chromosomal development and therefore the fetus doesn’t develop correctly and they therefore miscarry.
19:29 CL: I was told that about 40% of the population has this MTHFR gene mutation.
KM: I’m actually not entirely sure of the statistics but in my fertility practice where I test most of my clients, it’s very rare that I’ll see somebody who doesn’t have any form of MTHFR mutation.
20:00 CL: If you don’t go to a naturopathic physician or someone who is kind of schooled in this type of testing, you might never get tested for it and then you would not be able to absorb folate or convert folic acid and then continuously have this issue.
KM: It’s actually huge. Whenever I hear about somebody who’s having recurrent miscarriages and is not seeing a naturopath, I just think what’s going to happen, how are they going to improve? Because if they’re not seeing a physician who knows about these things and knows the more further testing to do or then how to treat that testing, then that’s where I think it’s really problematic.
I know in Australia also that you have to actually have three miscarriages to be able to go to a miscarriage clinic and for them to do a whole gamut of testing to find out what’s actually causing them. I think three is way too many, one is too many.
22:02 CL: If you have the MTHFR gene mutation, you don’t know about it and you’re taking folic acid, what results from that?
KM: It depends on the extent of the MTHFR gene mutation but what it can actually do is folic acid can actually block the receptor and therefore not allow you to absorb the folic acid. So folinic acid is actually found in green vegetables.
Anybody who’s trying to conceive or is pregnant — although in the first trimester that’s very difficult — is I was going to say to eat lots of green vegetables because they contain that folinic acid so that will bypass that mutation if you have it and actually absorb the folate. You would then be able to absorb the folic acid into your system.
23:17 CL: If you’re not able to absorb folic acid because you have a genetic polymorphism, is it just better to look for a prenatal that has folinic acid just in case you might have that gene mutation?
KM: Yes, absolutely. I would never give anybody now a prenatal that has folic acid in it. I would always make sure that it’s got… so the other name for it is calcium folinate.
But in saying that, I don’t know how readily available those supplements are over-the-counter. They’re certainly in the practitioner supplements that we can prescribe, but to be honest, I don’t know and I certainly don’t know in the US or anywhere else other than Australia how often that folinic acid is actually in these supplements. I don’t think very much.
24:34 CL: What are some of the biggest underlying factors that you see that cause infertility? What are some of the ways couples can find out what’s causing the fertility problems for them?
KM: I’d say some of the biggest underlying factors that cause infertility: autoimmune issues – that’s a really big one. You might have thyroid antibodies or antinuclear antibodies. This is just a simple test through your GP or primary care practitioner. Thyroid issues, you can have your TSH tested and that will give us some important information as to what your thyroid is up to.
Progesterone deficiency. It’s a big one so having your progesterone tested at day 21 of your cycle or 7 days post-ovulation.
Genetic polymorphisms. You can get an MTHFR gene mutation tested through your doctor.
Being overweight may cause infertility and as we discussed before, sperm issues. So having the guy have a sperm analysis as soon as you have any trouble conceiving, I think, is almost the number one step.
I also see a lot of sperm analysis that just have the regular count, viscosity, morphology and motility, but actually, what is also very important is the DNA fragmentation. This costs a little bit more in Australia. It’s another few hundred dollars but it’s absolutely necessary to work out what the chromosomes are doing and how intact your DNA is.
26:30 CL: Is there like a testing lab in the US that you can recommend if someone wants to get the DNA fragmentation of the sperm?
KM: That’s a great question actually because to have a sperm analysis done, don’t ever just go to a regular pathology center. You must go to an IVF clinic. The reason for that is because the IVF clinics are doing it all day every day, that’s what their job is.
Whereas if you go to a regular pathology lab, they don’t do it very often and they’re just not as experienced in it. So to get an actual accurate sperm analysis, it must be done in an IVF clinic.
27:31 CL: A lot of times a woman can have a lot of the signs and symptoms of a thyroid issue but then they go to a lab and get it tested and then they fall within ranges. Can you talk a little bit about the ranges?
KM: That’s also a very good question, Charlene. So the interesting thing is with the reference range for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), it falls somewhere between .5 and 4.5. Whereas for fertility and I would say for optimal thyroid health, it actually needs to stick between 1 and 2.
Even if somebody has a TSH of 2.2, I would think okay, it looks like they’ve got a subclinical hypothyroid issue going on. Particularly, if they’re trying to conceive and also if they are symptomatic, then they absolutely need to be treated to get that TSH between that reference range of 1 and 2.
28:36 CL: I think those large reference ranges, they don’t work with fertility and yet, it’s still commonplace especially with women.
KM: It’s very common, absolutely. A lot of the time people pick up their thyroid issue if they are doing their basal body temperature thermometer testing every morning and if it’s a bit low, then that’s a very good indication that actually there might be a thyroid issue going on.
29:14 CL: What do you see as kind of some underlying factors for thyroid issues? Is there something underlying that’s creating that imbalance?
KM: I think it’s too complex to say that there’s one thing. Or it’s such a combination of things. The thyroid is very sensitive and it can even respond minimally to changes that happen in the body and the TSH can move around quite a lot.
So, hard to say but certainly I think stress is involved and as I said, the adrenals. It’s sort of connected with every system in the body so it could also be indicative of an unhealthy system/ Then to help to bring that TSH into range and then work with the body, then it all works in together.
30:51 CL: Sometimes women are put on Synthroid or Nature-Throid or whatever but then really what’s kind of the underlying thing is never addressed and then they go, “I don’t feel like this medication is working”
KM: Exactly. Because the thyroid might be in range but their adrenal glands may be completely depleted. So yeah, exactly, the core of the issue hasn’t been dealt with.
31:26 CL: Is there one tip that you can give us like a practical tip of taking care of our adrenals?
KM: Rest. You need 8 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Let’s go back a step and explain the adrenals. I like to talk about the adrenals as kind of being the seat of your energy center. Your adrenals are responsible for releasing adrenaline when you are stressed.
The problem these days is that we stress all the time. Back in caveman days, we’d go after an animal, we’d kill it, and that would be stressful and we’d have some down time.
But these days, most of us live in cities and where there’s lots of pollution and there’s lots of traffic around and there’s things to look out for and people on the street. Our brains are constantly looking out for danger. We’re working quite often in quite highly stressful jobs, so adrenaline is being constantly released from the adrenal glands to help us cope with the stressful situations.
More and more, the adrenal glands are being depleted. So each day, more than just getting sleep, we need to rest. Whether people meditate or whether they do yoga, exercise can be relaxing for some people. Going for a swim, going for a walk, just doing something that is relaxing and that you find enjoyment from that’s not actually causing your body to release that adrenaline, that’s how we restore our adrenal glands.
33:31 CL: Does it matter what time you go to sleep?
KM: I think it does depend what time you go to bed. The melatonin is highest at around 9 to 10 PM and that’s the hormone that helps you relax and helps you sleep.
If we can actually get to bed at around 9:00 or 10:00 at night, we’re actually making the most of that melatonin. That’s helping and it’s an incredible antioxidant as well. People who are trying to improve their quality or doing IVF might know about melatonin. It’s a phenomenal antioxidant.
If we’re going to bed at those times, we’re getting the benefit of that melatonin. It’s dark, we’re not exposed to artificial light then our melatonin can really work in our bodies, help us sleep well and repair at the same time.
Sleep is very important for the adrenal glands but it’s not enough to restore the adrenal glands. If you have depleted adrenal glands, you need to be able to heal that and you need to have a low stress lifestyle and you need to make sure you’re getting adequate rest throughout the day as well.
34:56 CL: If you’re trying to conceive, it’s your time to just shut off everything. You’re preparing your body for a monumental task, so don’t underestimate that.
KM: Yes. A really good sleep environment, get to bed early.
Actually, interesting just on a personal note, it’s funny because my partner Luke, he’s always been a total night owl and getting to bed before 11:00 or 12:00 is always difficult. He recently had a career change from social work where he was working a sort of 9 to 5 job so he didn’t have to go to bed before 12 really because he would get up at 8:00 and get to work by 9:00. He’s had a career change to carpentry, so he’s now a tradie and starts work at 7:00 AM. He’ll leave home at about 6:30.
I think what’s been amazing for us is that he is now going to bed at 9:00 to 10:00 at night and I am as well because that’s what’s happening in the house so we go to bed early.
I’m not sure if it was a coincidence that we conceived when that started happening. But the difference in my health and in his health was quite astounding and we both know that’s how much better we felt from going to bed early. We still do and we feel great.
37:16 CL: Talk about some myths around infertility or fertility that surprise you.
KM: The first one I’d probably say, it was kind of a funny one: Some people believe that you need to orgasm to make a baby. That is not true. I certainly do believe that an intimate and healthy connection between a couple is ideal but that is absolutely a myth. People who are trying to conceive don’t need to put pressure on themselves for that.
38:35 CL: What is something else that we’re led to believe that is not true?
KM: The other one we’ve already touched on. But certainly the archaic idea that fertility issues are mostly to do with the female partner and as you said before, the statistics show that it’s actually 50-50. I find this and I harp on about it because this is something if I could make a big change in the world, this is what I would like to do. I’d like people to know that it’s half man and half woman.
I feel that it’s so damaging because as I said before, I often see couples who try to conceive for years and years and she’s had every test under the sun. She’s had laparoscopies, the ultrasounds, HyCoSy’s where they flush out the tubes. She might have also had ovulation-inducing drugs, maybe undergone IVF. Then I see the sperm results and they can be borderline or potentially even terrible and this just has been overlooked as an issue.
Often this might be reiterated by the fertility specialist because when they go off to do IVF, he or she’ll have a look and they’ll say, “Oh, the sperm is not great. Well, that’s okay, we’ll just do the ICSI,” which is where they inject the sperm into the egg and what they do is they take a healthy-looking sperm and inject it into the egg.
But the problem with doing this, as I mentioned before, is the sperm morphology. When you’re looking at the sperm, you can actually see what the morphology is like. If the sperm actually has DNA issues, then ICSI will not be able to bypass the issue and neither will IUI.That’s a myth I would love to be able to dispel.
40:51 CL: When they’re doing the ICSI procedure, what happens? I was told that the batch is really important and you’re taking the best out of that sort of poor batch.
KM: That’s where with natural conception, the best sperm are going to win. Whereas with ICSI, it’s up to the person on the microscope. I don’t often see that IVF clinics will actually test DNA fragmentation. What I think is unfortunate for the fertility specialist is because they don’t have training in nutrition, they don’t actually know what to do to improve sperm issues. Their answer to that is ICSI.
It’s not really worth it to them to test this because it’s kind of like they can’t do anything about it. Even if they test the DNA they don’t have all the knowledge that we do to be able to actually improve the sperm. They don’t know about the antioxidants and the supplements and the polymorphisms and anything else that could potentially be causing the sperm issues. I think that’s a big problem.
In Melbourne, we are lucky because there are a couple of fertility specialists who are aware of the work that natural fertility specialists do and if there are sperm troubles, then they will actually refer back to us and they will say, “You know, go and see the naturopath for 3 to 6 months and come back to me, and if we still need to do IVF then we will.”
42:47 CL: I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area and there’s a number of IVF clinics they’ll refer to an acupuncturist to work with the clients beforehand and during the embryo transfer and to a naturopath and a nutritionist. IVF clinics are becoming more and more open to incorporating other specialists to improve their success rates.
KM: I think acupuncture has done really well because there have been studies and research done to show that acupuncture does actually improve IVF success and outcomes which I think is just fantastic.
I think as we get younger and new fertility specialists in, there’s more potential with that, I think. Quite a lot of the older IVF specialists, they’re stuck in their ways and they’re not into it. But as we see more and more younger fertility specialists coming in, then yeah, I’m hoping that we’ll be able to have more change in that area.
44:21 CL: Any other myths to dispel?
KM: Well, none that comes to mind. Just I think it is a myth that there isn’t anything you can do about sperm health.
44:38 CL: Is it pretty simple for a man to improve his sperm health?
KM: I would say yes. If we find out what is causing it, if we dig deep and look into those factors, if the man is compliant, if he will cut out coffee, if he will cut out alcohol, if he will stop smoking or taking drugs and if he will eat well and he will take his supplements, then I find that we have very good success rates.
45:47 CL: What would you say to couples who feel like they’ve done everything right but nothing is working?
KM: I would say keep persevering but also continue to seek support from professionals. Don’t try to do it all alone. Seek out those professionals who have that information and that expertise and experience and really get that help and do everything that you can to have your body and mind in a healthy place. I think a lot of the time people bypass their mind. They just think you just got to push on. “I’ve got to be stoic. I’ve got to be strong. I’ve got to do this.”
You need counselling alongside this process because it’s hard, it’s one of the hardest things. Also, relationship counselling, I think it’s very important as a couple because often fertility issues can be the hardest thing that the couple has ever gone through together and it might even be the first hard thing that they’ve gone through together. Seeking that support from a professional I think is very, very important.
47:14 CL: It can feel very lonely for a couple but also many couples within that relationship aren’t talking about their kind of inner fears like if it’s going to devastate their relationship.
KM: Definitely. It can cause resentment. If the male is the problem, if he’s got the fertility issues, she can have massive resentments every month. She is going through either charting her temperature or eating well.
She’s the one who’s checking her ovulation and she’s the one who has to go through the two-week wait every month and wondering if she’s pregnant. “Oh, my boob’s are sore.” “Am I bloated?” “Have my bowels changed?” All that sort of thing can lead to massive resentments and if the couple is not talking about it or they’re not having counselling, then that can be very destructive for the relationship.
48:53 CL: Any other advice to give to couples?
KM: I would say this is something that really helped me during that time. I’d say to keep living your life. When we found out about Luke’s sperm, I had this thing inside me that I said to myself and I said it out loud and I said I don’t want to live the life of a person without children.
So I’m going to say it again. My advice is to don’t live a life of a person without children because I see that what can happen to people is that their fertility struggles take over their lives and all they see is what they don’t have. They see what they don’t have rather than seeing all the positives in their lives. They notice babies everywhere, they see women who are pregnant, families in the park and they constantly feel like they’re missing out.
But my advice during this time is to continue to enjoy your life and do things that make you happy. Also, do things that you couldn’t do if you had children because if you speak to people who have got children, they’re envious of people who don’t have children in a lot of ways; of what they miss out on and what they can’t do and how they can’t be spontaneous. Most likely and hopefully one day you will have children and you’ll miss doing all those things that you couldn’t do when you were footloose and fancy free.
I think that’s important and I think something that might help is to actually write a list of all the things that you can do that your friends with children can’t do. What can you do now that you can’t do when you’ve got children? Focus on those things and do those things and try to enjoy your life. Try not to glamorise the life of people with children because we all know they’re sleepless, they’re tired, they’re exhausted. They love their children, of course, but life’s not easy when you have children.
51:29 CL: What do you think about mainstream fertility treatments and what is your biggest frustration with mainstream infertility?
KM: I think that mainstream fertility treatments absolutely have their place and they’re absolutely fantastic for people who really need them. However, the problem that I see and whether this is all over the world or whether this is Australia, I don’t know, but when a couple turns up to the doctor and says they’ve been trying to conceive for six months without success and then the doctor will give them a referral for an IVF specialist.
I think this is really unfortunate because then they go to see the other specialist and they’re in the system, then they start having procedures done, of course they’ll do a sperm analysis and then they’ll recommend the woman have all sorts of procedures. But the problem is, as I said before, those fertility specialists aren’t trained in nutrition and they’re not necessarily looking at the things that we do.
They might not be actually improving their fertility but they’re going through all these motions of procedures and then actually when they can’t find anything wrong, then they do IVF.
That’s a real shame because I think the financial, the emotional and physical toll that it’s taken on people when they do IVF is quite massive. My hope is that in the future that it will become mainstream for doctors to recommend that their patients actually go and see a natural fertility specialist before they refer them to IVF.
53:23 CL: I thought that if you went to see a fertility specialist and they would say like, “How long have you been trying to conceive?” “Oh, six months.” “Okay, come back to me a after a year,” which I think is a little bit of a shame because things can be done nutritionally and so many different diagnostic steps could be taken at that time so that a couple doesn’t have to go through 12 months of frustration.
KM: Yeah, they will start doing procedures and tests after six months particularly if you are over 35.
54:19 CL: Couples kind of get into the mindset that “the only way we can conceive (because we tried for a certain period of time) is through IVF,” like they don’t even feel like they can conceive naturally, which is another myth.
KM: I think that’s the problem that people don’t regularly know; it’s not mainstream to know about seeing a naturopath or a natural fertility specialist. They don’t see that there are any other options other than trying to conceive naturally on your own or going to do IVF. I think that’s a shame.
55:01 CL: What is your view on diet for fertility? Are there any foods that we should be avoiding?
KM: Definitely. Definitely foods that you should be avoiding and probably lots of them, and that’s because a lot of our foods that we consume now are processed and manufactured. They’re very far removed from their natural form and loaded with sugar, salt, trans fats. A lot are even genetically modified.
But in terms of whether we should be avoiding natural, unprocessed foods, then there are barely any foods that we need to avoid. A fertility diet to me is a diet that’s healthy and keeps our bodies in optimal condition, provides all the nutrients to the cells to have our body functioning optimally. We can’t expect to have a healthy body if we eat rubbish and similarly, we can’t expect to have good fertility if we’re overweight or unhealthy.
I think it’s important to think that your fertility is often not for everybody but most often it’s a reflection of your health and certainly I see this correlation with sperm. It would be very rare for me to see an unhealthy overweight man with excellent sperm parameters. This rarely really happens. When we see a seemingly healthy person with poor sperm parameters, then this indicates that we need to dig a lot deeper.
56:30 CL: What’s the definition of overweight at this point?
KM: Well, as far as I know it’s anybody with a BMI over 25, men and women.. That might be different. I might not be up with the stats on that but as far as I know, BMI over 25 to 30 is overweight and then anybody over 30 is obese.
57:32 CL: You were talking about whole foods.
KM: Whole foods, so organic. Organic fruit and vegetables, gluten-free whole grains, nuts, seeds, organic meat, eggs, fish, dairy. Eat organic dairy if you can tolerate it. All the sort of stuff that’s not processed. Make the food from scratch. You can’t do that 100% of the time but if you can do it 90% of the time, then fantastic.
58:22 CL: What about all these food sensitivities that are happening for people? Do you have people check food sensitivities or just avoid certain foods?
KM: Absolutely. I know that naturopaths have a bad reputation for taking people off a whole lot of food. That’s not my style, to be honest. I want people to be able to eat everything that’s healthy and then if still their system is not working, if their digestive function is not optimal, then we need to actually look at what foods they’re reacting to and then remove those foods from their diet, if that’s absolutely necessary.
59:06 CL: What’s your view on toxins and infertility? What about EMF (electromagnetic frequencies)?
KM: I am actually a big believer in the correlation between EMF, radiation, and fertility. I like to look at it in this way that if radiation is used to kill cells and people with cancer, then radiation can’t be the best thing to create healthy cells, so healthy egg and sperm cells. Unfortunately, the research is really not there to support this.
However, I think it’s another similar situation to cigarettes that it’s assumed to be safe until finally proven otherwise. I figure, why wait for the science to catch up when we can do our best to avoid it and in the process create healthy cells to create healthy babies?
EMF or electromagnetic radiation is not possible to avoid in our lives but the things we can do is keep our mobile phones as far away from our bodies as possible and switch it to airplane mode when they do need to be with us. For the guys, keep your phone out of your pocket and women, keep it out of your handbag. If you do need to carry them in these places, then switch it on to airplane mode for that time.
Turn your Wi-Fi off at night. I know laptops are aptly named to put your laptop on your lap but actually try not to put it on your lap, put it on the table as far as away from your reproductive area as possible. Try to fly as little as possible. That’s a good way we can reduce our exposure. Then taking antioxidants can actually reduce the impact of the radiation when we’re exposed to it.
Then toxins, of course they’re a very important factor in our fertility. Our world is full of chemicals. We wash our bodies and hair with them. We lather them all over our bodies. We spray them on ourselves to smell nice. We breathe them into our environment, we drink them in our water. We even eat them because they’ve been sprayed on our food and practically everything we touch and use in our toilet and lavs are made from them.
Getting rid of toxins in the body is a very important part of the fertility program and also in my treatment. We need to identify where your chemical exposure is coming from and then support the body to get rid of them.
This can certainly take time and certainly the older the person is, the longer it’s going to take. Also, if you’ve got heavy metals in your system, they can get locked into your tissues and often they don’t want to budge. So, we have our ways of getting them out but it can take time.
Also, in terms of in relation to toxins and chemicals, is age. I see many couples where the male partner is maybe in his 50’s and 60’s, and it’s possible for a man to conceive a child at this age, but certainly my experience shows that the sperm health is often compromised by then.
I think this is due to a range of factors and one of those is the fact that they’ve been on the planet for 50-60 years and that means that they’ve been exposed to a whole lot more chemicals and toxins than someone in, say, their 30’s or 40’s. So for these people, we really need to make sure we take the time to stimulate the detoxification pathways and help clear them out. That time will take longer than someone who is younger.
62:47 CL: Are there any particular supplements or nutrients you would recommend to couples trying to conceive? Any particular supplement companies that you like for fertility supplements as well?
KM: That’s really tricky because of course, there are so many nutrients that can be beneficial for someone who’s trying to conceive. As a practitioner, I’m really interested in finding out what nutrients are necessary for your fertility. For instance, people often ask me “Is maca good for fertility?” and I say, “Well, that depends. It depends what’s happening in your body and what we need to improve your fertility.”
You’ll see lots of things on the internet and in advertising that will say this is good for fertility, but, is it good for your fertility? That’s what’s important to know. Folate or as you know it as folic acid, is imperative to take for three months before trying to conceive and also the research now shows that B3 is also very important to take. Whenever someone is taking a B vitamin, I always recommend that you take B vitamins together, because when it is a B vitamin complex the vitamins all work together in the body.
The thing is, I guess, the over-the-counter supplements that you can buy in your health food shop or pharmacy, they’re generally of quite poor quality and I wouldn’t personally recommend that people take them. The supplements that Iva and I prescribe as part of the Natural Fertility Prescription Program, they come from Australia and that’s because they’re the highest quality supplements on the market and they can only be accessed with a prescription from a practitioner. I can’t necessarily recommend any brands because they are only accessible by a practitioner.
64:49 CL: I know a lot of supplements are synthetic and have fillers and your body sort of can’t even recognize some of those nutrients as far as absorption rates.
KM: Yeah. As we talked about, the polymorphisms, you just might be taking the completely wrong supplement for your body and with the wrong dose. Often I see people say “Oh, yeah, I’m taking CoQ10,” but they might be taking 50 or 100 milligrams for fertility, and I think it’s not enough. It’s almost like you’re not taking that supplement because you’re just not taking the right dose.
65:25 CL: Dosage is pretty important, isn’t it?
KM: Really imperative. Doing what we have to do when we’re working on fertility, it’s imperative.
66:18 CL: What is the biggest mistake people make when trying to conceive?
KM: This might sound strange but one of the biggest mistakes I see that people make is actually having too much sex in the beginning when they start trying to conceive. They often don’t know when they’re ovulating so they have sex all through the cycle just to be sure.
But what I see is over time the longer it takes to conceive, the sex people are having when they’re trying to conceive is often not their best sex and this can take a toll on the relationships. It can feel time pressure and restrained and then people sort of end up getting a lack of sleep because they’re forcing sex at the end of the night when they’re actually just really tired and need to sleep.
What I think is one of the most important things is that people actually speak to a practitioner and learn about identifying when your ovulation is.
Another myth is that people ovulate on day 14 and they get their period at day 28. That is a total myth because people ovulate at different times and their cycle is different lengths. If you can work out when you’re ovulating in your cycle, then it can be really beneficial to make sure they’re getting the timing right and then you can concentrate that sort of conception sex to 4 or 5 days within your cycle.
67:50 CL: I know some people are probably thinking, “Well, I’ll just use an ovulation predictor kit. Why do I have to do all the timing, the temperature and all that kind of hassle?”
KM: Some people find their ovulation easier to identify than others. So some people might get pain on their ovary and that’s a really good sign to them that they’re ovulating. Other people might have really pronounced cervical mucus and they might have that stretchy Spinn stuff that you get when you’re ovulating, and that’s a really good indicator for them. Other people might need to use the ovulation sticks.
They’re sort of tricky, I find. Some people have good success with them and others don’t. Other people might need to take their temperature. It’s looking at what’s going to work for you to work at when you’re ovulating.
68:51 CL: If you could give advice to every couple trying to conceive, what would it be?
KM: I think my biggest piece of advice, and we’ve sort of touched on that, is to know that you’re not alone. You are completely normal and you are wonderful despite your struggles and what’s happening for you. This is one of the hardest things you may have to ever endure, so please give yourself a lot of compassion for that.
For the relationship, be really gentle on each other.
You’re potentially both hurting a lot and both of you will cope in different ways. Whatever you do, try not to blame each other. Try and see yourselves that you’re a couple as a team and as a team, you’ll go through it together. If you can be kind and compassionate and gentle and caring for each other, it will make you and your relationship much stronger having gone through this.
Also, another piece of advice is if you can find someone else who’s going through the same struggle and you feel that you can talk to them, then please do. It just might help you and also help to make you feel less isolated. You might be able to laugh about it, some aspects of it and lighten the load a little bit.
As we talked about, there’s such a taboo in our society about talking about our infertility and I really don’t think this is helpful for women and couples who are actually going through it. Maybe you can find a friend or speak to a counsellor. Just sometimes getting these feelings and thoughts that you’re experiencing out just can make a huge difference.
Of course, my advice would be to do the Natural Fertility Prescription Program. I’m not being paid to say this but I genuinely think that the program is extremely comprehensive, thorough and we’ll provide all the information that you need to know to equip yourself with the tools and the knowledge to give yourself the best chance of trying to conceive.
I’m personally so happy that it exists and it’s why I’m so passionate about the program. It’s very informative, it’s systematic and it’s given to you in weekly chunks so that it’s not really overwhelming.
Also, I think we’ve talked a lot about working with a practitioner and also if you sign up for the gold or platinum programs, then you get monthly or unlimited coaching with Iva or myself and we’ll give you personalized advice to go along with all that learning.
Also, we’ll recommend tests and supplements to help you improve your fertility and prepare your body for pregnancy.
I’ve been practicing as a naturopath for 12-13 years and work in fertility for most of that. Although I think you know my own when I was doing it through the fertility clinic and I do it on Skype as well, but I actually think that the fertility program is so much more beneficial for people because of the structure of it.
They get so much information. The patients, the clients that I work with, they’re just so informed. They know what they’re doing, they know what they need to eat. It’s not up to me to tell them because when I speak to them, they already know.
72:39 CL: It’s a very vulnerable place to be found when you want to become a parent and you don’t feel like there’s any control. I hear that a lot from people.
KM: I hear that a lot. Lots of type A personalities. Really accomplished in their career and they’re neat and they’re tidy and they exercise a lot and they’re amazing, amazing women. This is the first time that they’re not actually able to control an outcome and it’s very challenging.
75:26 CL: Congratulations again on your pregnancy. It’s really exciting news and I know it’s just going to even make you an even better practitioner. Thank you so much, Dr. Kathryn Moloney for being on and spending your time with us. We really, really appreciate it.
KM: My pleasure, Charlene. I really enjoyed it. It was really great to speak to you.