March 6, 2017
A Look At Infertility
By Michael D. Shaw
It’s always nice to begin an essay with a pithy quote. However, in this Internet age, many quotes—as well as their attributions—have been challenged. Nonetheless, you’ve probably heard some version of this one: “You can judge a society by how it treats its women.” Consider that sentiment to be a theme in this article.
Merriam-Webster’s medical dictionary defines “infertility” as “[being] incapable of or unsuccessful in achieving pregnancy over a considerable period of time (as a year) in spite of determined attempts by heterosexual intercourse without contraception.” There is also the matter of “impaired fecundity,” which combines problems getting pregnant with problems carrying a baby to term. Owing to far greater complexity on the female side of the equation, most discussion of these matters is limited to (or strongly emphasizes) the woman.
Lest we forget, fertility and fecundity are affected by age, along with a host of other parameters. Moreover, the grouping of women is not consistent (married versus all marital statuses) which can make statistical analysis difficult. For example, according to the CDC…
** For the period 2011-2013, 12.3% of women 15-44 years of age (of all marital statuses) have impaired fecundity (i.e., who are not surgically sterile, and for whom it is difficult or impossible to get pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term).
** For the same period, 6.1% of all married women 15-44 years of age are infertile (i.e., who are not surgically sterile, and have had at least 12 consecutive months of unprotected sexual intercourse without becoming pregnant).
It is well-established that female fertility begins declining when a woman is in her mid-30s, about ten years before the onset of menopause. Up until a few years ago, statistics were proffered, breaking this down by age group. Interestingly, this stopped after 2010 because—according to the CDC—the figures “[do] not meet standards of reliability or precision.” Given a moment’s thought, the problem is obvious: Infertility is only going to be noticed by women trying to conceive, the number of which is not constant throughout all age groups.
Therefore, unless fertility tests were run on a substantial number of women of all age groups, regardless of whether or not they were trying to conceive, and were repeated over the course of a year to be consistent with the definition, the age-related infertility data is suspect. And, don’t even get me started on the selection bias that would occur regarding which women would agree to submit to such testing.
As such, some authorities, including women’s health advocate Jennifer Mercier—who holds a PhD in Natural Medicine, and is a naturopathic physician, midwife, and licensed massage therapist—believe that the rate of fertility decline versus age is overstated. She developed a natural method, Mercier Therapy, to help women achieve pregnancy, based on her own struggles to conceive, along with her misgivings regarding in vitro fertilization (IVF). As Mercier explains:
“There are an infinite number of reasons why a woman does not conceive. Hormonal imbalance, stress and anxiety, scar tissue, or even a slightly tilted uterus could prevent a conception. Oftentimes these reasons can be fixed quickly and naturally.”
“Malposition of any organ in the body will impede proper function. It’s like having your leg crossed and your foot falling asleep because you’ve cut off blood flow. If left like that, the foot would lose its function, period. No one is addressing organ malposition, pelvic scar tissue, or other possible issues preventing a natural pregnancy that could be fixed with simple manipulation and therapy. Creating Mercier Therapy came naturally as I thought more and more about organ movement and its effects on fertility.”
When the first IVF baby—Louise Brown—was born in 1978 in England, the new technology was widely proclaimed as miraculous, or at least as the next big thing. However, as Mercier reminds us, the first American IVF clinic opened in 1980, and 23 IVF cycles were performed, none of which produced a pregnancy.
Notwithstanding celebrity endorsements, IVF is expensive and does not boast stellar results. As one observer puts it, “IVF is a propitiously suggestive and expensive protocol that safeguards revenue by not disclosing accurate failure rate or injured organ data. Couples end up cashing in their life savings in hopes of having a child and many end up never conceiving.” It also costs about five times as much as Mercier Therapy.
Encouraged by the success she observed at her clinic, Mercier decided to run a four-year study comparing the two methods. 83% of all participants achieved pregnancy within one year with Mercier Therapy, compared to 29% on IVF.
Dr. Mercier is the producer and director of a new feature entitled Fertility: The Shared Journey With Mercier Therapy, featuring interviews with formerly infertile couples, who archived pregnancy on the method, along with commentary from Mercier and her colleagues. The movie is available for streaming on iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, Vudu, Microsoft Movies & TV, and Vimeo.
Mercier’s passion for her work, and the new parents’ joy are an inspiration. Check it out.