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  • Writer's pictureAziz Merchant, BHMS,MDHom

From Disappointment to Triumph: A journey of a couple battling infertility and personal demons

Apr 22 – 28 is National Infertility Awareness Week. And I take this opportunity to share a couple’s fertility success story, in their words- their trial by fire. Last year they wrote me an online review on yelp and have consented that I may share their first names to bring forth their struggles and celebration, so others can know of their experiences and their feelings through it all.

An introduction to Kathy- I see a 35 year old successful executive in the oil and gas industry who has been trying to conceive for the past 8 years. It was stressful trying to manage a successful career and undergo the mental and physical demands of trying various fertility treatments while travelling extensively for work. Kathy always wanted to be in control. Control of the projects she was overseeing, control of her finances, control of her body’s rhythm, if it was up to her she would have wanted to control the weather too! Nothing less than perfect was acceptable. I could see her visibly distracted during our first consult, when a slightly crooked picture frame caught her detail seeking eye. Her husband joked that you cannot see a crease on the aluminum foil when she lines the cookie sheets when she bakes her signature cookies.

An introduction of the husband- Keith was the laid back, silent and observant husband who married his high school sweet heart. He is 100% supportive of his wife and her decisions. He even took the back seat to allow Kathy to progress in her career when an opportunity arose and she made the best of it. He is the rock in this relationship. He was not very expressive, was aware of his wife’s emotional intricacies but hesitant to talk about his own feelings. He beautifully evened the scales of emotions in this relationship- countering Kathy’s hyper-vigilance and restlessness with his calm albeit subtle indifference to every stimulus that distracts Kathy. Interesting!

Their problem- They were essentially taking a break from the conventional fertility treatments. I was able to help Keith’s cousin who suffered from bad psoriasis and gout and he recommended them to come see me. When I saw them, they had been trying for 8 years, having tried numerous rounds of ovulation induction and IUI and IVF. Kathy felt the clomid made her nauseous and worsened her monthly migraines and she felt bloated from the other gonadotropins. They were doing acupuncture treatments and trying all sorts of supplements available to boost fertility. Kathy’s hormone levels were within normal limits, her Fallopian tubes were patent, she had a history of chronic urinary tract infections which required antibiotics every 6 months or so. Keith’s blood work was normal too, but his initial semen analysis showed poor to moderate motility, which improved after acupuncture. His latest semen analysis (circa Jan 2017) though, again showed abnormally shaped and sluggish sperm though. Upon examination, slight varicocele was detected and I recommended that he see his family physician to request for a prostate and scrotal ultrasound which revealed mild grade varicocele and some calcification around the prostate. Keith admitted to smoking when stressed and little more than average alcohol consumption lately.

The rigors of time and repeated disappointments led Kathy’s anxiety and depression get the better of her. Making love was no more enjoyable. It became a chore. Keith was showing clinical signs of depression but denied feeling ‘depressed’, he started drinking again and felt the need to take sleeping pills and woke up groggy, with body-ache and found he could not focus on his freelance work anymore. This was affecting his income and he felt he was being overshadowed by his wife and yet, he felt it was his duty to soldier on in this relationship. He tried consoling Kathy and asked her not to lose hope. He told her that he loved her and that things would still be OK if they remained childless, or they could even look into adoption.

How can Homeopathy help?

Homeopathy’s approach is finalistic and phenomenalistic rather than causalistic. Homeopathy does not evaluate the situation, an illness for instance- from the standpoint of “what is the causative agent”, which is the standard procedure of conventional medicine. It does not ask what infection, what abnormal chemistry, what change in structure, and so forth, lies at the bottom of the disease and obviously, therefore, has to be removed or corrected, but it addresses itself to what we may call the phenomenon of constitutional totality. It considers the wholeness of the phenomenon in descriptive rather than causalistic terms.

In Kathy’s instance- her school counselor prodded her to see a psychiatrist for her OCD and anxieties, who put her on antidepressants and sedatives. By age 18, she had tried 3 different antidepressants and anxiolytics and this went on till she was 24 when her ‘manageable’ anxiety trickled into her relationship, sprouting doubts and feelings of being unsure of her life partner, her marriage, her career and when she was ready to have a child of her own by age 27, after years of trying not to have one, it was extremely difficult to try to now have one. She acknowledges she took oral contraceptive pills more to regulate her menstrual cycle and combat acne than for actual contraception. She had hypothyroidism, for which she was taking bio-identical hormones- Her thyroid dysfunction incidentally started after a massive project failure. Every month she dreaded if she was a day late to get her period- because then she could not help but use the pregnancy test kit, and face the horrific feeling of finding she was not pregnant- again. Now she had to repeat the whole process- again.

It was revealed later the Keith had struggled with alcohol in the past and had gone to rehab. Keith’s mother had succumbed to cancer which prompted him to take to the bottle. Kathy helped him through this phase early on in their marriage. Keith resorted to drinking again stemming from undiagnosed and unacknowledged depression. There was more in his past history which I feel need not be disclosed here to justify the prescription made for him.

Kathy’s strong exterior was only weakened internally by crippling anxieties and compulsive behaviors. On the surface, she was an epitome of leadership and vision, someone who can get the job done against all odds- except this very basic innate function of reproduction. She said she was her worst enemy and possibly the reason why she was not able to conceive. She was apprehensive of pregnancy and pregnancy related complaints. More deeply though, she feared bringing a child to this world who may share her strong anxious traits as well.

After a careful analysis and repertorizaton (a process of differentiating Homeopathic remedies based on characteristic and relevant symptoms of the case with the help of Homeopathic Materia medica- a drug index. Repertorization is nowadays done by the help of computer software) the remedy chosen was Arsenicum album for Kathy and Phosphoric acid for Keith.

The Solution- Goal was not to treat her anxiety, depression and OCD separately and hypothyroidism with yet another remedy and try to find problems where there were none. I did not aim at stimulating the ovaries to produce more eggs by synthetic or natural means (which honestly, there is no agent that directly does just that). The goal was to bring her body back to a state of equilibrium. She was found to have perfectly functioning reproductive system- it was just that the soil needed to be amended.

The goal was to bring self awareness to Keith and bring him to a state of homeostasis by empowering him to emote and express his suppressed feelings- something of which he was not aware of, or was perhaps a result of compensation in order to survive in a relationship. Trying to label him and treat him for adrenal exhaustion or recommend a concoction to improve semen and sperm quality, again would have been focusing on the end result of a greater disturbance and would have been bound to fail.

The real solution was to address their constitutional totalities. And their remedies do just that. As is evident by over 150 years of recorded evidence in our meteria medicas.

Arsenic album in high potency was known to cure (and cause in healthy human provers) physical and mental symptoms similar to what Kathy manifested. Phosphoric acid was and is still known to ‘open’ up cases of indifference and turn around physical and emotional exhaustion like in Keith’s.

Gameplan- They were already eating healthy, taking the right high quality supplements in the right dosage. We all agreed that we actually had to ignore the elephant in the room in order to not perpetuate this cycle of stress and disappointment. We needed some serious relaxation (pardon the pun). I advised couple’s stress relief yoga and fertility yoga. I asked her to shut off her calendar alerts that went up every alternate day from day 10 to 18 of her cycle. Spontaneity in intimacy was to be the couple’s motto. I asked them to turn the table on their perceived misfortunes, and advised not to actively try to get pregnant at least for the next 4 months. And surprisingly, they agreed. This would allow them to relieve the pressure and start enjoying their relationship; and buy me some time to observe how they were responding to their remedies.

For the sake of brevity, I will not summarize their follow ups in this blog. Perhaps I will post it in the next one. In short, they started treatment in December 2016 and conceived ‘naturally’ in September of 2017. As I post this article, Kathy is in her 36th week of pregnancy and is doing just fine, and so is Keith.

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