Issues with fertility are common and complex and can lead to significant negative impacts for reproductive-aged women and their loved ones. But beyond issues with conception and full-term pregnancy, there are implications for healthy aging, well-being, and even longevity. The same physiological conditions that commonly impact women’s fertility are often themselves risk factors for chronic diseases, accelerated aging, and premature death. Following the fertile years, women who experience unresolved fertility issues often have an increased risk of breast cancer, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. In this presentation, Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioners Monique Class, MS, APRN, BC, and Kalea Wattles, ND, will discuss how addressing the underlying causes of fertility issues using functional medicine principles can not only lead to successful term pregnancies but also improve health, disease-free years lived, and even longevity for women.
The presenters will provide the evidence that shows how laboratory analysis for fertility issues can be used as a screen for non-fertility–related function and a window into the biological aging process, broadening the lens beyond fertility. They will demonstrate how the same mechanisms that underlie dysfunction and premature aging in the reproductive system can lead to accelerated aging in other body systems, including the immune system. Specifically, chronic inflammation and oxidative stress that can impact ovarian and uterine function are also the main culprits in several chronic diseases as well as in accelerated biological aging. Essentially, reproductive function can serve as a “canary in the coalmine” indicator of cellular dysfunction that impacts all aspects of a long, healthy life in the post-fertile period.
So what is the solution? For many women with fertility issues, the best approach is sustained lifestyle change, and such changes can have an impact far beyond fertility. Class and Wattles will show how collaborative care teams—healthcare teams that include health coaches, nutritionists, and other healthcare providers in addition to a primary care provider—can be the catalyst for successful, long-term lifestyle change in women with fertility issues, leading to improved fertility outcomes and improved later life outcomes. Specifically, changes in diet and nutrition; stress levels and management; exercise and activity levels; and relationships and mental/emotional/spiritual health can all play a role in improving function and health for women now with payoffs far into the future.
The presenters will demonstrate how interventions designed to optimize fertility can lead to changes in physiological function that have an impact beyond the natal period. They will show how the collaborative care team can help meet patients where they are when implementing changes and ensure that these solutions are sustainable across the lifespan.
- Describe how subfertility serves as a marker of risk for later chronic diseases and accelerated biological aging
- Explain how issues with fertility share a common mechanism with accelerated biological aging, including chronic inflammation and oxidative stress
- Utilize a collaborative care team approach to achieve successful, long-term lifestyle change in women with fertility issues, leading to improved fertility outcomes and improved later life outcomes