Katrina Kane and Chris Shannon said the service provided them with a lot of support.ABC NEWS: RACHEL RIGA
A Brisbane hospital is taking an alternative approach to helping couples struggling to conceive, by offering a natural fertility program that focuses holistically on health issues.
The Mater Mothers’ Hospital Natural Fertility Service gives couples diet and lifestyle advice, psychological and wellbeing help, as well as treatment for underlying physical issues like endometriosis, poor ovulation and blocked tubes.
It is a public referral-based program, combining health services with Australia’s only clinical research site to enhance fertility naturally.
About 2,000 women have been involved in the program since its creation in 2011, with data from five clinical trials now being analysed to work out its success rate.
Mater Mothers’ Hospital obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Luke McLindon said infertility should be treated as a symptom, not as a medical issue in itself.
“Infertility is multifactorial and tends to be complex,” he said.
“It’s like a code that you need to crack, and every couple has a different code.
“We’re going back to the basics and looking at the combined infertility of a couple.
“We have dieticians, we have obstetrics medical physicians for previous complex history, we have our own midwives, doctors, specialist GPs and surgeons.”
Couple supported on ‘long road’ to success
The Federal Department of Health said one in six Australian couples experienced fertility problems.
Katrina Kane, 38, and her partner Chris Shannon tried to conceive a child without success for three years.
Ms Kane said she was diagnosed with pre-invasive cervical cancer cells and had a procedure to remove them in 2016.
“I was told that I was likely to have a hysterectomy and that I should prioritise having children sooner than later, so I was referred to the Mater,” she said.
Ms Kane said she found the Natural Fertility Service extremely beneficial, especially after being diagnosed with stage four endometriosis during the program.
“It really was a long road and a long journey, but with the support it felt a lot easier and there was a lot of guidance and support learning about our cycle and infertility,” she said.
The couple welcomed their first child, Bridie May, earlier this year.
GPs already investigate lifestyle factors, Fertility Society says
Fertility Society of Australia vice president Professor Luk Rombauts welcomed the approach but said natural ways to improve fertility could be discussed with a GP.
“I think it’s a good approach, but to be honest every doctor who’s looking after a couple that wants to get pregnant should really ask that as a first question,” he said.
“What is your lifestyle? Do you think there are modifiable factors — smoking, your diet, level of exercise?
“So that’s part of a standard investigation that any doctor really should be offering.
“You don’t really need a separate clinic necessarily but certainly as an initiative it’s a positive one.”
He said most large IVF units in Australia incorporated some level of investigation and research into lifestyles factors and how they could be modified to improve fertility.