Can the stars tell us why we have become infertile?

Approximately one in every six couples struggles with infertility. This is a sensitive topic for many, with a range of medical procedures, costing in the thousands that attempt, but are not guaranteed, to assist. Previously Moneybags looked at the cheaper In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatments offered at Tygerberg Hospital, as well as alternative fertility treatment options.

This time we are wondering whether infertility has something to do with the ‘stars’. While you could be forgiven for rolling your eyes at this concept there are some leading medical experts who are looking into this concept with an open mind.

Nicola Smuts Allsop, a fertility astrologer, uses astrology to help couples struggling with fertility issues. Through astrology, Smuts Allsop claims she is able to identify morphology/motility problems in the charts of men, as well as describe the condition and quantity of egg production in women. Furthermore, she believes she is able to select optimum times for couples to try IVF/other treatments – an average couple has up to three ‘lucky’ times a year.

What is infertility?

While this word may be bandied about often, the actual definition is more exact and can’t be referred to just as not being able to fall pregnant. Smuts Allsop explains: “Infertility means trying to conceive for more than a year, (or six months if you’re over 35), or already having a documented infertility issue like anovulation or Male Factor Infertility. Infertility is commonly defined as the inability to get pregnant, or maintain a pregnancy, after adequately trying for 12 months (and in some cases for a full six months) without medical assistance.”

Thirty percent of infertility cases are “undiagnosed” fertility issues. This means that while both partners are in physical health, they are not able to conceive either naturally or with medical intervention.

In addition to infertility, where couples struggle to fall pregnant, there is also secondary infertility. With this, a couple already has a child/children, but have problems falling pregnant again.

What causes infertility?

The causes of infertility are not always known and there are a number of factors that can contribute to infertility, with differing severity and implications. Among the causes can be the use of certain medications, pre-existing medical conditions, or even a lifestyle factor, such as stress.

Smuts Allsop notes: “My personal feeling is that women fall pregnant even under extreme circumstances. I’m not too sure there is a link between stress and infertility per se. However, low-grade stress over a long time may get a person into auto-immune territory where that can affect conception. There is evidence that women have fallen pregnant as a result of rape, or in warfare or under extreme circumstances, so the idea that stress alone is a factor seems too simplistic to me.”

How is infertility treated?

There are a number of ways that infertility can be treated, which can be based on the cause of the infertility if it has been identified. IVF is one of the more common medical ways of helping couples struggling with infertility fall pregnant. However, this can be a costly treatment. Smuts Allsop points out that in South Africa, it can range from between R25 000 to R50 000 per cycle.

“IVF is the original ‘test-tube’ baby technique. It was developed more than 30 years ago for the treatment of women with damaged Fallopian tubes, and this remains an important reason for treatment today,” says Smuts Allsop.

In addition, there is also artificial insemination (AI). The Cape Fertility Clinic, which offers a range of fertility treatments, explains: “AI can be done with the partner’s sperm or with donor’s sperm. Artificial insemination is often performed for mild male infertility, minimal or mild endometriosis, unexplained infertility and in combination with ovulation induction for ovulation problems.”

WebMD elaborates: “In artificial insemination, a doctor inserts sperm directly into a woman’s cervix, fallopian tubes, or uterus. The most common method is called “intrauterine insemination (IUI),” when a doctor places the sperm in the uterus.”

According to the Cape Fertility Clinic, treatment such as artificial insemination costs approximately R4000 – R8000 per cycle and for IVF approximately R40 000 – R50 000 per cycle.

Despite the high price tag, IVF and some of the other treatments, do not always work. Smuts Allsop notes: “According to statistics IVF is quoted as being 65-75% successful once three rounds have been completed. Sometimes the severity of the problem is insurmountable, at other times doctors are at a loss, as 30% of the time there are not adequate rational scientific reasons for conception not occurring. Medical science knows how to improve egg and embryo quality. We know little about implantation in the uterus (conception).

“Around two-thirds of IVF cycles don’t result in pregnancy, and this is partly because the implantation of a viable embryo remains a mystery to doctors, according to Milan Bagchi, head of the molecular and integrative physiology department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. While researchers have learned a lot about how to improve egg and embryo quality with diet and supplement modifications, as well as genetic testing to discard embryos with chromosomal abnormalities, there hasn’t been a comparable rise in knowledge.”

Astrology and infertility

According to Smuts Allsop, astrology teaches us that there is a time for everything. “It is seldom found that technology can manipulate our fate. We can use Astrology to identify the times when we are most likely to conceive and even then, there is no guarantee, just an increased chance of conception.”

She adds that astrology can be used to diagnose medical conditions that will inhibit fertility. “This is the most wonderful practical application of astrology; one’s physical health and condition of the uterus, number of eggs, condition of fallopian tubes and sperm count, morphology and motility, are visible in the chart.”

Smuts Allsop offers fertility astrology consultations either via Skype of face-to-face on three areas:

  1. Fertility consultation
  2. Relationship consultation
  3. Health and wellness consultation

Consultations cost £190 (about R3 200).

She will also be launching the Fertility Astrology app later this month, which cost R179 to download. The app works by using the methods Smuts Allsop uses in her consultations, to provide two or three astrologically lucky/fertile times in the year ahead.

So would ‘consulting the stars’ work?

Dr Gedis Grudzinskas is a gynaecologist and fertility specialist based in London. He met Smuts Allsop at a the Fertility Show, where he was intrigued by her stand. In an interview which can be found on YouTube, Grudzinskas says: “Astrology and fertility, of course it makes sense. I went over and we started to chat and it made more sense to be reminded that what goes on around us influences how we are in our health, especially our fertility. So Nicola and I started working together.”

Grudzinskas, as an academic and a medical professional, has looked at mechanisms and physiology and biology, and while we know a lot about these things, he notes that there are still things that we as human and/or doctors do not understand. “I was open to other ideas,” says Grudzinskas.

“I don’t believe, as others do, that astrology and related ancient arts are nonsense. Perhaps they are a window into helping us understand the new technologies and the challenges that we face,” adds Grudzinskas.

However, it’s not all hocus pocus and believing that the stars have all the answers. Grudzinskas points out that it all comes back to time and timeliness. “When Nicola guides a couple to a view that they are most likely to conceive at a particular time, say in one or two months’ time, within a timeframe of six to eight weeks, then the couple can make preparations.”

Among these preparations is the need to ensure they have distraction free time. They should also have resources available for their treatment cycle and make sure that everything is in place. This could include the cost of the treatment and determining a budget, as well as ensuring physical and emotional health for the treatment and the journey ahead.

“Nicola encourages couples to put their wish, their dream to start a family, within the concept of time so they are as best prepared as they can be, and that is very valuable,” highlights Grudzinskas.

(For more on Dr Grudzinskas’s interview about Nicole Smuts Allsop and her work as a fertility astrologist, click here)

*A local fertility specialist has been contacted, but had not responded at the time of publication. The article will be updated when a response is received.