A Sydney fertility expert who was diagnosed with both early menopause and endometriosis has shared how she used Chinese medicine to increase her chances of conceiving a baby in her thirties.
Kim Gatenby, 35, has always hoped to be a mother one day but was ‘devastated’ after physicians said her ovarian reserve was very low in January 2018 and her chances of conception were slim.
‘I cried and I cried because all I ever wanted was to have kids, which in my eyes at the time was unlikely to happen,’ Kim told FEMAIL.
But despite hearing the news, she soon realised she could harness her knowledge on fertility to boost her ovarian egg quality through acupuncture, Chinese medicine and a change in diet.
It wasn’t until early 2020 that Kim decided to utilise intrauterine insemination (IUI) to have a child on her own through a sperm donor and she is currently 19 weeks pregnant.
Kim Gatenby (pictured) has always hoped to be a mother one day but was ‘devastated’ after physicians said her ovarian reserve was very low in January 2018 and her chances of conception were slim
Kim’s symptoms for both the endometriosis and egg insufficiency overlapped but were diagnosed years apart.
In 2016 at the age of 31, she started experiencing severe pain in her abdomen along with heavy periods, blood clotting and pain down her legs that made her feet feel numb.
She wasn’t aware at the time but these were symptoms of endometriosis and it wasn’t officially diagnosed until January 2020.
‘Endometriosis can take up to ten years to be diagnosed, so I had years of symptoms before my official diagnosis,’ she said.
Kim explained she had to push for more tests to be done in 2017 as her doctor originally believed nothing was wrong.
‘Upon investigating the symptoms, doctors discovered I had premature ovarian insufficiency when I was 32,’ she said, meaning her biological clock was ticking fast.
‘I was devastated, but quickly got over the grieving process and took matters into my own hands.’
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that forms the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterine cavity
Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue grows on the ovaries, bowel, and tissues lining your pelvis
- painful periods
- pain in the lower abdomen before and during menstruation
- cramps one or two weeks around menstruation
- heavy menstrual bleeding or bleeding between periods
- pain following sexual intercourse
- discomfort with bowel movements
- lower back pain that may occur at any time during your menstrual cycle
What is premature ovarian insufficiency?
Premature ovarian insufficiency is also known as early menopause
In early menopause, the ovaries don’t produce normal amounts of the hormone oestrogen or release eggs regularly, so infertility is common as a result
But it’s possible a woman with this condition could get pregnant with treatment
- Irregular or skipped periods
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Dry eyes
- Irritability or difficulty concentrating
- Decreased sexual desire
Source: Mayo Clinic
Kim’s symptoms for both the endometriosis and egg insufficiency overlapped but were diagnosed years apart. ‘Upon investigating the symptoms, doctors discovered I had premature ovarian insufficiency when I was 32,’ she said, meaning her biological clock was ticking fast
As she has 14 years of experience working as a Doctor of Chinese medicine, she opted to treat herself to prolong her ability to conceive and ‘boost the egg quality’ as much as possible.
Kim first went her GP to determine if her ovaries were still functioning by testing how low her AMH (anti-mullerian hormone) level was – a hormone known to indicate a woman’s ovarian reserve.
After discovering her AMH level was very low at 1.3, she used acupuncture, supplements, natural products and changed her diet to increase this number and the function of her ovaries.
An optimum AMH level is around three, but anything higher is desired.
As she has 14 years of experience working as a Doctor of Chinese medicine, she opted to treat herself to prolong her ability to conceive and ‘boost the egg quality’ as much as possible
Kim changed her diet completely and excluded gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol and caffeine from her lifestyle – which reduced the inflammation caused by her endometriosis
‘It’s all about preconception care, so I took the right supplements that supported the egg quality – such as Vitamin D, antioxidants and coQ10,’ she said.
Kim changed her diet completely and excluded gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol and caffeine from her lifestyle – which reduced the inflammation caused by her endometriosis.
She also started wearing natural makeup and used natural products, including laundry powder and dishwashing liquid, to maximise her chances of enhancing fertility.
‘It really allowed my body to work better; my periods got better and I kept monitoring my AMH levels,’ she said.
Through this change in diet she managed to boost her AMH levels up to 5.4 within the first year, which she was very happy with and then monitored this annually.
What is Chinese medicine and how did Kim use it boost her fertility?
Chinese herbal medicine is part of a larger healing system called traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which also includes acupuncture, massage dietary advice and exercise
This type of treatment is a popular method, with nearly three million Australians visiting Chinese medicinal practitioners every year
The underlying principles of Chinese medicine are very different from traditional Western notions about health, illness and the workings of the body
Chinese herbs are prescribed to normalise imbalanced energy, or Qi (pronounced ‘chee’), that runs through invisible meridians in the body
Whether or not the philosophy is believed, studies have shown Chinese herbal medicines to be successful in treating a range of disorders
For Kim’s condition, she used acupuncture to target her ovaries and kidney function, as the kidneys are considered to be related to conditions such as endometriosis in Chinese medicine
She took supplements and herbal medicine, including Vitamin D and coQ10 to help boost her immune system
Kim also changed her diet and stopped consuming gluten, diary, sugars, alcohol and caffeine to better her chances at conceiving a baby
Kim also did acupuncture on herself, which she does regularly, to target the ovaries and kidneys through the lower abdomen.
In Chinese medicine, she said endometriosis is known as a ‘blood stagnation’, which is often driven by a kidney deficiency.
It wasn’t until the end of 2019 that Kim decided to visit a Sydney IVF clinic with the hope to collect a certain number of eggs to freeze.
But after having an ultrasound the doctor told Kim she only had two follicles in her ovaries and a maximum of two eggs.
As a result, she decided to instead have an intrauterine insemination (IUI) cycle with the aim to conceive a child through a sperm donor.
Due to COVID-19 there were a few ‘setbacks’ but Kim became pregnant in June 2020.
At the end of 2019, Kim decided to visit a Sydney IVF clinic with the hope to collect a certain number of eggs to freeze. But she opted to have an intrauterine insemination (IUI) cycle with the aim to conceive a child through a sperm donor
Kim is now 19 weeks pregnant and is ‘very happy’ her drastic lifestyle changes paid off. She hopes her story can inspire and empower other singe women or single mums to consider sperm donors if wanting to become a mum
Kim is now 19 weeks pregnant and is ‘very happy’ her drastic lifestyle changes paid off.
She hopes her story can inspire and empower other singe women or single mums to consider sperm donors if wanting to become a mum.
To assist other women, Kim has created a four-week online program tailored to women who want to maximise their fertility potential naturally, called Supercharge Your Fertility.
Kim’s advice to other women who are experiencing endometriosis or early menopause
– work on your fertility now and preconception care
– aim to have a healthy reproductive cycle now if you want a baby later in life
– if you find out you only have a short amount of time to conceive, consider all the options
– get the right support and advice from the right professionals
– always seek professional advice