1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility. Did you know that your overall health can have a significant impact on your fertility?
Meet Ashley Florestal, founder of Fertilitae, a licensed Naturopathic Doctor with a focus on women’s health and fertility. Ashley has a clinical practice where she helps patients who want to prepare for pregnancy, are struggling to conceive and preparing to invest in IVF. Ashley helps her patients get into their best health prior to conception ensure the best outcomes. Ashley also created the Fertilitae app to help increase access to fertility wellness and help more people.
About Fertilitae: Fertilitae helps you reach optimal prepregnancy health by providing tools and education through the Fertilitae app. Our mission is to give everyone the tools for the best possible reproductive outcomes.
What was your thought process behind starting Fertilitae?
As a practitioner with a clinical focus in fertility wellness, I help individuals and couples that are struggling to conceive. The current prevalence of infertility is at an all time high of 15% worldwide. This steady increase in infertility, together with the large knowledge gaps in fertility wellness, led to the birth of Fertilitae.
Fertility support by a medical professional is only warranted after a diagnosis of infertility has been made, which is defined as an inability to coneveie after 1 year (or more) of unprotected sex. After the diagnosis, people are directed to consult with a fertility clinic, often having long waitlists, and taking several months before any medical interventions. Time is especially precious in fertility health and there is so much that can be done during this “waiting time” to optimize fertility and increase chances of conception.
Women are born with a fixed number of oocytes (or eggs). As we age, both quantity and quality of eggs decreases, and while we cannot change the amount of eggs, we can optimize the quality of eggs – something that I think is very important while women are waiting to see a fertility doctor, or in between fertility treatments.
The impact of nutrition and lifestyle interventions (together with other modalities of functional medicine) can have profound effects on fertility health, improving chances of a successful pregnancy or IVF cycle.
This is what I do with my patients on a daily basis, and is also something I am so passionate about. I wanted to bring this service to more people so I created Fertilitae – an app that allows me to minimize the gaps in care and bring fertility wellness and education from my office, to the comfort of your own home, and at an affordable price.
How can women be more open about their fertility?
Fertility can be a sensitive subject but I think we have come a long way with spreading awareness about infertility. It (delete it)
Fertility is a sensitive subject for many, especially for those that have been struggling to conceive, or for those that have miscarried, and everyone else in between. I think there is a lot more awareness of infertility, and the subject of fertility health is much less taboo nowadays. Sharing your journey with others that have similar experiences, and talking about fertility challenges can be extremely therapeutic. There are many online support groups that connect women from all over the world to discuss shared experiences, and offer each other support, and a listening ear.
I think women should be the ones to decide when to share their pregnancy news – and this is a discussion I have with many of my incredible patients. Society tells couples that they are supposed to wait 3 months before sharing their pregnancy news with others. This often leads to women feeling isolated, anxious and unsupported in their fertility journey. I think sharing our fertility experiences (both good and bad) is key to healing from our past and moving forward.
Should women look into their fertility in their early ages before they even think of conceiving? How can they do this?
It is my role to provide my patients with the knowledge, and empower them to take responsibility for their own health. I think it is important for all women to have knowledge of their menstrual cycle, as it is a pillar of overall health and wellness. In depth fertility testing and assessment can be a source of stress for many – however tracking your cycle is a great place to start. Women can obtain so much information on overall health and hormonal health from cycle tracking – and it’s easy!
Pre-pregnancy health status can impact chances of conceiving, pregnancy, and the health of your baby after they’re born. It is important to get into your best health prior to pregnancy – ideally beginning 9-12 months prior to conception.
I highly recommend seeking support from a functional medicine doctor, of whom will perform a thorough assessment, and identify and treat the underlying cause of imbalance or dysfunction. The Fertilitae app is a great place to start as well – upon completion of the fertility assessment, you will receive a very thorough wellness plan that covers all domains from supplements to nutrition to physical activity, and more.
What has been some of your greatest stories involving you as a fertility wellness practitioner ?
I have had the pleasure of working with so many incredible individuals in my clinical practice, and have so many great stories. However, my greatest stories involve the cases in which women were told they are unable to conceive. A little bit of investigative work to identify the root cause can go a very long way, especially in this field of work. I feel so grateful to have a job that is so fulfilling, and allows me to form such deep and strong connections with my patients. The ability to be a part of their fertility journey is the cherry on top.
Do you have any tips for fertility?
- Track your cycle. This allows you to truly understand your body, symptoms and be in-tune with yourself.
- Be proactive about your fertility health. Menstrual irregularities should be dealt with as soon as symptoms arise. Preconception care should begin one year before conception – this would include supplementation with a prenatal, optimizing nutrition, exercise, and avoiding environmental toxins.
- Set yourself up for success. For those planning to conceive later on, testing hormones and egg reserve provides more insight and options for the future.
What are the common myths people have about fertility?
- “Pregnancy can occur at any time throughout your cycle”. A woman is only fertile for 12-14 hours, and there are only 6 days of her cycle in which pregnancy can occur.
- “Infertility is mostly a female issue”. At this time, ⅓ of infertility cases are caused by female-factor infertility, ⅓ are caused by male factor infertility, and the remaining third are due to idiopathic causes.
- “The menstrual period is the main event of the cycle”. Ovulation is the main event – it is ovulation that is required for conception, dictates the start of the next menstrual period, and is responsible for the production of progesterone.
Can we really help our fertility or is it something naturally. Meaning you either are fertile or you’re not or as much.
There are several ways one can improve fertility, using a natural and holistic approach. Dietary and lifestyle factors play a major role in fertility health, and are also domains that individuals have control over. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are also many aspects of the fertility journey that are out of our control.
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
I am most proud of the progress I’ve made with Fertilitae. It started off as a fertility wellness course. That didn’t feel big enough for me, so I decided to take a leap of faith, turn it into an app and pitch to investors. This journey has been a rollercoaster – full of ups and downs, many losses and rejections, but also many wins and celebrations. I’ve learned that entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Some days are hard, and I question myself and this journey. I think it’s important to have a strong “reason” – because it’s what gets me through those hard days.
How do you balance work life?
This is a work in progress for me. I strongly believe a good work-life balance is a key component of a successful company. At this moment, I am in charge of every department, and I need to put in the extra work – that means working weekends and evenings, temporarily. I prioritize sleep, exercise and nutrition – these factors are non-negotiable and provide me with the energy I need to show up everyday, at my best.
Do you believe in destiny or do you think you can control your fate?
I believe in a little bit of both. I believe the universe will guide you to the right path when you put the right energy out there. When you have the right mindset, I think the universe will continue to present opportunities. However, I think it is up to the individual to take charge of the opportunities that arise. A mentor of mine once told me that if you leave everything up to others (the universe), you are not carving your own path. This entrepreneurial journey has taught me so many lessons – but one that I will hold on to forever is that although you can’t control everything, you definitely have the means to carve your own path, and fate.
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