To many couples, pregnancy seems like a simple matter—so simple that not getting pregnant is their chief concern. But after years of protected sex, men and women who decide they want children may discover that conception is a far more complex process than they realized.
Here’s an extremely simpliﬁed version of what must happen: First, a woman secretes several hormones—each at the correct time—that cause one of the eggs in her ovaries to mature and to be released into the fallopian tube. A man must then con- tribute enough sperm (tens of millions of them) that have the ability to travel up into the tube, where the egg is fertilized. The egg makes it way to the uterus and implants itself in the uterine wall. If anything goes wrong with any one of these events, the cou- ple will not conceive. Because the process is so complicated, it often takes a number of months of trying before a woman can become pregnant. But if a couple has had regular, unprotected sex for at least a year and still cannot conceive, the partners are considered infertile.
For the last few decades, the rate of infertility in the United States has increased. No hard statistics are available, but experts estimate that between 16 and 25 percent of all couples have serious difﬁculty getting pregnant. As with most other conditions that have been on the rise, many of today’s infertility cases can be attributed to lifestyle changes in the latter half of the twentieth century. Poor nutrition, stress, eating dis- orders, extremely intense exercise, and exposure to environmental toxins all take a grave toll on the body. When one or both members of a couple have weakened body systems, the chances increase that something will go awry in the conception process. People today also have more sex partners than they used to, and with increased sex- ual activity comes a greater risk of contracting diseases that damage the reproductive organs. Finally, many couples now choose to delay childbearing until their thirties or even forties, when a woman’s fertility begins to decline.
If you’re having trouble getting pregnant, it’s wise for both of you to take a break and spend a few months restoring and nourishing your bodies. Good nutrition, herbal supplementation, hormone-balancing protocols, and effective stress manage- ment help a great many couples conceive; these strategies will also increase the chances that your baby will be healthy. (Not to mention that you’ll need those stress- management techniques when you’re a parent!)
Hormone balance is particularly important for both sexes. We ﬁnd that women with infertility problems often have low ovulatory progesterone levels or low thyroid func- tion. Both of these hormones can be a limiting factor in conception. With men, low thyroid, as well as low testosterone, can be problematic.
Many couples are confused about when, during the woman’s menstrual cycle, con- ception can occur. It is important to understand that the best chance of conception is to have sexual relations one to two days before ovulation occurs, not on the day of ovulation. Over-the-counter LH (luteinizing hormone) test kits are readily available to help determine when ovulation is going to occur. This hormone rises approximately forty-eight hours before an egg is released (ovulation). Basal body temperature can also be used to determine ovulatory patterns. This method must be used over many months to determine when a woman ovulates. Many practitioners and books explain how to properly use this technique.
Although a lot of focus with fertility is on the female partner, keep in mind that studies show that approximately 40 percent of infertility cases are due to men’s sperm
abnormalities. These include low sperm count, decreased sperm motility, or abnor- mal sperm shape.
One or both of you may have an anatomical abnormality: for example, many women suffer from blocked fallopian tubes, often as a result of a chlamydia infection, and men may have a varicose vein of the testicle, called a varicocele. In many cases, these conditions can be treated with surgeries and procedures. Couples that can’t get pregnant in any other way may eventually consider in vitro fertilization, and an increasing number of women with ovary problems are turning to egg donors. Unfortunately, however, all the medical techniques in the world—complementary, conventional, and cutting-edge—can’t guarantee that every couple that wants a baby will conceive. Before you begin a series of invasive and expensive procedures, be sure to speak frankly with your doctor about the risks involved and the chances of success. And take heart: many people, exhausted from years of diagnostics and surgeries, give up trying—only to discover that they’ve f inally become relaxed enough to conceive.
• Failure to conceive after twelve months of regular, unprotected intercourse that is timed with ovulatory patterns.
Dozens of factors can cause infertility. Following are some of the most common.
• Poor nutrition and nutritional deﬁ- ciencies
• Sexually transmitted diseases
• Environmental toxins
• Congenital abnormalities
• Hormonal problems (especially
low thyroid or low progesterone)
• Medical conditions such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, varicocele
• Eating disorders, especially anorexia
• Overly intense exercise
• Toxic metals
In general, you should eat wholesome meals made with organic vegetables, grains, and soy products. Eat ﬁsh several times a week, but be sure it’s from a clean water source.
Vitamin E nourishes the endocrine system, so use cold-pressed nut and seed oils for cooking or as a base for salad dressings. Wheat germ is another good source of vitamin E; add it to smoothies, cereals, or salads.
Essential fatty acids promote gland health and are often lacking in people who fol- low radical low-fat diets. Incorporate cold-water ﬁsh, ﬂaxseeds, or ﬂaxseed oil into your meals daily.
Men should snack regularly on pumpkin seeds. They’re an excellent source of zinc, a nutrient that’s an important part of male reproductive ﬂuids.
The following tests help assess possible reasons for infertility:
Hormone testing (thyroid, DHEA, cortisol, testosterone, IGF-1, estrogen, progesterone)—saliva, blood, or urine
Ovulation pattern—ovulation kit
Vitamin and mineral analysis—blood
Anemia—blood test (CBC, iron, ferritin, % saturation)
Food and environmental allergies/sensitivities—blood, electrodermal
Toxic metals—hair analysis or urine
Eat vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, and other sources of ﬁber at every meal, and drink a glass of clean water every two waking hours. You’ll promote your overall health and sweep away toxins that may be suppressing your reproductive system.
In one study, 48 women from ages 23 to 39 who were diagnosed with infertility took Vitex supplement once daily for three months. During the trial, 7 women became pregnant and 25 women experienced nor- malized proges- terone levels, which, in theory, may increase the chances for con- ception.
Food to Avoid
Don’t eat anything that depresses body systems or causes nutrient depletion. Cut out reﬁned sugar and white ﬂour, along with fried or processed food.
Animal meats are loaded with chemicals that mimic the effects of estrogen, a hor- mone that in excess can decrease sperm count and fertility. If you must eat meat, make sure it’s organic.
Avoid alcohol, which reduces the number of normal sperm in men and generally weakens the health of both sexes.
Caffeine consumption has been linked to fertility problems, including miscarriage. Avoid coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, black and green teas, and pharmaceutical med- ications containing caffeine.
Drink puriﬁed water to avoid chlorine and other chemicals that may affect fertility.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Infertility
Super Prescription #1 Vitex agnus-castus (chasteberry)
Women should take 160 to 240 mg of a 0.6 percent aucubin extract each morning. Vitex stimulates the ovaries to ovulate and normalizes progesterone levels.
Super Prescription #2 Natural progesterone cream
Women should apply 1⁄4 teaspoon (20 mg) to the skin once daily. Make sure to start using this hormone after you ovulate. If you become pregnant, continue utilizing the progesterone until the third trimester or as directed by your doctor. Note: This treatment is best used under the guidance of a doctor who is knowledgeable about natural hormones.
Super Prescription #3 Vitamin C
Take 500 mg twice daily. Vitamin C prevents sperm agglutination in men and has been shown to be helpful with female infertility as well.
Super Prescription #4 Vitamin E
Take 400 IU daily. Animal and human studies have shown this vitamin to be impor- tant for fertility.
Super Prescription #5 L-arginine
Men should take 2,000 mg twice daily on an empty stomach. This amino acid has been shown to increase sperm quality and count.
Super Prescription #6 Panax ginseng
Men should take 300 mg of a product standardized to between 4 and 7 percent ginsenosides daily. This herb has been shown to increase sperm count and motility.
Super Prescription #7 Zinc
Men should take 30 mg twice daily, along with 3 to 5 mg of copper. Studies show that this mineral improves sperm quality, count, and motility.
L-carnitine or acetylcarnitine improves sperm motility. Take 1,500 mg twice daily.
Coenzyme Q10 improves sperm motility. Take 100 mg daily.
Selenium improves sperm motility. Take a daily total of at least 100 mcg.
A high-potency multivitamin provides a base of the nutrients that are important for fertility. Take as directed on the container.
Iron is important for women, if testing shows iron-deﬁciency anemia. Take 15 mg twice daily or as directed by your doctor.
PABA has been shown in studies to help women with chronic infertility. It is thought to improve the effects of estrogen. Take 100 mg four times daily, for up to seven months.
Vitamin B12 has been shown to increase sperm count. Men should take 1,500 mcg of oral B12 or 400 mcg of the sublingual form daily.
Consult a homeopathic practitioner for a constitutional remedy.
You may need to use these points on a daily basis for several months before you see results. For information about pressure points and administering treatment,
• Both men and women should work Bladder 23 and 47 to build up vitality and encourage conception.
• To stimulate general wellness and the effective absorption of nutrients, work
• If you need to relieve tension, use Lung 1. It will help you to breathe deeply and focus on the here and now.
See a qualiﬁed practitioner for regular treatments, as studies have shown this therapy to be helpful for improving female fertility.
In a study, 178 men with low sperm
counts or abnormal sperm function were given 4,000 mg of
L-arginine daily for at least 2 months. As a result, 62 percent of the men had a marked increase in sperm motility and count, and 28 pregnancies occurred. Researchers also noted that men with very low initial sperm counts, of less than 20 million per ml, did not have as beneﬁcial a response as men with higher counts did.
Massage won’t magically make you fertile, but it is relaxing, and it has the additional beneﬁt of stimulating blood ﬂow to your entire body, including to your reproductive organs and endocrine system.
See pages 686–687 for information about reﬂexology areas and how to work them.
Work all the gland points to regulate hormone production.
Women should work the areas corresponding to the reproductive system. These points will help stimulate blood supply to the pelvis and will help relieve blockages.
To clear blockages, men should work the areas corresponding to the testes and the prostate.
For relief of tension and stress, both sexes should work the diaphragm/solar plexus point.
Sitz baths, either hot or cold, will increase blood supply to the pelvic region.
Rose oil is said to improve sperm’s ability to travel through the female reproductive organs to a waiting egg. Although no one has veriﬁed this via scientiﬁc method, it cer- tainly can’t hurt to use a little rose in a massage oil or a bath, especially since the essence also has calming and sensuous qualities.
If months of trying to conceive have sapped you or your partner of sexual desire, try using ylang ylang, sandalwood, or patchouli in a bath or a massage. Each of these oils is a renowned aphrodisiac and promotes a sense of quiet relaxation.
Note: If you become pregnant, stop using essential oils.
Tension and stress, whether about fertility or any other issue, have long been linked to an inability to conceive. It doesn’t matter which stress-reduction technique you use, as long you ﬁnd one that works for you and employ it frequently.
Bach Flower Remedies
See the chart on pages 648–650 to ﬁnd the remedy that best suits your personality and tendencies. Once you’ve chosen a remedy, place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
Some people feel embarrassed or ashamed over an inability to conceive. Crab
Apple will help abate these feelings.
If you’ve tried conceiving for a few months and are already discouraged, take Gen- tian to regain your optimism.
Gorse will help people who feel that nothing will ever help them conceive. People who are completely exhausted from work, rounds of doctor’s appointments,
or anything else should take Olive.
If you blame yourself for not being able to conceive, take Pine for a more balanced view of the situation.
• Smoke can dramatically reduce your fertility and will also harm a growing fetus. If you’re trying to get pregnant, you must avoid smoke of all kinds.
• Exercise to improve your circulation and general health, but don’t overdo it.
People who overtrain ﬁnd it difﬁcult to conceive.
• Women who are obese need to focus on losing weight for optimal fertility. See the Obesity section.
• Men should know that sperm must stay relatively cool. That’s why the testicles are apart from the rest of the body, not inside it. If the testicles are heated, sperm may die or be damaged. Stay away from saunas and hot tubs, and don’t wear tight-ﬁtting underwear.
• After sex, a woman should lie in bed for ﬁfteen to twenty minutes with her knees up. To keep conception from seeming like a science project, the man should stay with her and hold her gently.