As an infertility blogger and advocate and director of an infertility based non-profit, I receive a lot of messages/e-mails in a day. The number one question I get asked is, “what can I do?” They want to get pregnant, have a beautiful full term baby and enjoy the newness of motherhood either again or for the first time. However, it’s not happening as they expected and they’re frustrated with a medical system that continually fails them. Unexplained infertility is on the rise. PCOS diagnoses is on the rise. It seems there are environmental factors at play preventing these women from conceiving that we can’t confidently identify yet. Knowledge is power so here are a few of the tips I suggest*:
*Note: I am not a doctor. I just know what has potential to help and I am sharing my own knowledge and advice based on my own experiences. Consult with your doctor or fertility physician before starting any of these.
SUPPLEMENTS and VITAMINS
- Chasteberry (Vitex)
The go-to herb for women’s issues for centuries, chasteberry is believed to help with fertility hormones via the pituitary gland. It helps increase progesterone production and helps increase the luteinizing hormone hormone (the hormone that triggers ovulation to occur). It’s used to treat mild endometriosis. chasteberry has also proven effective in regulating menstruation. If you lack a proper cycle, take chasteberry. If you’re irregular, take chasteberry. If you need to stabilize your period after coming off of birth control, take chasteberry! It also helps reduce cysts growing in the uterus. DO not use if taking hormone supplements. It could interfere.
- Evening Primrose Oil
Another great fertility aid, evening primrose oil (EPO) offers an array of help for fertility in women. For one, it helps improve overall uterine health and reduces inflammation and PMS symptoms. It also increases cervical mucous production- a vital key in helping sperm make their way home. Sperm need mucous to swim to the ovum. EPO is one of few plants that contain GLA: an omega 6 fatty acid, Gamma Linolenic Acid: a necessary acid required to make prostaglandin E. Prostaglandins are like messengers that tell the cells what to do and when. They are all over the body and therefore secretion is more immediate whereby it helps control the regulation of hormones. These same omega 6 fatty acids are believed to have a direct effect on the uterine cells. It helps the uterine muscle contract and relax, essentially toning and preparing itself for pregnancy. DO not use after ovulation. Natural Fertility Info suggests 1500-3000mg 1-2x a day for cycle days 1-14 if you are actively trying to conceive.
- Red Raspberry Leaf
Raspberries are delicious but their leaves have immense benefit for the body as well. The leaves are rich in carotendoids, citric acid, vitamins A, B complex, C and E and fragrine; this contributes to its delightful capabilities as a uterine tonic, as an astringent to stop heaving menstrual bleeding, and an aid boost egg quality and nutritional deficiencies. A nutrient rich uterus is far more liable to conceive and carry a healthy baby. It’s also good for uterine trauma: if you’re recovering from a surgery red raspberry leafs healing and toning properties will help in the recovery.
Recommendations show drinking 1 cup, 1-3x a day HOWEVER because of its effect on the uterine muscles, if you have a history of miscarriages or a weak uterus and are wanting to conceive, start drinking this 3-6 months PRIOR to prepare your body and uterus for pregnancy. Similarly, do not drink after cycle day 14 if actively trying to conceive.
There are many other vitamins and supplements you can take such as nettle leaf, fish oil, dandelion and folate but I would be here all day with you explaining them. I chose these three because I believe they are the most effective and beneficial for immediate fertility health. Consult your physician to discuss which course of action is best for you and your diagnosis.
The food we put in our body is a big factor to our health, obviously! If you’re eating a lot of greasy, deep fried foods with little to no water and no nutrient dense meals each day, your body won’t give you a baby. We need a variety of fruits, vegetables and proteins combined with lots of water to give our body the optimal nutrition needed. If PCOS is your diagnosis, I strongly suggest seeing a nutritionist to discuss a change in your eating plan. No doubt that person will tell you to eliminate inflammatory foods such as diary, sugar and wheat. Inflammation wreaks havoc on the body. Eliminate the foods that cause you bloating, discomfort, swelling, sore joints etc. for optimal health. Also, eat for the seasons. This was impressed upon me by my homeopath and Carly Rae, a pelvis care specialist and they were both right. It is hard on our bodies to break down cold foods and it’s even harder in winter months. Our bodies work in overdrive to digest these cold foods. It’s suggested you focus on warming the body. In winter months, eat a lot of soups, stews and warming spices like cinnamon and turmeric. Drink golden milks and avoid raw foods (which are also hard on the body to digest). In summer months, eat foods that are in season and cooler. Follow the foods of the seasons and see if that impacts your nutritional health.
This is tough because we all know that conception sex when you’ve been struggling to conceive is ugly and lifeless. We wait til the ovulation test says GO and we mechanically get the job done. But Aimee Raupp, an infertility specialist in NY, suggests having sex three times a week, EVERY week. A lot, I know but hear me (or her!) out. Our bodies see sperm as invaders. It’s actually quite crazy how a baby is even conceived when the body does whatever it can to prevent the sperm from meeting the egg. There’s follicles along the fallopian tubes to trap them. There’s a current they must swim against. There’s two routes to choose with only one having the egg. The egg isn’t easily penetrable. Needless to say, it’s a treacherous journey. With constant sex though, we prime our bodies to be more hospitable to those sperms.
Again, this is tricky. You could be in the midst of your journey where you stiff star-fish and hubby gets the job done because you’re sick of trying or maybe you’re one of many women who can’t orgasm. But the studies are there and they’re screaming loudly that female orgasm helps conception. The contraction of the uterus during an orgasm helps move the sperm up faster, getting more of them to the egg for optimal penetration (during ovulation of course). Another study showed that when women had their orgasm 45 minutes after male ejaculation (45 minutes though? Does that actually happen?!-just sayin’) there was still significant sperm retention. The retention was even greater when the woman climaxed one minute before her partner (that sounds more like it!). Basically, get your freak on and get it on often and with lots of orgasms. Fellas, take note.
THINGS TO AVOID
Take a look in your bath tub or medicine cabinet. Look in your make up drawer and under the kitchen skin. Check the ingredients in your products. The products we use affect our health. If your shampoo is loaded with parabens and phthalates, change them. If your cleaning product ingredient label are words you can’t pronounce, ditch them. The internet is riddled with homemade, effective cleaning solutions. More and more companies are exploding into the market that are all natural and safe. It only takes six seconds for a product applied on our skin to get into our blood stream. Many mainstream products are essentially poison. Sodium Lauryl Sulfates (and variations of it) are in many products, usually as the number one ingredient after water, (ingredient labels are labelled in order of highest to lowest concentration), and is what gives us “lather.” It’s a known skin irritant and there’s strong link to hormonal imbalances (not good for the woman with fertility/reproductive issues!) among other issues such as poor eye development in children. If you are unsure about the product you’re using, download the app Think Dirty or check with the EWG.org website. Ditch the chemicals and spend the extra time and money on finding products that enhance your health, not endanger it.
To maximize fertility, there are a few other options to consider. Fertility acupuncture is available. Chiropractic techniques can help in aiding fertility. Massage for promoting circulation and fertility are viable and relaxing options too. If your period colour is a deep burgundy red, your circulation is poor. You should have periods that are an oxygenated bright red colour. If it’s not, see your doctor or a homeopath or naturopath. Homeopaths and Naturopaths offer a completely different approach as well. My homeopath helped me strength my uterine lining, oxygenate my blood and ensure my nutrition was on the right track. Yoga for fertility is also an option. There are a lot of videos and practitioners willing to do sequences to maximize uterine health. Arvigo Techniques Maya Abdomnal Therapy (ATMAT) is another modality to consider. It’s a massage technique designed to align the internal organs and the uterus in their proper place. It improves the flow of fluids and energy and releases physical and emotional congestion. Look for a provider near you. If you’re in the Saskatoon area, I highly recommend Carly Rae for this. Perhaps if your infertility is unexplained; I would suggest a reiki session. It's an energy modality that helps release emotional and physical blocks and channel positive, universal energy that can work wonders on the physical body.
I hope this blog post leaves you feeling educated, empowered and inspired to take different actions. There’s much we can do for our bodies if we only have the knowledge and wherewithal to do it. Some are financially feasible while others may require some saving on your part, especially if you don’t have benefits. Some changes are difficult (what do you mean give up ice cream and cheesy buns?) and some may seem simple (ok, I can have a cup a tea today). Whatever you decide to do with this information, make sure you consult with your doctor. If you have a diagnosis already, much of this information may be futile to you. If it’s unexplained, this could be very beneficial. However, knowledge is power. Take this power and take control of your fertility.