07/20/2012 07:44 EDT | Updated 09/19/2012 05:12 EDT

Making Yourself More Fertile -- the Natural Way


It's no secret that women today are waiting longer to have children. This naturally decreases the opportunity for spontaneous pregnancy, especially for women in their mid- to late-thirties, leaving many couples seeking treatment for infertility.

The cause of infertility, when sought, appears to vary equally between the sexes, but can be related to structural abnormalities, hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies or many other reasons. While there are medical options for fertility treatment, ranging from drugs that boost ovulation to advanced methods such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), they can be high in costs and not without side effects. Fortunately, there are viable, safe, and effective natural options to support and boost your fertility.

Balance your nutrition:

Good nutrition is essential for optimal body function, hormonal balance, sperm and egg production and the process of reproduction. Processed foods, caffeine, trans fatty acids, excess saturated fats and larger fish that are high in mercury should be avoided.

A Spanish study found that men who had a much higher intake of processed meat and high-fat dairy experienced reduced sperm counts. But it wasn't just what the men with normal sperm counts didn't eat that made their sperm better. It's also what they did eat, which was more fruits, vegetables and skim milk. The researchers postulated that the antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables may help protect sperm from damage.

In women, obesity is a known risk factor for ovulation problems, but it also contributes to infertility in women who ovulate normally, according to a study published in Human Reproduction. Researchers found that a woman with a BMI of 35 was found to be 26 per cent less likely to achieve a spontaneous pregnancy than women who were normal weight. Whereas a woman with a BMI of 40 or more was 43 per cent less likely to get pregnant. Achieving a healthy weight, may not only reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease, but also increase your chances of conceiving.

Detox your body:

Our liver, kidneys and intestines are the body's natural cleaning team. They all work together to package toxic compounds for removal. Over time, the function of these organs, especially the liver, can be compromised by illness, poor nutrition, stress, pollution or toxic lifestyle habits (e.g.: drugs, alcohol or tobacco). When the clean-up process is not being carried out as it should, toxic by-products cannot be properly neutralized.

As a result, toxic compounds from the liver are reabsorbed and stored in the fatty tissues of the body rather than excreted. As you would expect, this toxic build-up leads to a dramatic increase in long-term health risks -- and it doesn't leave us feeling our best in the short term either. Complaints such as headaches, weight gain, acne, PMS, infertility and poor memory often arise when our detox organs are in need of some support.

In fact, toxins such as glues, volatile organic solvents or silicones, physical agents, chemical dusts, and pesticides can have an impact on fertility. Tobacco smokers are 60 per cent more likely to be infertile than non-smokers. Smoking reduces the chances of IVF producing a live birth by 34 per cent and increases the risk of an IVF pregnancy miscarrying by 30 per cent.

To jumpstart your fertility, remove all environmental toxins hanging out in your bathroom, kitchen or medicine cupboard. These include:

• Products containing artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, etc.) or high-fructose corn syrup

• Vegetable oil, shortening, margarine, cottonseed oil; anything containing partially hydrogenated oils; products containing trans fats

• Processed and packaged foods that contain lots of preservatives, loads of sodium and few nutrients, e.g.: prepared pasta side dishes

• Cosmetic and skincare products containing methyl parabens, propyl parabens, formaldehyde, imidazolidinyl urea, methylisothiazolinone, propylene glycol, paraffin, isopropyl alcohol, and sodium lauryl sulphate

Add a little acupuncture:

With its focus on harmonizing energy flow and achieving a balance of yin and yang energies, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been used for thousands of years to assist with male and female fertility. Interestingly, TCM philosophies claim that the vitality of the mother and the father at conception forms the foundation of the baby's wellness for life.

Acupuncture treatments stimulate the flow of "Qi" (energy), while Chinese herbs work to strengthen and nourish vital body fluids and the function of internal organs. TCM can be particularly useful for endometriosis, menstrual irregularities and pain and to improve sperm production and motility. Acupuncture is also beneficial with IVF treatments. A German study indicated that adding acupuncture to the treatment protocol of IVF patients greatly enhanced their chance of becoming pregnant. In the study, doctors chose acupuncture points that relax the uterus according to the principles of TCM. Because acupuncture influences the autonomic nervous system, researchers gathered that treatment should optimize endometrial receptivity.

Hone in on herbs:

Herbs may regulate the menstrual cycle, increase ovulation and improve hormonal balance vital for fertility. The most commonly used herbs to enhance fertility in women are donq quai, wild yam, black cohosh, chaste tree, false unicorn, licorice and red raspberry leaf.

Remember that PMS, a sign of hormonal imbalance, should be addressed early to avoid potential complications with conception or afterwards in menopause. Men can also use herbal medicines to improve hormone profiles. In some cases, saw palmetto, oats and tribulus are beneficial because of their effects on testosterone. It is always best to consult a naturopathic doctor that specializes in fertility before beginning a supplement plan.