Infertility is one of the most heartbreaking things that any couple could ever go through. It’s emotionally draining, and it can put a real strain on a relationship. In addition, the options for treating infertility are so numerous that they can be confusing and overwhelming. The cost of conventional therapies can be prohibitive as well, increasing stress levels even more. Let’s look at the facts behind the causes of infertility and discuss some natural solutions for infertility.
The focus of this article will be from a natural medicine perspective. There are options available that I am not going to delve into because I do not believe they are safe or wise choices. I’m referring mainly to fertility drugs. The dangers of these medications are well documented, both to the parents and the children. Many have been linked to reproductive cancers and other conditions in the parents and developmental concerns with the babies. I personally would not be comfortable taking such risks with my life and the lives of others, and I will not recommend these drugs to others. Now that I have set the stage, let’s get started.
What is Infertility?
Infertility is defined as the inability of a man and a woman to conceive a child through intercourse after trying on a regular basis for one full year. Therapies to overcome infertility may focus on the man, the woman, or both. If neither partner has ever conceived, it is called “primary infertility.” If either or both have conceived in the past, the infertility is known as “secondary.”
How Common is Infertility?
Well, according to statistics, 20-25% of all couples are infertile at any given time. This figure has increased over the last 30 years or so. Currently, more than five million people of childbearing age in the United States — or one in every 10 couples — experience issues with infertility. The explanation for this is not certain, but theories abound. It is commonly attributed to sociological changes in our society, such as the trend for folks to marry later and often put off having children. It is a known fact that infertility increases with age. Other factors may be that the increased frequency of premarital sex and sex with multiple partners has led to a greater incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). STDs can cause many issues, including pelvic inflammatory disease and scarring that can make conception difficult or impossible. STDs can also negatively affect the production of healthy sperm in males. Abortion is also an issue. In many cases, women who have aborted a baby can have complications that make subsequent pregnancies problematic. Researchers also believe that the use of an intrauterine device (IUD) for contraception can cause a greater risk for pelvic inflammatory disease, leading to issues with conception.
Infertility is an equal opportunity health condition. In general, the concern is attributed to the man about 40% of the time, to the woman about 40% of the time, and the “blame” is shared about 20% of the time.
What Are the Main Causes of Infertility?
Let’s take a look at the most common male factors first. They are all related to the condition of the sperm. The number of sperm and their health is critical to a successful conception:
- Sperm Count: This is a test whereby a sample of semen is taken and analyzed in the lab. The number of sperm produced is determined. A normal sperm count is over 20 million per ml of semen. A count of 5-20 million is subfertile. Anything less than 5 million is considered infertile.
- Sperm motility is also examined. They are examined to determine if they are structurally able to “swim” normally.
- It is normal for up to 25% of sperm in a given sample to be “abnormal”. Anything more than that can cause fertility concerns.
- The amount of semen is also looked at. Either too much or too little can cause issues.
If an abnormality with the sperm is found, it may be attributed to many factors: damage from an STD (either past or present), structural abnormalities in the male reproductive organs, or an endocrine imbalance. Some suggested therapies include:
- Treating any current infections from an STD.
- Having intercourse less often so that the sperm count has a chance to build up
- Timing intercourse so that the woman is ovulating. This will make better use of the available healthy sperm.
- In some cases, it has been determined that a woman is allergic to the man’s sperm and actually develops an antibody against it. One suggested therapy is for the couple to have intercourse for 30 days using a condom. This may lower the woman’s resistance to the man’s sperm.
When considering possible causes of infertility from the female perspective, the place to begin is with ovulation. Ovulation can be confirmed using a monthly chart to record daily body temperature. A woman’s temperature is slightly higher at the time of ovulation. If this seems to be working properly, the next step is a test to validate the findings. A hormone called “luteinizing hormone” (LH) is released into the urine just prior to ovulation. If LH is found, ovulation has successfully occurred.
There are surgical options for both males and females to attempt correction of physiological concerns such as blocked fallopian tubes, fibroid tumors, or structural abnormalities that prevent either gender from successfully causing a pregnancy. Most of these are quite invasive, and the results are not as good as one might hope for taking such risks. ANY surgery is risky, especially when you are put under anesthesia. Many mistakes are made every year. I would be extremely careful about decisions regarding surgery. They are also not generally covered by health insurance and can be very pricey. Let’s take a look at some of the non-invasive or minimally invasive options available for couples:
This is a procedure that involves collecting the semen and placing it, by means of a syringe, into the woman’s cervix to coincide with ovulation. From here, it may have an easier journey into the fallopian tubes, where fertilization occurs. Sometimes, when the man’s sperm is weak or low in number, multiple samples of sperm are inserted into the cervix together to increase the chances of conception.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
The eggs and sperm are removed from the couple’s bodies and fertilized in a petri dish in the lab. The embryo is then inserted into the uterus. Children who are conceived this way are referred to as “test-tube babies.” This procedure is very expensive, and the success rate is only a mere 20%.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection
ICSI is another option whereby a single sperm is injected into an egg to stimulate fertilization. This is a variation of IVF, so the expense is even greater, and the chances of success are still very poor.
Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer
GIFT involves placing sperm and eggs directly into the fallopian tubes. Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT) is a variation of GIFT where the embryo is fertilized in vitro and then inserted into the fallopian tubes. Both GIFT and ZIFT require a minimally invasive incision into the abdomen.
What Are Some Natural Solutions for Infertility?
There are many natural solutions for infertility that can be used to attempt to help the body increase its own chances of successful conception.
Cleanse Your Body
A clean body is not only important for conception but also for a healthy baby. I highly suggest that both husband and wife perform colon cleansing, liver and gallbladder cleansing, and parasite cleansing. It’s important to use methods to prevent pregnancy while cleansing the body.
Healthy Diet – Foundational
A healthy diet is the foundational natural solution for infertility. Follow a healthy plant-based diet that is heavy on nutrient-rich foods like fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Stay away from junk food, refined sugar, and pre-packaged and processed foods. Drink ample amounts of pure, clean water every day. Couples should also re-evaluate their lifestyle habits. Studies have shown that such habits as alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine decrease the chances of getting pregnant.
Restful Sleep, Exercise & Stress
Get plenty of restful sleep and daily exercise. It is extremely important to deal with stress through relaxation, meditation, EFT, walks in nature, sunshine, massage, or a warm bath. This kind of healthy living produces optimal health, and it gives all of the body’s systems a chance to perform at their best, including the reproductive system.
Ditch the Briefs
Another issue is tight-fitting underwear for men. This creates a less than friendly atmosphere for healthy sperm production. Ditch the briefs, guys, and go with boxer shorts.
Saunas, Steam Rooms, Whirlpools
It is also highly recommended that couples avoid saunas, steam rooms, or whirlpools. High temperatures in these environments will kill sperm.
Natural Solutions For Infertility – Nutritional Supplements & Herbs
If you are working with a healthcare practitioner who knows your health history, I recommend going over the following natural solutions for infertility with him/her before implementing them.
Natural Vitamin E
Vitamin E (non-synthetic; mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols) can help prevent reproductive damage in both genders. It increases sperm count and sperm motility. It can support healthy hormone balance in women.
Natural USP Progesterone Cream
Natural USP Progesterone Cream is bio-identical to the progesterone that your body makes. Nature provides bioidentical progesterone to both men and women alike, synthesized from the Mexican wild yam root or the soy plant to balance and offset the powerful effects of estrogen dominance — often a factor in infertility. Low progesterone levels have also been found to cause miscarriage. Progesterone maintains the lining of the uterus and makes it possible for a fertilized egg to attach and survive. You can boost your progesterone levels and increase fertility by using a natural USP progesterone cream. Also, USP progesterone does not come with the difficult side-effects of synthetic progestin therapy. Before using USP progesterone cream, I suggest performing a saliva test to measure your sex hormone levels and cortisol levels. This testing provides you with a baseline and can also indicate whether or not your progesterone levels are high enough to sustain a pregnancy.
Iodine Therapy can help with thyroid issues (hormonal imbalance) and cysts. Iodine also supports healthy hormone balance.
Research indicates that even moderate iodine deficiencies may lessen the chances of getting pregnant. Extreme iodine deficiencies can lead to miscarriage. Mildly low iodine levels in pregnant women are linked to considerable oxidative stress, which reduces the body’s ability to break down free radicals. This can lead to complications which include preeclampsia, gestational diabetes mellitus, and preterm birth.
Iodine deficiency can also be a factor in developing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS causes cysts or benign growths to develop in the ovaries and can negatively impact overall hormone balance.
RELATED: Iodine for Health and Wellness
Vitamin C prevents reproductive damage in men and women. A 2012 study revealed that just 1 in 4 men have optimal semen quality. By some estimates, sperm counts around the world may have dropped by 50% since the 1930s. Vitamin C also may increase sperm count.
Carnitine is an important transporter molecule whose function is to carry high-energy fat compounds into mitochondria, where they are “burned” to release their energy. This helps provide sperm the boost they need if they are going to have a chance at fertilizing an egg. This becomes very important because weakly-swimming sperm (asthenozoospermia) is one of the most important reasons for male infertility.
Folic acid has shown itself to help increase fertility in infertile women. Folic acid may help improve progesterone levels and provide a lower risk of irregular ovulation. It may also increase sperm count in men. In a prospective cohort study of 232 women, live birth rates in women undergoing IVF were 20% higher among women with the highest amount of supplemental folate intake (>800 mcg/day) compared to women taking the lowest amount (<400 mcg/day). This study also suggested that folate supplementation was superior to dietary folate.
Adequate B-complex is necessary for fertility. Research suggests that women who consumed at least 10 mg of vitamin B6 before they conceived reported less morning sickness than those who didn’t.
Some studies show that taking supplements of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) may help with both female and male infertility. Preliminary animal data has suggested that the addition of CoQ10 may improve egg quality in ‘old’ mice. The correlating human study is ongoing. There is also evidence that CoQ10 can increase sperm count.
Plant-based selenium can stimulate sperm count and motility. It also decreased the percentage of abnormal sperm in infertile men.
Herbs for Infertility
Ashwaganda – Studies suggest that ashwagandha may improve male fertility by boosting testosterone levels. One study in men with low sperm cell counts showed that taking 675 mg of ashwagandha root extract daily for three months significantly improved fertility.
Chasteberry – Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus) supports hormone balance in both men and women. Irregular menstrual cycles can also hamper women who are planning a pregnancy. Three studies report that Vitex is more effective than a placebo in improving menstrual cycles in women with irregular periods. Unfortunately, it can take chaste berry three to six months to begin working.
Ginseng – Ginseng is great for men: increases sperm count, testosterone levels, and sexual desire.
Ladies Mantle – Ladies mantle aids healthy hormone balance in women.
Licorice – Licorice supports healthy estrogen and testosterone levels.
Pomegranate – Pomegranate supports and strengthens the reproductive system in women.
Myrrh – Myrrh may help with infertility in women.
Pine Bark – Pine bark improves sperm structure and performance.
Nettle – Nettle is great for women, supporting the hormones and uterus.
Saw Palmetto – Saw palmetto can help increase testosterone and strengthens the male reproductive system.
Red Clover – Red clover supports the uterus, calms the nerves, and helps support female hormone balance.
Raspberry Leaf – Raspberry leaf supports the mucous membranes of the uterus.
Rehmannia – Rehmannia helps with infertility.
Shatavari – Shatavari helps with infertility and supports healthy hormone balance in men and women. Also may increase sperm count.
Armed with all this information, the chances of overcoming infertility are excellent. Statistics tell us that only about 50% of all couples who seek conventional help for infertility ever experience a successful pregnancy. However, there is a good chance that most of these couples were not counseled about the importance of getting their body healthy as well as how to use natural solutions for infertility. And always remember, even with all the quoted statistics, no one has to be a statistic.
RESEARCH & RESOURCES
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