Infertility is increasing with more and more couples finding it difficult to conceive. Infertility usually means a failure to get pregnant after 12 to 18 months of unprotected intercourse. It now seems that infertility problems affect men and women equally, with sperm counts falling by 50% in recent years. It therefore makes sense for both partners to be investigated.
In women, the main problems seem to be failure to ovulate, blockage in the fallopian tubes, failure of a fertilised egg to implant, or so called hostile mucous.
Althought there are various tests which can be carried out for both partners, an increasing number of couples are being given a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility” where the medical profession can find no obvious reason for failure to conceive. Treatment with IVF or IUI is usually then offered.
There are a number of diet and lifestyle measures you can take to increase your chances of natural conception.
Nutritional Supplements that could help. (Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)
|Supplement/Herb||What it does||Dosage|
|Iron||Needed for the transportation of oxygen in the blood. There may be deficiency if a woman has heavy periods.||15-40mg daily|
|Selenium||Powerful anti-oxidant which combats free radical damage.||100-200mcg daily|
|Soya isoflavones||To help balance oestrogen/progesterone levels.||50mg daily|
|Red Clover||To help balance oestrogen/progesterone levels.||500mg 3 times daily|
|Vitamin C||Powerful anti-oxidant which combats free radical damage.||1000mg daily|
|Zinc with copper||Needed to maintain the health of the reproductive system.||15-30mg and 1-2mg daily|
|Agnus castus||Help raise progesterone levels and lowers oestrogen levels which are commonly out of balance.||500mg 3 times daily|
Diet and Lifestyle Factors
Stress and anxiety are one of the main enemies of fertility. Stress hormones are formed from the same basic building blocks as reproductive hormones. Because stress hormones are your “life saving” hormones, released when your brain perceives that you are under threat, they will always take priority over reproductive hormones. The more anxious and worried you get about not falling pregnant, so the more stress hormones you produce and the less likely you are to conceive.
You may need to re-assess your lifestyle. Are you geting a good balance between working, rest and “downtime”?
Are you and your partner enjoying a healthy sex life for it’s own sake, as well as having sex to try and conceive? Pressure to perform at certain times of the month can kill a man’s sex drive and increase stress levels for both of you. Certainly be aware of your cycle and when you are ovulating, but make sure that sex remains fun and a joyous expression of your love for each other.
- Cut down on alcohol so that you have no more than 2 units daily. 1 unit = a pub measure of wine, spirits or half a pint of beer.
- Eat oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herrings, sardines, tuna 3 to 4 times weekly.
- Snack on nuts and seeds to increase your intake of trace minerals.
- Maintain an ideal weight for your height and frame. Fatty tissue produces it’s own hormones which can interfere with conceiving. Being underweight can also affect your menstrual cycle.
- Maintain healthy iron levels by eating meat (except liver), poultry, dark green leafy vegetables, dates, raisins, dried beans, molasses.
- Increase your intake of phyto-oestrogens by eating soya products like tofu, soya milk.
- Cut out caffeine from tea, coffee, chocolate, cola drinks as caffeine stimulates the production of stress hormones. Instead, drink 2 litres of water daily, including herb teas.
- Take regular exercise such as yoga or pilates. The stretches in these exercises will improve blood flow to your reproductive organs and help strengthen core muscles.
- Do not smoke as this impairs circulation and has a negative effect on the health of the foetus.
- Make sure you get adequate amounts of sleep.
Consider acupuncture to help improve fertility and if you need to have assisted conception it can improve your chances of success.
Suggested further reading:
- Treatment for infertility part 1
- Part 2