Both men and women describe infertility as heartbreaking, and more stressful than losing a job or getting divorced. Across the United States, approximately 7.5 million women age 15 to 44 have an impaired ability to get pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term; about 5 million men have a fertility problem.
Most male infertility is due to low sperm counts, poor sperm quality or sperm mobility. Other problems are similar to those women face, such as structural issues with the reproductive organs, anatomical conditions, hormone imbalances, genetic factors, and environmental toxins. "When it comes to uncovering the root cause of infertility," says women's health expert Dr. Judith Thompson, N.D. "a common misconception is that it's hormone levels and if we adjust the hormones enough, a couple can get pregnant." In reality, several interrelated factors influence fertility.
In assessing infertility, natural medicine physicians evaluate a patient's overall well-being: the effect of stress on hormone levels; diet and exercise habits; exposure to environmental toxins; the function of the endocrine, digestive, and immune systems; and the unique design of a person's reproductive anatomy and physiology. They evaluate the man's sperm and test for hormone imbalances in men and women, as well as thyroid function, vitamin levels, and metabolic function. They then work with patients to correct imbalances and create an optimal environment for conception and pregnancy.
Five Ways to Enhance Fertility:
Nourish your endocrine system. Support the ovaries or testes, thyroid, and adrenal glands by eating organic, whole foods including nuts, seeds, fish, and avocados, as well as foods high in vitamin C. Oysters, rich in zinc, enhance male fertility and bolster a woman's immune system.
Avoid GMO containing foods, as well as soy, which may have a negative effect on reproductive function in certain individuals. "It is important to avoid foods that are stressful to the body," says Dr. Thompson. "One of the biggest culprits is coffee. It dehydrates and depletes vital nutrients from the body. It puts the body into a higher alert mode, which decreases the body's ability to become pregnant."
Make wise lifestyle choices. Forego high intensity exercises like hot yoga, Crossfit, marathon running, and triathlons. "Intense exercise puts the body into high stress mode. It sends the body the message that there is a lot of demand for resources and it is not a desirable time for pregnancy," says Dr. Thompson. Opt for slow yoga, walking, swimming, and bicycling.
Don't smoke, as it decreases oxygen to tissues and affects the placenta. Avoid alcohol. Make time to meditate because it relaxes all nerve signals and allows the body to function better.
Use quality nutritional supplements. The herb Aletris farinosa (aka True Unicorn) supports a toned uterus and minimizes possibility of miscarriage. Calcium-d-glucarate helps maintain a healthy estrogen and progesterone balance, increasing chances of pregnancy. Other supplements, including pre-natal vitamins, may be recommended by your health practitioner.
Establish strong emotional supports. Stress. Anxiety. Fluctuating emotions: they increase cortisol production, which can affect the ability to become pregnant and also interfere with a baby's development. Seek out a counselor who specializes in fertility issues, a fertility support group, or a faith-based group to help you manage difficult emotions.
Support your spirituality. Whatever form your spirituality takes - attending church, participating with a nondenominational group, exploring nature, meditating, or being artistic - do something that takes you away from the daily to-do list and allows you to be fully engaged in the experience. "When this kind of heart-centered energy and awareness is present," says Dr. Thompson, "it opens doors for new creative energies to come through, and creative energy is a big part of fertility.
"Working with fertility is about getting to know yourself and your needs - physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, while healing the things that need healing and nurturing the parts that need nurturing."