As a health practitioner, being given the opportunity to successfully assist someone become a parent is a very rewarding feeling. This area is an issue that can be filled with emotion and anticipation and can be very stressful. Therefore it is important for the practitioner to understand these feelings as well as the trust they are given to assist with this problem and be able to offer appropriate and sensitive support. We will start with information about female fertility first.
Increasing the odds for conception entails utilising a number of natural methods that are suited to the particular individual.
Although for many couples achieving pregnancy is not something they have to think about a lot as they have no difficulties, it is also true that in recent years the fertility levels for both women and men are declining. Contributing factors are lifestyle, stress in today’s society, chemicals and pesticides in our foods, toxins in the environment and others.
Every woman is unique and an individual and has different needs and an experienced Naturopath should be able to work through these needs through the myriad of methods and natural medicines available for a successful outcome.
Whether you have been trying for a month or for a few years, whether you are young or what is considered to be “older” for pregnancy, there is hope!
Firstly, we need to understand that you may feel frustrated, anxious, worried and feel horrible about this on a daily basis. This may affect your relationships at home, at work, in social circles, may prevent you from having a good night’s sleep and may play on your mind constantly. Do no worry as help is at hand and your experienced Naturopath will guide you and assist you throughout this process.
We need to stress again that achieving pregnancy is not one method that fits all. It needs individual attention and treatments that suit specifically you. This is why you may hear some women saying that they have tries this or that method and have been unsuccessful, and at the same time others will swear that a particular method or supplement works wonders.
You need these methods, supplements, herbs etc to be organised and planned specifically for your needs. You need someone that can guide you and help you put your plan together. You need someone that understands you and that will do the worrying for you to try and ensure success.
Reasons of infertility
There are many reasons why a woman does not fall pregnant. Some of the common reasons are:
- Ovulation issues
- Ovarian cysts
- Sperm issues
- Prior abortion
- Blocked fallopian tubes
- Weight gain
- Functional (unexplained) infertility
A few words about functional infertility.
Many couples who can’t conceive a baby after a year of trying, seem to have nothing medically wrong with either of them, and simply fall into the category of “unexplained infertility”, which is the medical term for “we don’t have any idea why you’re not conceiving.”
This is a lot more common that many people think..
This raises a very interesting question. If so many couples have “unexplained infertility”, which means there is no obvious medical reason why they can’t conceive, doesn’t it then make sense that there is a more to conception than the doctors know about?
This is not an accusation about the medical profession in any way. It is a fact and a realisation that there are other means of assistance. The many cases of successful outcomes are a testimony to this.
Treatment will consist of addressing the issues as well as providing an increased chance of pregnancy by treating functional infertility.
Vitamins to Revitalize Your Fertility
Taking certain vitamins to increase your fertility quotient is a natural method that you should consider to help you get pregnant. Vitamins can positively affect your hormone levels, help you handle and reduce stress and avoid damage of your overall health.
The use of nutritional vitamin supplements can benefit both you and your partner by balancing hormone levels, which are necessary for conceiving. You can’t expect that just because you eat a balanced diet (whatever this might mean for different people) that you get all the vitamins your bodies need.
Everyone is different – but most people in today’s fast-paced world of fast foods and foods in excess, as well as food additives and preservatives, let alone genetic engineering in food now, need to add vitamins, minerals, amino acids, trace elements and other nutrients to supplement their daily diet. make sure too that these supplements are of the best quality – there are many supplements on the market today that are not worth taking – your Naturopath will be able to assist you in this.
Below is a brief summary of examples of some nutrients and the way they can help, just to give you a bit of an idea of benefits.
- Vitamin E – Increased fertility in both men and women has resulted from this powerful antioxidant. Studies show that a low level of Vitamin E in males decreases sperm production and supplementation may also improve sperm motility. In women, vitamin E helps to normalize hormone production.
- Vitamin C – Also a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin C blocks damaging free radicals. It reduces sperm agglutination, a condition where sperm tend to stick together, which reduces fertility. If you’re currently taking the drug Clomid to encourage ovulation, Vitamin C might increase your chances of a better ovulation by assisting in ovarian function and egg development. Vitamin C may increase the amount of water in your cervical mucus, which will make it more plentiful. However, women should avoid very large doses of Vitamin C because in high doses it can have the opposite effect, and dry up cervical mucus.
- Zinc – The focus of numerous studies in fertility of males and females, this nutrient is essential for your pregnancy and your future baby’s health. A deficiency of Zinc can lead to decreased fertility and also increase the risk of having a miscarriage. It helps women to more effectively utilize the hormones estrogen and progesterone, to achieve conception. Zinc deficiency will also affect how long the sperm can live in the vaginal tract. (Zinc is also vital for producing healthy sperm and increasing sperm count in men).
- B Vitamins – You can benefit from taking B6, B12 and a B-Complex vitamin. B vitamins are known to be stress reducing vitamins. B6 specifically is depleted from your body when you’re on birth control pills. When your body is deficient in B6, it builds up too much oestrogen, causing your ovaries to shut down the production of progesterone. This can result in a luteal phase defect, which can be corrected with B6 supplementation. B-Complex vitamins help you reduce stress and maintain a healthy balance of hormones in your body. When you’re low on B vitamins, you produce more oestrogen, which depletes your B vitamins even further in a vicious cycle.
Remember: These are only some examples of what can be used and why. Appropriate supplementation is a specialised area so you do need to consult an experience Naturopath for best results.
Herbal Remedies for Fertility Problems
Increasing clinical data is available that provides scientific evidence about the value of using herbal extracts for infertility. In our clinic, we utilise a combination of Western, as well as Ayuvedic and Chinese herbs to achieve the best results possible. There are an increasing number of success stories with the use of herbal medicines that provide very encouraging data. Herbs assist in balancing out hormonal levels and increasing blood supply.
Therer are herbs that work by stimulating the hormones involved in ovulation and restoring female hormonal balance. They help to correct luteal phase defects and helps to lower high prolactin levels, both of which cause fertility problems. They act on the pituitary gland, specifically on the production of LH (leutenizing hormone). The result is that they increase the production of progesterone, which helps to regulate the menstrual cycle. As with every herb, you also need the right quality and the right dosage to suit yourself for best results.
Other herbs help balance hormone levels by making up for a shortage of oestrogen or encouraging your body to excrete excess amounts. They have a normalizing effect on the ovaries and strengthen the lining of the womb. A certain category of herbs have an affinity for the ovaries and are used in many disorders of the ovaries by herbalists.
Dong Quai It is an ancient Asian herb which is known as the female hormone regulator. It acts like an oestrogen “modulator” which activates or suppresses estrogen receptors within the pituitary to even out the hormones that bring on ovulation. It has also been attributed with helping to build a receptive uterine lining.
Before using herbs to increase your chances of pregnancy, remember that herbs can be very powerful and used inappropriately can have undesirable effects. Since you wouldn’t take any medication without a prescription from your doctor, it is also important not to self medicate when it comes to herbs. Admittedly, there are some herbs that are freely available to purchase. This does not mean that you should prescribe them for yourself. Many herbs need to be taken during different phases of your menstrual cycle. Some can only be taken up until the point that you’ve ovulated, and others need to be taken once you have already ovulated. Also, many herbs work best in combinations with others, and you certainly need to know how to combine them, the quantity to use in each as well as allowing for the combined actions a and adjusting the dosage. In addition, many herbs (as well as supplements) sold in retail shops may not meet the stringent criteria and may not of the same quality as the products available to qualified practitioners. Give yourself the best chance and visit a qualified and experienced Herbalist for this purpose.
Most importantly stop taking herbal supplements immediately when you become
pregnant (unless you are specifically advised not to by your health practitioner ) and never mix herbal supplements with fertility drugs of any kind.
Diet for fertility
Proper nutrition is vital for the best results in succeeding and becoming pregnant, as well as producing a healthy baby. Please refer to the summary below as a bit of a guide that will only increase your chances of pregnancy but also make you healthier.
Follow an organic or whole food diet that can greatly increase your chances to
become pregnant because it will better provide you with the vitamins and minerals that you can’t find in foods robbed of natural nutrients from too much processing.
Here are the foods to place emphasis on and some of the reasons why.
- Whole Grains – high in selenium, zinc and B vitamins.
- Green Leafy Vegetables – High in magnesium (vital for female hormone balance), folic acid and vitamin B6.
- Nuts – high in B vitamins. Almonds are high in zinc; walnuts are high in zinc and omega 3 fatty acids.
- Lentils and other beans – high in folic acid
- Oysters – packed with zinc, which plays a role in ovulation in women.
- Brown Rice – high in fiber and B Vitamins. Fibre strips old hormones and waste
- products from the system. Without this removal, old hormones re-circulate and create imbalances.
- Pumpkin Seeds – naturally high in zinc and essential fatty acids (EFA’s) which are vital to healthy functioning of the male reproductive system. Eat ¼ to ½ cup a day of pumpkin seeds to help maintain a healthy reproductive system.
Foods to avoid:
- Sugar – among other detrimental effects, too much sugar increases your body’s output of insulin, a hormone that can affect the way your ovaries function.
- Dairy – research in the United States and Finland reported that where per capita milk consumption is the highest, women tend to experience the sharpest age related fall in fertility rates. It is also theorised that dairy products can thicken cervical mucus.
- Wheat – some women can have an intolerance to wheat and not even know it, so try to substitute wheat with another grain such as rye or pumpernickel when you can.
Make sure that you get adequate sleep. Lack of sleep has a negative impact on the body including hormones. In severe cases ovulation ceases.
Have some relaxation time for yourself regularly which helps to reduce stress levels, rejuvenate the body and help optimal, balanced hormonal levels.
Keep a positive attitude. There has been so much written about positive thinking – it really helps.
Abstain from smoking, caffeine containing drinks and alcohol.
Make sure you are not overweight. It is useful to note that about 12% of infertility cases are related to weight issues, which includes being significantly underweight.
Exercise is good but in moderation. In our experience, excessive exercise contributes to infertility on both male and female.
In conclusion, there are many strategies you can utilise. Seek the services of a qualified and experienced Naturopath, it will save you a lot of anxiety and give you the best chance of success.
If you want to maximize your chances with IVF or IUI cycles, we also provide special treatments to help address any imbalances and strengthen and prepare your body for conception. Treatments are designed to help increase the blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, to improve the quality and quantity of follicles, and to increase the endometrial lining. These treatments help to aid in better chances of implantation.
Pre and Post Embryo Transfer Treatments
Many cases have shown that herbal medicine assists both before and after an embryo transfer, resulting in higher conception rates in IVF patients.
Post Egg Pick-up Treatments
After an egg collection it is useful to take the appropriate remedies to help reduce tenderness, pain and bloating that can arise after follicle stimulation and collection. These remedies can help rebalance the body as well as relieve some of the anxiety associated with the procedure.
We understand it can be a difficult and anxious time for couples. We treat you with respect, sensitivity and great care and support you to get the best possible outcome
Causes of Male Infertility
There are many causes of male infertility, and some common causes are: Radiation, environmental toxins, undescended testis, varicocele, traumatic injury, infectious injury, testicular atrophy, drug effects, prolonged fever, certain endocrine disorders, congenital abnormalities, past surgery in the lower abdomen, tight underwear, poor diet, antihypertensives, (medications for high blood pressure) anti inflammatories, antihistamines, stress, lack of sleep, alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, and cocaine, among other reasons as well, all have an effect on sperm health and male fertility.
A man may also produce antibodies to his own sperm and this means that the immune system attacks the tails of the sperm that they are producing. Sometimes the woman produces antibodies toward her partner’s sperm.
We emphasise again that in our experience, excessive exercise contributes to infertility problems in both male and female partners.
Diagnosis of male infertility
Men are considered infertile if they produce too few sperm cells, sperm cells of poor quality, or have chronic problems with ejaculation.
The key test that will be performed is a semen analysis that evaluates several parameters:
- amount of semen
- consistency of semen
- number of sperm
- movement of sperm
- shape of sperm
- “clumping” of sperm
- presence of substances other than sperm in the semen
Other tests may include:
- Ultrasound, which uses sound waves to examine structures inside the body
- X-ray, which uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body, especially bones
- Fertilization tests to determine how well the sperm can penetrate an egg
- Biopsy, in which a sample of testicle tissue is removed for testing
- Bood tests for hormone evaluation and presence of anti-sperm antibodies
- Post-coital test to check if your sperm are compatible with mucus in your partner’s cervix
Sperm count, or sperm concentration to use a better term, measures the concentration of sperm in a man’s ejaculate, distinguished from total sperm count, which is the sperm count multiplied with volume. Over 15 million sperm per milliliter is considered normal, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2010. Older definitions state 20 million. I have left the value in the chart at 20 million to coincide with current trends/values in testing in Australia.
A more specified measure is motility grade, where the motility of sperm are divided into four different grades.
- Grade 4: Sperm with progressive motility. These are the strongest and swim fast in a straight line. Sometimes it is also denoted motility a.
- Grade 3: (non-linear motility): These also move forward but tend to travel in a curved or crooked motion. Sometimes also denoted motility b.
- Grade 2: These have non-progressive motility because they do not move forward despite the fact that they move their tails.
- Grade 1: These are immotile and fail to move at all.
What is a normal semen analysis result?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published the following measurements to help work out if semen analysis results are normal.
|Normal semen analysis|
|Volume of semen||More than 2 ml|
|Sperm concentration (number)||More than 20 million sperm per ml|
|Sperm motility||More than 50% of the sperm are moving forward OR 25% are moving forward very quickly|
|Sperm morphology (shape)||More than 15% have a ‘normal’ shape(as defined by strict criteria)|
|White blood cells||Less than 1 million cells per ml|
|Sperm antibodies||Less than 50% coated sperm|
Measurements of all these parts of the semen specimen give some suggestion of the level of fertility. A low sperm count does not always mean that there is no chance of achieving a pregnancy. Some men with a low sperm count but with properly moving and normal shaped sperm can achieve pregnancies.
Note: If you want to undertake a detailed analysis and study in this area, or want a lot more information, I would suggest the World Health Organisation Manual for the Examination and Processing of Human Semen (Fifth Edition).
It is necessary to take 2-3 specimens of sperm for proper evaluation.
What can be done as far as Natural Therapies for male infertility?
There are many cases of successful treatment of male infertility through the use of Natural Therapies, depending on the cause of the infertility and sperm analysis results.
The same principles apply here as with female infertility, that is the treatment needs to be tailored to the needs of the individual.
Although this is a complex area requiring skill and experience, here are some examples of supplements and herbs that can benefit. this provides for a bit of an understanding of how and why these natural medicines are used.
The amino acid Arginine is one of the remedies of choice for treating low sperm count and sperm motility. It is also important to note that in each case where we utilise natural medicines, we have studied research and references that indicate the beneficial use of these medicines. For example, among many studies, a study for the use of Arginine is referenced as follows:
Patel, A. B., et al. Arginine acts as a protective and reversal agent against glycolytic inhibitors in spermatozoa. Physiol Chem Phys Med NMR. 31(1):29-40, 1999.
Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, India.
It is known that the amino acid arginine stimulates sperm motility and glycolytic activity. The authors have earlier studied its efficacy as a stimulator of glycolysis in goat spermatozoa under anaerobic conditions. Here, they have assessed the influence of arginine in reversing the impairment caused by glycolytic inhibitors, iodoacetamide and iodoacetic acid. Glycolysis has been monitored by measuring the consumption of 13C labeled glucose and the amount of 13C labeled lactate produced under different experimental conditions, using 13C NMR. It is observed that both L- and D-arginine are able to prevent and reverse the inhibitory action of glycolytic inhibitors. The reversal effect of arginine gives rise to about eight times higher metabolic activity as compared to the inhibited cells while structurally related amino acids such as nitro-arginine, homo-arginine, lysine and ornithine are ineffective. The energetics of spermatozoa as measured by 31P NMR show a reduction in ATP level in cells incubated with iodoacetamide. Treatment of these cells with both L- and D-arginine restores the ATP level. The results may have significance in the treatment of male infertility.
Other useful amino acids are Carnitine and Taurine.
We again stress that for the above and all remedies suggested, the right quality and absolutely the right dosage, that varies for each individual according to height and weight etc.
Other useful nutrients are:
Linoleic Acid, Zinc, B Complex vitamins, Chromium, Selenium, Pycnogenol, CoEnzyme Q 10.
Herbs that are useful:
Korean and Siberian Ginseng, Ashwagandha, Tribulus Terrestris.
These lists are by no means exhaustive, and we must also mention the power of Chinese herbs that may not be well known by some practitioners.
We hope that the above has provided you with some useful information and has helped you to better understand the options available from Natural Therapies.
If you have a problem that you wish to discuss or a friend that needs support, Centre of Health can be contacted for further assistance.