Many couples who struggle to automatically fall pregnant turn to medical procedures such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF). But sometimes, before medical intervention is needed, a change in diet, lifestyle and outlook can help. In fact, the Fertility Society of Australia says one-third of people aged 30 to 39 have lifestyle habits that may impact on their fertility, including excessive drinking, smoking and weight problems.
Our bodies reproduce when we’re in a prime state of health; that’s why when we’re younger we’re more likely to get pregnant because our livers are younger, our kidneys are younger and our blood is cleaner. It’s not just about the ovaries – it’s about our overall health. And as we age we take on more and become more stressed and nutrient depleted. That’s where natural treatments come into their own. Among other things, they help boost mental and physical health which, in turn, improves your chances of conceiving.
Generally, the first step should be to find a good doctor who’s open to the idea of natural modalities, and, if possible, to have a combined appointment with a naturopath. It may be that you need to have a blood test to check your nutrient levels for deficiencies. It’s fantastic we’ve got the IVF option, but women should try correcting their nutritional status before they go down that path.
What’s more, your chances of pregnancy with IVF are far greater if you don’t go in smoking and drinking, with a toxic liver, acidic blood and hostile mucus. It makes good sense to invest that time and money in yourself, whether you go IVF or naturally.
Preparing your body
Undertake natural preconception care for three months before you begin trying to conceive. It usually involves a detox – just cleaning up the liver, blood, any heavy metals or toxicity – and getting the body primed. Then, if you haven’t fallen pregnant after a few months, try different treatments.
Patience is important. The results may take a while to become apparent. Natural remedies, because they’re affecting you on a fundamental level, can act more slowly than some of the more drastic drugs of orthodox medicine.
Natural therapies are particularly useful for women whose inability to fall pregnant is more functional than structural – that is, if there’s no known physical reason why they can’t get pregnant (such as a blocked fallopian tube), but instead results from factors such as hormone imbalances, endocrine gland disorders, and emotional problems. Some complementary therapies can also assist with structural problems and support medical procedures, such as IVF.
In all cases, seek treatment from a qualified, experienced practitioner (they should be registered through their relevant association) and keep your doctor in the loop.
Naturopathy covers a range of treatments including herbs, nutrition, and homeopathy. It’s about balancing nutrient status, investigating hormones, checking liver function and alkalising your body when trying to conceive. This may mean diet, exercise and lifestyle changes, but it’s also about working with you. So if
a patient can’t give up smoking, for instance, we try to harm-minimise it with high-dose antioxidants.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses a combination of acupuncture and herbs to increase blood flow to the uterus, regulate hormones, stimulate ovulation and boost sperm count. In Western herbal medicine, herbs such as chaste tree berry, dong quai and wild yam are used to assist functional and structural infertility. However, herbs should always be prescribed by a professional, especially if you’re undergoing other forms of treatment.
Aromatherapy and flower essences are beautiful modalities to use when there’s nothing blocking the pregnancy, but it’s more about the emotional state. Aromatherapy uses essential oils to relax the muscles and reduce anxiety. Try geranium, chamomile, rose, lavender and jasmine; they’re the more gentle, feminine herbs, so they’re making you feel more womanly and more like you can conceive. Try adding a couple of drops to an oil burner or, if you’re using essential oils in a bath, be sure to dilute them in a carrier oil such as sweet almond beforehand.
Flower essences such as white chestnut, vervain and wisteria can assist a woman’s mental health and wellbeing, and can be taken alone or in combination. Bush flower essences such as She Oak are also good for balancing the hormones.
Fertility Yoga and Pilates
These exercises are all about getting stronger. They can help you detox and there’s a huge psychological component – if you’re feeling good about yourself, you’re more likely to get pregnant. Fertility yoga integrates breathing with specific movements to give vitality to the reproductive and hormonal areas of your body. Moderate yoga, such as hatha, can also be beneficial. Pilates works to reduce your stress levels and boost strength, particularly in the core muscles, and creates greater flexibility, thus assisting reproduction.
Homeopathic remedies (diluted natural substances) are used to boost overall physical and emotional health. They can be useful when infertility problems are related to your mental health, diet or sexual history. You need to look at the emotional state to get a better picture of the kind of remedy required.
Used in India for thousands of years, ayurvedic medicine works on the principle that conception occurs when there’s a healthy uterus, ovum and sperm, and that you can enhance male and female fertility through good diet and lifestyle. It divides the woman’s menstrual cycle into three phases – kapha, pitta and vata – and works to balance any disturbances. Typically, downward energy in the vata phase becomes blocked, causing bloating, irregular periods and pain. This may be treated with self-massage, yoga, aloe vera juice and tea made from fennel seeds, licorice, saffron and fresh ginger. For men, sperm problems are treated with herbs and lifestyle changes.
Hypnosis can be used to help a woman relax as well as to a visualize successful conception. Hypnotherapy can help the woman explore and unblock unconscious issues around getting or not getting pregnant. It can also be used with couples and in conjunction with other therapies. Ask your GP for a referral to an accredited hypnotherapist.
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