Infertility affects about 10% of couples trying to conceive and if you happen to be one of those couples, you understand how devastating and stressful it can be. Of that 10%, 1/3 of the problems are linked to the woman, 1/3 to the man, and 1/3 of the cases have problems that are unknown. Conventional treatment often uses hormones or invasion procedures. While this may be helpful for some, there are many options to explore to treat infertility naturally.
Like anything, it is important to have an understanding of what is going wrong, if that can be determined. In such cases, natural treatment may be rather straight forward in the sense that if we know the women is not ovulating, ovulatory support in the form of herbs, nutrition, and acupuncture can be very beneficial. If we know that the sperm are low in number or quality, we can use the same forms of treatment to support healthy sperm. However, from a naturopathic perspective, to treat infertility naturally, all of these issues will be addressed simultaneously. This is because the naturopathic approach focuses on building the health of both the female and male, egg and sperm.
Often times, to restore fertility, especially the 1/3 of cases with an unknown cause, other factors need to be addressed first. Several of these factors are addressing underlying adrenal or thyroid abnormalities, sleep disturbances, blood sugar irregularities, and digestive issues that may be impairing absorption. All of these issues throw off proper hormone regulation.
Stress is known to throw off a women’s menstrual cycle and affect her fertility. Naturopathically, there are many ways to overcome the burden of stress on a women’s body. First and foremost, identifying and addressing the underlying stressor is important; sometimes this is easier to identify, such as work or relationship stress, but it can also be nutritional stress such as a gluten intolerance, chronic infection, or inadequate sleep. Beyond identifying and addressing the stressor, several herbs can be beneficial to support the adrenal gland’s response to stress, reducing the overall load and minimizing the negative effects.
Optimizing nutrition is extremely important. Not only does it help to regulate hormones, blood sugar, stress levels, and digestion, but it also creates an optimal environment for fetal development. The 6 months or so before conception is the most important time to build up nutrient stores that the fetus will use in the early weeks to months of development. Without proper nutrition, if conception does happen, development will be impaired, as well as the health of the mother throughout her pregnancy. Optimal nutrition can and does prevent abnormal weight gain, pre-eclampsia, swelling of hands and feet, and excessive fatigue.
Even when stress and nutrition has been addressed, balancing blood sugar and fixing impaired digestion cannot be forgotten. We’ve all heard, “You are what you eat,” but in reality, “You are what you digest and absorb.” While it is possible to get pregnant with a digestive disorder, it is not optimal for fetal health. Of course getting adequate nutrients are key, but as more and more research is proving, having optimal gut flora is paramount to the proper development of the baby’s immune system affecting things like allergies down the road. Similarly to what you absorb is how your body reacts to it, namely by maintaining a healthy blood sugar. Abnormal blood sugar is known to throw off insulin and subsequently the thyroid, adrenals, and reproductive system, all wreaking havoc on fertility.
While the journey to treat infertility naturally may seem unrealistic for some and too difficult for those who do not want to, perhaps, drastically change their life style, it is important to do so for the health of your child. Healthy parents produce healthy babies, and natural fertility is a sign of health. With proper guidance and changes, natural fertility is obtainable for most couples and there is no greater reward for all the hard work than to hold your little baby!