Sign up for our
Get exclusive access & offers
March 27, 2019
Current estimates of infertility in Canada range from 10-15% of couples. That means that about one in every eight couples who are trying to start a family are having difficulty conceiving! There are well-known risk factors that can interfere with a successful conception and pregnancy, such as increased age of either parent (but particularly the woman) that may be impossible to change. But there are many modifiable lifestyle factors at play in conceiving such as diet, smoking, stress, and weight and therefore I hope for couples to feel empowered with tools to enhance the chance of getting pregnant.
When it comes to age I wish that there were better ways to assess fertility than looking at someone’s chronological age. I have seen women entering menopause in their 30s and new mothers in their mid-40s. If your biological clock is ticking, please don’t give up hope just because of the date on your driver’s license. Let’s dig a little deeper to see where your fertility stands.
We don’t have fertility statistics from 100 years ago, nor is infertility measured the same way in every study or in every country, however, considering the rise in assisted reproduction there is a reason to believe that infertility rates may be on the rise. A couple can get medical work to explore causative factors for infertility if a woman less than 35 years old and her partner have tried for 12 months to conceive without success, or if a woman who is 35 years of age or older has not conceived within 6 months of trying.
Provided there are no structural or genetic issues discovered during testing for infertility the focus may then shift to more subtle health issues and/or helpful lifestyle changes.
Key considerations when approaching reproductive health and boosting fertility from a natural perspective is to look at regulating hormones (including stress hormones), reducing toxicity, and pumping up nutrient levels.
Of course, we can’t really address fertility without looking at hormone levels! Hormones are a key player for the woman in particular as not only do we want to ensure the release of a strong and healthy egg, but we need to make sure that her body is in the best shape for growing the new life to term. So I’m going to talk to the women for a while here…
Hormone health with regards to optimal fertility is a complex interplay of compounds from the brain, the ovaries, the adrenal glands, and the thyroid.
The first place to start for women wanting to conceive is to begin charting their basal body temperature using a thermometer that goes to 2 decimal places (it’s often pink and available at many drugstores). Take your temperature every morning on rising and record it on paper on or one of the many apps available (iPeriod, Clue, Cycles). After a few months, there should be some good data there for a trained practitioner to “see” any concerns with thyroid, ovulation, or menstrual cycling that may be present.
If your cycle is irregular then a great option is Chaste Tree Berries (Vitex agnus-castus). It is a fantastic herb for regulating periods and minimizing symptoms of hormone imbalance such as PMS or painful periods.
Women’s temps do fluctuate from a little lower than normal in the first half of the cycle, to a little higher than normal in the second half after ovulation. That’s because progesterone (“pro” = for, “gest” = pregnancy, “erone” = hormone. Progesterone is literally a “for pregnancy hormone”) in the second half of the cycle warms up a woman’s body so that she can incubate new life that may be growing inside of her.
However, if your average temperature throughout the month is consistently less than 37°C then your thyroid may need a little herbal love. Enter Botanica’s Thyroid Support Liquid Capsule! [If labs show overt hypothyroidism then thyroid medications would be more appropriate.] On-going low temperatures are definitely something to discuss with a healthcare practitioner if you are trying to conceive. The thyroid is a key player in fertility.
Likewise, adrenal hormones can affect the ability to make a baby. Stress hormones signal the body that we are under threat. In response, the body shunts blood flow away from the digestive and reproductive organs and moves it to the brain, muscles, heart, and lungs so that we can survive the danger. After all, it doesn’t matter if you are carrying a baby if you are about to be eaten by a bear!
Adrenal health is SO important to everyone – parents or not! – and Botanica has a full range of options from herbal blends in tincture or liquid capsule, to fermented ashwagandha or holy basil, to a vegan protein powder fortified with adaptogens and vitamin C.
Of course, stress management goes beyond supplementation and requires some lifestyle adjustments too. Meditation, visualization, affirmations, or other calming practices are immensely helpful for keeping stress in check. Exercise is also excellent for stress with some people benefitting more from pumping up their heart rate and breaking a good sweat, while others find that more calming practices such as yoga, pilates, or barre method work better for them.
While we don’t know how many couples struggled to start a family before the industrial revolution of the late 1800’s we do know for certain that there are new toxins in circulation that our bodies are having to contend with in the modern age. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) is a broad term used to describe toxins in our environment that are suspected to be at the root of reproductive changes in both males and females. EDCs can be found in herbicides and pesticides, food additives, air and water pollution, and even in common personal care products that are applied to the skin daily!
Smoking is associated with poor outcomes for both conception and pregnancy through altered sperm health, poor implantation, and risk of miscarriage, but the good news is that those effects appear to be reversible.
So the first thing I recommend for anyone wanting to have a child…either right away or “one day”…is to focus on detoxification through diet, hydration, and supporting liver and gut health for a few months before starting to try. Replacing personal and household cleansers is also a good idea.
Women are born with a million immature eggs and each of those eggs takes about 3-4 months to mature to a cell that can be fertilized. Men are constantly producing sperm from scratch and likewise, sperm synthesis takes about 3-4 months. The best-case scenario then is a couple who know that they want to have a child soon-ish but aren’t in a big rush. Then we can focus on at least 4 months of enhancing detoxification and loading up on nutrients so that eggs and sperm are as amazing as possible.
Of course, clean living with a focus on nutrient-dense, organically-grown, plant-based foods (with a side of organic meat or Ocean Wise fish for the omnivores) is ideal. But even then our bodies evolved detox pathways to help us stay on top of naturally occurring toxins in our foods, as well as to remove metabolic waste from the normal and healthy functioning of our bodies.
Now is also a good time to work on normalizing weight if necessary. Both underweight and overweight imbalances work against optimal fertility.
On top of a cleaned up diet, you may need to increase water consumption to rinse out toxins, while limiting alcohol intake.
Tinctures are great for getting easily absorbed medicinal actives from plants and allow for good variability in dosing making it possible to start gently and turn up the volume based on the response.
For those who don’t want to taste their herbal medicine, the liquid capsules offer the same great absorption of a liquid extract in the convenience of a capsule.
Fermented herbs offer amazing bioavailability of herbal compounds and provide living probiotic strains to support gut health via the microbiome, along with naturally occurring B vitamins, enzymes, and organic acids.
Similar to nourishing the soil in your garden it’s vitally important that the mother-to-be is drenched in good nutrients! From greens to vegan vitamin D to protein, and essential omega 3 fatty acids Botanica has hopeful parents covered.
Many of these nutrients are so necessary for a healthy pregnancy that it’s important to think of them before even trying to get pregnant so that there’s no shortage available for the embryo if and when conception takes place. That little bundle of cells changes so quickly that you don’t want to wait until you find out that it’s growing inside you before being proactive about giving it the strongest and healthiest start possible.
Bushnik, T., Cook, J. L., Yuzpe, A. A., Tough, S., & Collins, J. (2012). Estimating the prevalence of infertility in Canada. Human reproduction, 27(3), 738-46. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3279129/#
Government of Canada. (2019). Assisted Human Reproduction. Retrieved from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/brgtherap/legislation/reprod/index-eng.php
Rossi, B. V., Abusief, M., & Missmer, S. A. (2016). Modifiable Risk Factors and Infertility: What are the Connections?. American journal of lifestyle medicine, 10(4), 220-231. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5007064/
World Health Organization. (2019). Children’s Environmental Health: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/ceh/risks/cehemerging2/en/