Natural Solutions to Infertility

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How to increase your chances of conceiving and preventing miscarriages


Over the past twenty years, fertility problems have increased dramatically. At least 25 percent of couples planning a baby will have trouble conceiving, and more and more couples are turning to fertility treatments to help them have a family.

What is the cause? From a medical point of view, infertility is believed to be caused by the following factors, and in these proportions.

Natural Solutions to InfertilityProblem Percentage of cases:

Ovulatory failure (including Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) 20
Tubal damage 15
Endometriosis 5
Male problems 26
Unexplained 30

If the mathematics don't add up, it's because many couples experience more than one problem when trying to conceive: for example, you may suffer from endometriosis, but your partner may also have a low sperm count.

Interestingly, the most common cause of infertility is 'unexplained', which means that following thorough investigations, doctors can find no specific or identifiable medical problem at the root. But this is where a natural approach can come into play. If a couple fails to become pregnant, there is obviously something causing the problem. It's no good labelling infertility 'unexplained'. The answer is to look deeper - at lifestyle factors, nutritional deficiencies and even emotional elements.

What are your choices?

The natural approach to fertility is and has been enormously successful, largely because fertility is multi-factorial, meaning that there are many, many elements that can be at the root of your fertility problems. A study conducted by the University of Surrey showed that couples with a previous history of infertility who made changes in their lifestyle, diet and took nutritional supplements had an 80 percent success rate Given that the success rate for assisted conception is around 20 percent, it's worth considering these options.

Natural treatment plans are, by their nature, extensive and really do need to be adjusted to suit your individual needs. I will, however, go through the most important points below. Remember that it takes at least three months for immature eggs (oocytes) to mature enough to be released during ovulation. It also takes at least three months for sperm cells to develop, ready to be ejaculated. This means that when you are trying to improve your fertility, you need to have a four-month period before conceiving. This is called 'pre-conception care' and it's as important to take as much care during this period as it is during a pregnancy itself.

If you are going for IVF treatment or another assisted conception procedure, you should follow the recommendations listed below in order to increase the chances that the procedure will work.

One test which is particularly useful for infertility is the Female Hormone Test (saliva).

Female Hormone Test (saliva)

A total of eleven saliva samples are collected at home at specific times across one cycle, and sent to the lab for analysis. This simple test will chart the level of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone across the month, to work out a pattern that may reveal:
  • early ovulation
  • anovulation (no ovulation)
  • problems with the phasing of the cycles, such as a short luteal phase (second half of the cycle)
  • problems with maintaining progesterone levels

This test can be done even if you have irregular cycles.


Both you and your partner should follow the . Although it goes without saying that a healthy diet is crucial to a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby, many people are unaware of the fact that diet can help to correct hormone imbalances that may affect your ability to conceive. There are also certain foods and drinks that are known to lower fertility.


Alcohol will affect both you and your partner. In fact, drinking any alcohol at all can reduce your fertility by half - and the more you drink, the less likely you are to conceive. One study showed that women who drank less than 5 units of alcohol a week (equal to five glasses of wine) were twice as likely to get pregnant within six-months compared with those who drank more.

Research has also shown that drinking alcohol causes a decrease in sperm count, an increase in abnormal sperm and a lower proportion of motile sperm. Alcohol also inhibits the body's absorption of nutrients such as zinc, which is one of the most important minerals for male fertility.

As difficult as it may seem, you should eliminate alcohol from your diets for at least three months in order to give yourself the best possible chance of conceiving.


There is plenty of evidence to show that caffeine, particularly in the form of coffee, decreases fertility. Drinking as little as one cup of coffee a day can halve your chances of conceiving. On study showed that problems with sperm: sperm count, motility and abnormalities, increase with the number of cups of coffee consumed each day. Once again, it's important to eliminate all caffeine-containing food and drinks for at least three months before trying to conceive. That includes colas, chocolate, black teas and coffee, among other things.


Xenoestrogens are essentially environmental oestrogens, coming from pesticides and the plastic industry. When you are trying to conceive, one of the most important things you need to do is to balance your hormones. It is extremely important to avoid anything that might cause an imbalance, and one of the main culprits is the xenoestrogens. One of the best ways to eliminate an excess intake of xenoestrogens is to buy organic produce for the pre-conceptual period.


Smoking has definitely been linked with infertility in women. It can even bring on an early menopause, which is a particularly important consideration for older women who may be trying to beat the clock. Smoking can decrease sperm count in men, making the sperm more sluggish, and it can increase the number of abnormal sperm. With men, the effects on fertility are increased with the number of cigarettes.


There is now a great deal of scientific knowledge about the use of nutritional supplements and their beneficial effects on both male and female fertility. As you will see, these supplements can be very effective in re-balancing your hormones, as well as improving you and your partner's overall health, which are so vital for successful conception.

Supplements are necessary because even the best diet in the world will not contain all the nutrients you need to give you the best chance of conceiving.

Folic Acid

It is now known that folic acid can prevent spina bifida in your baby, and it is essential that you get plenty both before and during pregnancy. And that's not all: folic acid is undoubtedly important, but it is just part of the very important B-complex family of vitamins that are necessary to produce the genetic materials DNA and RNA. Together with vitamin B12, folic acid works to ensure that your baby's genetic codes are intact. Remember: it's not enough to take folic acid alone when you are trying to become pregnant. All of the B vitamins are essential during the pre-conceptual period. Research has shown that giving B6 to women who have trouble conceiving increases fertility and vitamin B12 has been found to improve low sperm counts


Zinc is the most widely studied nutrient in terms of fertility for both men and women. It is an essential component of genetic material and a zinc deficiency can cause chromosome changes in either you or our partner, leading to reduced fertility and an increased risk of miscarriage. Zinc is necessary for your body to 'attract and hold' (utilise efficiently) the reproductive hormones, oestrogen and progesterone.

And it's equally important for your partner: zinc is found in high concentrations in the sperm. Zinc is needed to make the outer layer and tail of the sperm and is, therefore, essential for the health of your partner's sperm and, subsequently, your baby. Interestingly, several studies have also shown that reducing zinc in a man's diet will also reduce his sperm count.


Selenium is an antioxidant that helps to protect your body from highly reactive chemical fragments called free radicals. For this reason, selenium can prevent chromosome breakage, which is known to be a cause of birth defects and miscarriages. Good levels of selenium are also essential to maximise sperm formation. Blood selenium levels have been found to be lower in men with low sperm counts.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

These essential fats have a profound effect on every system of the body, including the reproductive system and they are crucial for healthy hormone functioning. For men essential fatty acid supplementation is crucial because the semen is rich in prostaglandins which are produced from these fats. Men with poor sperm quality, abnormal sperm, poor motility or low count, have inadequate levels of these beneficial prostaglandins.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant and has been shown to increase fertility when given to both men and women. Men going for IVF treatment with their partners have been given vitamin E, and fertilisation rates have, as a result, increased from 19 to 29 percent. It has been suggested that the antioxidant activity of vitamin E might make the sperm more fertile.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, and studies show that vitamin C enhances sperm quality, protecting sperm and the DNA within it from damage. Some research has indicated that certain types of DNA damage in the sperm can make it difficult to conceive in the first place, or it can cause an increased risk of miscarriage if conception does take place. If DNA is damaged, there may be a chromosomal problem in the baby, should the pregnancy proceed. Whether or not DNA damage does have these effects has not been conclusively proven, but it's worth taking vitamin C and the other antioxidants as a precautionary measure.

Vitamin C also appears to keep the sperm from clumping together, making them more motile.

One study has shown that women taking the drug clomiphene to stimulate ovulation will have a better chance of ovulating if vitamin C is taken alongside the drug. Clomiphene does not always work in every woman, but the chances are often increased when vitamin C is supplemented.


This is an amino acid found in many foods and the head of the sperm contains an exceptional amount of this nutrient, which is essential for sperm production. Supplementing with L-arginine can help to increase both the sperm count and quality.

Note: People who have herpes attacks (either cold sores or genital herpes) should not supplement with arginine because it stimulates the virus.


This amino acid is essential for normal functioning of sperm cells. According to research, it appears that the higher the levels of L-Carnitine in the sperm cells, the better the sperm count and motility.

Vitamin A

This vitamin needs to be mentioned because there is a lot of confusion about its use before and after pregnancy. Many health practitioners now advise that no vitamin A is taken during pregnancy. This advice is incorrect, and it can be dangerous to assume that any vitamin or other nutrient should be avoided during the gestational period. Vitamin A has important antioxidant properties, and the consequences of Vitamin A deficiency during pregnancy can be devastating. For one thing, vitamin A is essential for healthy eyes. Animals studies show that vitamin A deficiency during pregnancy has produced new-born animals with no eyes, eye defects, undescended testes and diaphragmatic hernias.

It is only when the vitamin A is in the form of retinol (in other words, the animal form of vitamin A) that there is a problem. It has been found that retinol can cause birth defects if taken in excess of 10,000iu a day. Beta-carotene, which is one of the vegetable forms of vitamin A, does not carry any risks.


(see caution below)

Herbal treatment is aimed at restoring hormone imbalances, and encouraging ovulation if it is not occurring. It will also give you the best possible chance of maintaining a pregnancy, should you conceive.

Agnus Castus (Vitex or Chaste tree berry)

This is the herb of choice for helping to restore hormone imbalance and increasing fertility. In one study 48 women diagnosed with infertility took agnus castus daily for three months, 7 of them became pregnant during that time and 25 of them regained normal progesterone levels.

Agnus castus is particularly helpful for those women who have a luteal phase defect (shortened second half to the cycle) or those with high prolactin levels, because it stimulates the proper functioning of the pituitary gland which controls the hormones.

Agnus castus works to restore hormonal balance and can be used where there are hormone deficits as well as excesses it:
  • Regulates periods
  • Restarts periods which have stopped
  • Helps with heavy bleeding
  • Increases the ratio of progesterone to oestrogen by balancing excess oestrogen.


Don't take any herbs while you are using drug treatments or going through assisted conception (such as IVF), unless prescribed by a qualified practitioner.

You should not take any of the above herbs if you are taking, The Pill, Fertillity drugs, HRT or any other hormonal treatment or other medication unless they are recommended by a registered, experienced practitioner.

I suggest that you follow this four-month plan and do not try to conceive within that time. Why? Because when you follow the plan, your fertility will begin to increase. Everything needs to be working at optimum level before you conceive, both to prevent a miscarriage, and to give you the best possible chance of having a healthy baby.

Case history

Susan and her partner were 30 and 31 respectively, and they'd been trying to have a baby for four years before coming to see me. They had been diagnosed with 'unexplained fertility' and had had four unsuccessful attempts at IUI. Susan had many problems with her periods: she had a regular cycle, but bled heavily with spotting and headaches before her period. At ovulation, her abdomen swelled up and she felt nauseous.

I asked them to arrange screening for infections and the tests came back positive to one infection, which was easily cleared up by antibiotics. Susan was deficient in a number of nutrients, including zinc, selenium, calcium and magnesium, and her partner had low zinc and high aluminium levels. I therefore recommended that he cut out tinned soft drinks and switch to an aluminium-free deodorant. Because I was concerned that the imbalance causing the problems with Susan's cycle could also be a factor in her inability to conceive, I also used a combination of balancing herbs, such as agnus castus, to alleviate Susan's spotting and heavy bleeding. Susan and her partner followed the four-month programme and waited until their mineral levels were back to normal. Nine months from their first appointment day, they conceived, and, not surprisingly, had a baby another nine months later.

If you have been trying to conceive for six months

If you are under the age of 35 and have been trying unsuccessfully to conceive for six months, follow the dietary and supplement suggestions given below for four months. At the end of this period, begin trying to conceive again. Give yourself six months before embarking on any fertility treatments or investigation by your doctor or a gynaecologist.

If you have been trying for six months and are over 35, follow the recommendations but visit your doctor and ask for tests to begin during that first four-month period. If you are given a diagnosis of unexplained infertility, then try for six months on your own before going for medical treatment.

If you have been trying to conceive for 12 months or more

If you are under the age of 35, follow the suggestions below for four months. Then try on your own for six months before embarking on fertility tests.
If you have been trying for six months and are over 35, follow the recommendations but visit your doctor and ask for tests to begin during that first four-month period. If you are given a diagnosis of unexplained infertility, then try for six months on your own before going for medical treatment.


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