8 Ways to Increase your
Fertility Naturally
April 24, 2013
By Lauren Dulberg
In our modern world, infertility has become a common household term and it has become one of the most treated issues in Chinese Medicine next to back pain and chronic headaches.

Maybe this is because of the world we live in today, with an overstimulation of stress and environmental toxins which contribute to hormonal imbalances, inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, low sperm quality, low body temperature, thyroid dysfunction, adrenal fatigue and insomnia (to name a few), which all play a huge role in the outcome of fertility.

Chinese Medicine has been treating this issue for over 3000 years through natural ways, using diet, herbs, acupuncture and other modalities to ultimately balance out the body, creating a fertile ground for a beautiful seed to grow.

Here is a basic list on how fertility can be greatly enhanced through natural ways.

1. Diet

Diet is probably one of the most important tools you can have to help increase your fertility. Food is medicine and if we begin to look at it as that, you can use it to help with building your body to becoming a stronger, healthier you. A baby needs a nourishing environment to grow in, so it is understood that the body needs an abundance of healthy Qi and blood (which we get from foods) to create this environment.

In Chinese Medicine we call the uterus the "Palace" and in order to create a fertile one, nourishment from foods is one of the most important ways. Eating blood-building foods, such as hormone-free grass fed meats, eggs, seafood, and other healthy fats high in Omega 3s and Vitamin K2 is very important. This may be a time when vegetarians may need to try to introduce more eggs, bone broths or meats into their diet in order to get more Qi, blood and essential vitamins.

Vitamin K2 especially supports hormonal function for fertility, fetal development and has been known to help with the ease of labor. There are some vegetarians who may not need to add animal products into their diet in order to increase fertility, but from a clinical standpoint, eating these foods can boost one's fertility incredibly. One thing I have noticed in practice is that many vegans especially have a harder time conceiving. This is because women in general are more "blood deficient", so when it comes time for the body to have enough sustenance to nourish not only itself but a baby, it needs more blood and Qi than it is currently getting.

Healthy fats like organic butter, avocados, oysters, clams, sardines and creams as well as blood-building foods such as bone broths, meats, liver, dark leafy vegetables, black beans and grains such as quinoa are incredibly beneficial to a preconception diet.

Foods to stay away from if possible are soy and gluten. There is now known to be gluten intolerance in more than 80% of the population because of the tendency of wheat to be GMO (genetically modified), which then causes inflammation in the body where the body reacts in a way as it is almost attacking itself, like with an autoimmune disease.

Inflammation in the body can affect everything from functioning correctly and, especially in terms of reproductive health, create blocked fallopian tubes, cause an improper pH which does not allow for the needed motility of the sperm, and create an inhospitable environment for implantation to occur in the uterus. Soy, on the other hand, directly affects the thyroid, through producing goitrogens, which plays a very important role in conception since we need balanced thyroid hormones to allow for healthy ovulation and to maintain a pregnancy.

2. Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been used to aid infertility for thousands of years and has proven to be an incredible modality that helps women, who have been trying to conceive unsuccessfully, create life and bring a healthy baby to term. In recent years it has also been proven to enhance Assisted Reproductive Therapies such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro
fertilization (IVF).

Studies have also shown that a couple trying to conceive through IVF, when done in conjunction with Acupuncture, have a 67% higher chance of conceiving. I always recommend trying Chinese Medicine if possible, for at least 3 cycles before beginning ART treatments since they can be very invasive and can actually deplete what is needed in order to create a baby from the body through hormone therapy, putting the body through an unnatural process.

Chinese Medicine takes a different approach, focusing on trying to create a fertile palace by bringing blood and qi to the uterus, supplementing the body which then balances out hormones, creating better quality eggs and a nourishing environment for the fetus to thrive in. Studies have shown that Traditional Chinese Medicine alone can produce a 40-60% success rate versus IVF alone, which has a 15-35% chance of a live birth.

Acupuncture also deeply relaxes the body into a state that is hard to achieve on your own, unless you are well practiced in deep meditation accessing the Alpha brain waves. Through science we now know that it is also innervates the vagus nerve, which helps modify your body's reaction to both stress and inflammation. By being in a deep state of relaxation the body is then allowed to heal, improving your immune system and releasing blockages in the emotional body. This deep state of relaxation also sends messages to different receptors in the brain, helping the stress of trying to conceive leave the body. A lot of the time unexplained infertility is helped just with acupuncture treatments focused on de-stressing the body and sending qi and blood to the ovaries and uterus.

3. Chinese Herbs

Just like acupuncture, Chinese herbs have been used for thousands of years. Chinese herbs give the body what it may be missing, through what we call deficiencies of Yin, Yang, Qi or Blood. The right formula can help strongly move blood when it is "stagnated" in cases of endometriosis, adhesions and fibroids or move "phlegm" in cases of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or in cases of hypothyroidism, which creates a low body temperature and is a known cause of infertility.

Chinese herbs are used to elevate the body temperature and help increase the progesterone levels, which is an important aspect of healthy ovulation. Both Chinese herbs and acupuncture are also known to greatly enhance sperm quality and motility. Through precise diagnosis, a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner can see what may need to be fine tuned and prescribe you a specific formula that matches your pattern. Also, through using the basal body temperature (BBT) chart we can see if the follicular or luteal phase within the cycle needs help and adjust the formula accordingly.

From a scientific view, Chinese herbs can actually balance the hormones, which play a role in ovulation and maintaining a pregnancy. Chinese Herbs are known to create an equilibrium within the Hypothalamic, Pituitary gland and Adrenal gland axis; which controls the production and secretion of Estrogen, FSH and Progesterone hormones. These hormones control the menstrual cycle, ovulation and pregnancy. Hormonal imbalance is a common issue with infertility and is treated successfully through Chinese Herbal therapy & acupuncture combined. This is always best to do three to six months prior to trying to conceive.

4. BBT Chart

Originally used as a form of birth control called the "rhythm method", BBT charts can be one of our biggest tools for fertility success! BBT charts can show if the cycle is regular, how long the follicular and luteal phases are and, most importantly, when ovulation occurs. When charting your BBT you need two things: 1. A digital thermometer 2. A BBT chart, which you can download on the internet.

The only trick here is to wake up at the same time every day and not get out of bed until you have taken your temperature. Moving can increase your temperature and taking an exact reading is the most important part. Through temperature recording through your BBT, you can see when your temperature is getting higher and lower. The body temperature in a normal cycle usually peaks around day 14 which signals ovulation, then stays high until the menses occurs, unless of course there is pregnancy and then the temperature would remain high.

Through BBT charting, a woman can really help take her fertility into her own hands, knowing when she ovulates, checking for fertile mucus and understanding her cycle. Also, if you're working with a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner to help you with preconception and fertility, as stated above, this charting can help us see what may be out of balance in your cycle so we can help rebalance it, bringing about a healthy ovulation, cycle and overall reproductive health.

5. Relax

Stress and emotional health contribute to 75% of cases of unknown infertility. Deep relaxation not only can help your overall health, but can actually be the leading factor in making a baby. As we are learning through medical studies, stress contributes to many illnesses, from cancer to high blood pressure.

In Chinese Medicine, we do not separate the emotional body from the physical body. In fact, each organ channel is connected to its own set of physical symptoms as it is connected to its own set of emotional symptoms. It is understood in Chinese Medicine that the outer manifestation of a disease may simply have been triggered by an excess of an emotion. Also, the experience alone of dealing with infertility whether it has been a year or 10 years can be an emotional rollercoaster.

So merely adding something to your life that creates deep relaxation, and can rid your body of stress, grief, anger, sadness and all the other emotions that may envelop you while dealing with this process, can make all of the difference. Starting yoga, creating a space in your home to meditate, getting acupuncture, being in nature, or doing whatever helps you relax may be what you need in order to feel nourished and most importantly relaxed and happy.

6. Lose weight

In today's world, the food we eat is mostly not fit for human consumption and creates a range of disease from diabetes to cancer to heart disease. As mentioned in the diet section, eating organic whole foods is really the way to help your overall health as well as fertility. Being overweight can easily create an imbalance of hormones.

It is known that Polycystic Ovarian Disease goes hand in hand with being overweight. Losing weight can actually make the disease go away, just like diabetes and just like heart disease. Being a healthy weight can help balance your hormones and can boost fertility, since the body knows it needs to be strong for pregnancy and ready to put extra weight on the body. If a woman is already 10kg or more overweight, adding baby weight on top of that can be very hard on the body.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to be in our best health and our best shape in order to maximize our fertility potential! The best way to lose weight in a healthy manner is by letting go of sugars, fried foods and heavy carbohydrates. It's not about low fat as mainstream healthcare and media insists but instead low sugar and low carbohydrates that are not as easy to digest.

7. Gain weight

Just like being overweight can mess with fertility, so too can being underweight. If you are 10kg underweight, this can prevent you from getting pregnant. Not eating enough nourishment, through healthy fats, can really affect how things go with fertility. Many woman (and this is a big issue here in Australia) who struggle with eating disorders or even mild ones, have a very hard time getting pregnant.

There simply are not enough nutrients in the palace for a baby to be happy and healthy. Imagine the fertility goddesses of ancient times. Were they skinny in their skinny jeans? No! So please, eat that chorizo or that empanada, enjoy your food, feel satisfied and full and maybe even go for seconds.

8. Start the process of preconception health at least 6 months before

Chinese Medicine and fertility health have become very popular in the United States and fertility has become one of the leading fields for helping women conceive. Seeing many women struggle with their fertility had an impact on me as a woman who wanted to have children in the future. I knew that my cycles were not regular so that meant I had an imbalance of hormones. So I went to an endocrinologist to have my hormone levels tested and just as I suspected my FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) levels were very high.

A normal FSH level is very important in having healthy ovulation and in creating a healthy pregnancy. So I decided to take it upon myself to start implementing my knowledge of Chinese Medicine into my life. I knew I did not want to have a baby for at least another year so the best time to start was now! I did weekly acupuncture, took Chinese herbs to regulate my period, ate almost a totally organic diet, lowered my consumption of alcohol to maybe a couple of glasses of wine a week, did a lot of yoga and just became the healthiest version of me that I possibly could.

Fast forward a year later, I was pregnant within a week of "trying". This is after I was told by my endocrinologist that I would have a hard time conceiving, and after many years of an irregular cycle, the one who changed my fertile outcome was me and I did it in a 100% natural way.

Sometimes it takes a deep and committed tending to the soil for an abundant outcome. We are in charge of our health though sometimes the divine plan is beyond our control and the universe has something else in mind. But as much as we possibly can own and direct our health, the reward and beauty within our path will be greater than we ever imagined.

Lauren Dulberg, L.Ac, is a Licensed Acupuncturist and Practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine. You can visit her website here.

"Just like being overweight can mess with fertility, so too can being underweight"