Some biologists would argue having children is the reason we’re alive. So it’s easy to understand why it can be all-consuming when you try to have a child but can’t. It seems infertility is on the rise with 1 in 8 couples now expected to struggle with getting or staying pregnant at some stage in their life. But why is this?
The straight up answer is that we don’t really know. But as a herbalist I have my theories:
- We have more plastics and hormonal drugs in our food supply than ever before and these disrupt our natural hormones.
- We over-farm which decreases the nutritional value of our food leaving us with nutritional deficiencies.
- We use technology to consistently increase our productivity but also continue to take on more and more work as a result.
Many women suffer with genuine hormone imbalances which cause them to struggle when it comes to conceiving but some women have no explanation at all. This is called unexplained infertility or sub-fertility. If you’re one of those women this article is for you.
Modern medicine treats disease. It does not promote wellbeing. I believe that sub-fertility happens in between these two points. When I treat women who are struggling to conceive I always explain that my aim is to teach them everything they need to know to live the healthiest life they can. Their ability to conceive after that is up to the powers that be. I know by treating in this way that in the very least the patient will feel more happy and well in themselves even if a child isn’t conceived. Here are the main areas I look at with my patients and some tips for how to improve your health in them.
Reasons which may prevent pregnancy:
It’s becoming common practice to offer women who aren’t conceiving baby aspirin as it’s thought to improve circulation and I’m seeing women who now self-administer it as if it is a panacea. If you haven’t been instructed to take it by your doctor, it’s simply not worth the side effects. I like to use Ginger, Cinnamon and Hawthorn to support circulation. Blood is how we transport all our micro-nutrients around the body and it’s crucial for everything to work at it’s best. If you’re prone to feeling cold or have cold extremities these could be nice remedies for you.Low egg reserve or quality; this is normally a natural side effect of ageing, and with more and more women wanting to conceive later in life, it’s becoming a more frequent problem. Ashwagandha is a brilliant adaptogenic herb which helps to improve egg quality while also reducing stress levels. I’d highly recommend the Ashwagandha milk recipe as a tasty way to take yours. Did I mention it’s also an aphrodisiac that helps you get a good nights sleep? It takes 3 months for the maturing egg to reach the point where it’s released with ovulation so you need to take it for at least 3 months to reap the rewards.
Stress interferes with everything. In fertility it disturbs the hormones by creating a “progesterone steal”. When cortisol levels are high, it competes with progesterone and plugs into the receptors normally used by progesterone. This then lowers your progesterone levels and makes it harder to conceive. Usually you’ll end up with a short luteal phase or light periods as a result. If you do shift work, or have a high-demand job or home life, seriously consider it as a cause of your sub-fertility. I’d recommend relaxing herbs like Chamomile, Skullcap, Lime blossom, and Passion flower to help reduce your cortisol levels. If your stress has been high for a long time it’s good to combine those with an adaptogen like Ashwagandha or Siberian ginseng.
Thin Endometrial Lining
This usually indicates low progesterone. Now, I’d like to point out that your progesterone levels may show as normal on a test but you could still have symptom which would typically indicate low progesterone. This means that you could be less receptive to the progesterone you are producing. If you want to try increasing your progesterone levels I would recommend Vitex agnus castus. The preparation is absolutely key in this herb as the dosage is so crucial. I normally give 40 drops of a 1:2 tincture each morning for 3 months before changing our tack. If you find it makes your periods suddenly heavy or very long, reduce the dosage for a month and see how you go. If the problem persists you probably don’t have as low progesterone as you thought!
If your diet is made of a lot of processed foods, high in sugar, you won’t be getting the nutrition you need to conceive. I’d recommend the book Eat Yourself Pregnant for a detailed guide on what to eat and why.
To recap, here are the herbs I’ve mentioned:
- Poor circulation; Ginger, Cinnamon, Hawthorn
- Egg reserve and quality; Ashwagandha
- High stress; Chamomile, Skullcap, Lime blossom, Passion flower, Ashwagandha, Siberian ginseng.
- Thin endometrial living; Vitex agnus cactus
Natasha Richardson is a Herbalist and founder of Forage Botanicals. After getting her Bsc, Hons in Herbal Medicine in 2010 she went on to qualify as a Doula and Antenatal teacher. For more info on natural fertility visit www.foragebotanicals.co.uk