Did you know that:
Nutritional deficiencies can affect fertility status in both men and women. Many cases of unexplained infertility respond well to natural remedies and correcting nutritional imbalances.
The argument that additional vitamins and minerals are unnecessary when a “balanced diet” is eaten is losing validity in these modern times. As research shows we are likely to have higher than average needs for one or more of the forty or so essential nutrients for various reasons. Many therapeutic drugs deplete the body of vitamins; for example some antibiotics destroy folic acid, and aspirin lowers levels of vitamin C, vitamin K and iron. Those who smoke, drink alcohol, take the oral contraceptive pill, exercise vigorously or suffer acute or chronic illnesses have a higher requirement for nutrients than is provided in a “balanced diet”.
There is a connection between adequate nutrition and adequate functioning of the fertility cycle. Hormones that are necessary for normal processes are produced by the body and need certain nutrients for production and proper function. Therefore, natural fertility processes function normally through proper nutrition, an important part of enhancing fertility status.
A healthy pre-conception diet has also been shown to lead to children who have well-balanced emotions, freedom from mental retardation, freedom from allergic response, good posture, advanced development and well formed skulls.
Changes in fertility patterns
- Over the last 30 years, the % of births in women over 30 has doubled
- One in six couples require referral for fertility assistance
- 15% of couples have more than 1 cause for their infertility
- 25% of couples will have no apparent cause for their infertility, even after comprehensive testing
- Male reproductive failure now comprises 70% of infertility cases in western countries
Causes of Infertility
Causes of infertility and their approximate frequency (adapted from Hull et al 1985)
|Sperm defects or dysfunction||30%|
|Tubal infective damage||20%|
Total exceeds 100% as 15% of couples have more than one cause of sub-fertility
‘Unexplained’ infertility may be associated with:
Toxins in body
Herbal medicine is one facet of natural fertility management. Whether or not you have been diagnosed with a fertility problem, (explained or unexplained) herbal medicine can often assist with one or all of the following:-
- normalising hormone function in both partners
- nourishing and toning the reproductive organs for the woman
- reducing stress and relaxing the nervous system
- balancing sexual desire
By taking herbs in a program that includes good nutrition and a stress free healthy lifestyle, there is an increased chance of conceiving and a reduced incidence of miscarriage. Both partners are usually treated at the same time in a pre-conception period to ensure the healthiest baby possible.
Often other health issues or aspects of well being improve during the pre-conception phase such as a reduction in irritability or mood swings or an improvement in energy and sense of well-being.
Herbal remedies are not intrusive and can work well for both male and female pre-conception health. In many cases Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) is not required, however for the small number of couples who do require it, the pre-conception health care period is a great way to prepare the body for an increased chance of successful ART program.
Herbal medicine is prescribed and tailored to individual needs and may be adjusted according to progress during the treatment program.
Women naturally have an increased absorption of nutrients during pregnancy. Maternal nutrition is paramount for both the development of the baby and the prevention of problems and deficiencies in the mother.
Recent research has shown that a deficiency in any of the following nutrients; folate (folic acid), essential fatty acids, iron and iodine, may have detrimental effects on a developing foetus. Other minerals may also be required in higher amounts during pregnancy.
When a well-balanced diet and nutritional imbalances have been corrected before becoming pregnant, only few changes will need to be made to meet the nutritional needs of pregnancy.
Optimum nutrition is important and may be useful in the prevention of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, miscarriage, low thyroid function and birth defects.
There are many herbs that a herbalist or naturopath would never prescribe during pregnancy, however, there are other herbs that can safely be prescribed either in low doses or for a short time in certain instances.
A few herbal remedies can be used safely in the first trimester of pregnancy. These can be taken as teas to help tone and strengthen the uterus and cervix throughout the pregnancy for an easy delivery. Herbal remedies taken later in the pregnancy can provide effective general support for symptoms such as nausea, constipation, threatened miscarriage, infections, fluid retention, gestational diabetes, anxiety and insomnia.
Many Herbalists prescribe a partus preparaetor tonic to be taken at 34 weeks until after delivery for preparing the uterus, aiding labour and rapid recovery for the new mum.
A woman’s health is always important but more so when she has a baby constantly in her care. Optimal nutrition is important to maintain health and well-being for a mother, and to support both mother and baby when the baby is breast fed. Infant nutrition is also important for healthy normal development of non-breast fed babies, infants and children.
Herbs can be gentle and effective in supporting both mother and baby after birth. It is not always possible to have the time to recover fully from the physical stress of childbirth so herbs can aid in a rapid recovery. Some mothers may need help with sleep patterns, adequate lactation, emotional support or later on, a normal menstrual cycle.
Herbs can be useful for babies with common ailments such as colic, skin rashes or poor sleep patterns.
Linda Krick is a Naturopathic Herbalist working at the Lotus Centre, Brookvale a makes house calls along the Northern Beaches of Sydney.