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General Information and Herbal Suggestions
Promoting Fertility

"In traditional Chinese medicine gynecological imbalances are considered to be associated with poor pelvic circulation which prevents the gynecological system from being as healthy as it can be." ~ by Roy Upton

The normal functioning of the menstrual cycle relies on an intricate dance of hormones. If one hormone is out of balance the whole system can fail, resulting in an inability to get pregnant or maintain pregnancy. Natural remedies gently bring the body back in to balance, they work slowly, gradually, many of these herbs help to rebuild the body, replenishing what has been lost. They take time to do their work. Rosemary Gladstar recommends making a six month commitment to work on your health program. Other herbalists recommending waiting at least 3 months before attempting to conceive while taking herbs to increase fertility.

Think of your body as a garden. You don't just throw seeds on the hard packed earth and expect them to grow into majestic plants, no... first you lovingly prepare the soil, then plant the seeds, give them water and care for them as they grow. If you don't do a good job preparing the soil, your garden isn't going to do so good. For some women, this prep work is crucial to being able to carry a pregnancy to term. Get your man involved, get him to take a daily multi-vitamin, watch his diet - both of you should eat as healthy as possible. And there are also herbs he can take, and dietary adjustments he can make to increase his fertility. The more sperm the merrier when you are trying to conceive.

How you choose to look at things can also have an impact on getting pregnant. When getting pregnant isn't as easy as you'd like it to be it can be an endless source of fustration, stress and so on. It may help to step back and away from those feelings and take a break... try looking at the situation from another angle.... maybe you can turn it into an oportunity to deepen your relationship and commitment with your partner. Definately don't play the blame game.... his low sperm count.... her ovary problems..... etc. Realize there is always room for improvement for both of you, natural therapies can help. Take 6 months off from the babymaking and just don't worry about trying to get pregnant, use that time to focus on your health and well-being... get yourself into as good a condition as possible.

Start your prenatal vitamins, and find a quality multi-vitamin for him, they make formulas just for men, personally I like to do my vitamin shopping at whole food markets, health food stores and the like. I look for products that contain natural ingredients and make sure they meet all the RDA minimum vitamin and mineral amounts, and exceeding these minimum requirements is ok.

Make sure your lifestyle is in good shape, remove sources of stress and tension. Focus on love-making rather than baby-making. When you want to get pregnant and can't seem to, it is very fustrating, taking some time off from actively trying to get pregnant can help releive some of the stress and tension. And who knows you may be pleasantly surprised at some point during the months of rebuilding. If fertility problems are serious then working with a knowledgable herbalist, nutritionist, wholistic doctor or naturopath will only increase your chances of success most efficiently, rather than to try and do it yourself.

Hormones are what make the fertility cycle happen. Without enough luteinizing hormone ovulation cannot happen. If estrogen is out of balance many things can go wrong and many problems can develop including fibrocystic breasts, endometriosis, dramatic mood swings, infertility, painful cramping during menstruation. Or if progesterone is lacking spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) can occur with in the first few weeks of pregnancy. A woman may not even know that conception is taking place. Low progesterone levels may cause depression, sluggishness and a feeling of lethargy.

Make sure you are not anemic or borderline anemic.

Be aware of the 28 day cycle myth. Many couples are labeled infertile because they are timing intercourse to coincide with a 28 day cycle when the woman's cycle is actually longer or shorter than the "norm". The real question is what is normal for you. Charting your cycle can be an invaluable tool to help you achieve pregnancy. For more information check out Taking Charge of Your Fertility

Many herbs can be used to promote fertility. Herbs which encourage pregnancy are characterized by their ability to:3

    a. nourish and tonify the uterus
    b. nourish the entire body
    c. relax the nervous system
    d. establish and balance normal hormonal function
    e. balance sexual desire

Red Clover Blossoms (Trifolium pratense)
Is Susun Weed's favorite for dealing with infertility. Its high vitamin content is especially helpful to the uterus. Its abundant protein content aids the entire body. "Its profuse and exceedingly absorbable calcium and magnesium relax the nervous system and promote fertility."3 It contains an abundant supply of minerals - virtually every trace mineral needed by the glandular system to restore and balance hormonal function.

It has the ability to alkalinize the body, and may balance the acid/alkaline level of the vagina and uterus in favor of conception. The normal environment of the vagina without the presence of fertile mucus is very hostile to sperm, very acidic which kills the sperm. Fertile mucus is normally alkaline, it nurtures, protects and guides the sperm toward the safety of the uterus, and is necessary for the sperm to survive if conception is to occur.

Red Clover is often combined with Peppermint in infertility brews. Peppermint, spearmint, and other mints (except pennyroyal) are safe to use. They are mildly stimulating, they help to get the energy moving, and are pleasant tasting sexual stimulants.

Alfalfa can be used in the absence of red clover but Susun finds it is not as effective.

Nettle leaves (Urtica dioica)
Nettles are a uterine tonic and a general nourisher with the special ability to strengthen the kidneys and adrenal glands. It is an excellent food and tonic for the hormonal system. Nettles is very high in iron and calcium and other minerals, plus it contains substantial amounts of chlorophyll. I think it would be good in combination with red clover and peppermint.

Raspberry leaves (Rubus sp.)
Raspberry leaves are an effective uterine tonic. It contains large quantities of calcium. It is a herb commonly used through out pregnancy and considered safe for this purpose. For promoting fertility Susun says that it is most effective when combined with red clover.

Vitex (Vitex angus-castus) can help minimize the risk of miscarriage. It also works specifically by enhancing pituitary function, thus improving ovarian function and can help stimulate ovulation.

Wild Yam Can be used during the first half of the menstrual cycle, from menstruation to ovulation to promote fertility. But should not be used during the second half of the menstrual cycle (after ovulation til menstruation begins) if your goal is to get pregnant. Wild yam has many uses, one of its reputed (but unproven) uses is as a contraceptive when used in specific doses through out the cycle. For more information about its contraceptive effects.

Calcium and magnesium are the two minerals thought to be the most important in affecting a women's ability to conceive and maintain a pregnancy.

Vitamin E is essential to the health of the reproductive organs. It normalizes hormone production. It is useful for increasing fertility in men as well as women. "500 to 1500 IU taken by the male partner for several months prior to conception has been shown to prevent birth defects in children of couples who've had defective children previously"3 Wheat germ oil is an excellent source of natural vitamin E.

Zinc is an important component for creating vaginal fluid and semen. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc. So both you and your partner can munch on them together.

Acupuncture has been used successfully in treating infertility. It is very effective for removing stagnation and energy blocks.

Lunaception may help to regulate ovulation by utilizing light to promote timely ovulation. It is pretty easy to do, here are the basics..... Leave a moon-like light on (a small night-light) for 3 days midway through your menstrual cycle, whenever you expect to be ovulating or when you should be ovulating. Every other night sleep in complete darkness (cover your glowing alarm clock). For more info check your bookstore. Or check back soon as I will be adding links to books about lunaception in my own on-line bookstore, I'll keep ya posted.

Other Herbs to aid in nourishing and strengthening the liver and endocrine glands include.

Further Reading:
Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, MPH
Herbal Healing for Women by Rosemary Gladstar
Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year by Susun Weed
Herbal Remedies for Women by Amanda McQuade Crawford
Lunaception: A feminine odyssey into fertility and contraception

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