Fertility: The Alternative Route

Having trouble conceiving? You may want to consider some natural assists to fertility. You won't be alone. As many as three-quarters of people undergoing conventional treatments for infertility use some form of alternative therapy as well. Here are some things you might want to try:

Everyday Actions

  • Lifestyle change: Quit smoking, lose (or gain) weight, eat well, sleep well, cut back on caffeine and alcohol, decrease your exercise intensity. Extremely intense exercise, such as training for marathons or triathlons, can interfere with the production of reproductive hormones; the jury's still out on the effects of more moderate exercise.
  • Acupuncture: Research suggests that this increasingly accepted alternative therapy may boost blood flow to your uterus, creating conditions that facilitate conception. A 2002 study of IVF patients found that those who had acupuncture before and after embryo transfer had nearly double the conception rate of those in a control group.
  • Stretch out: Yoga relaxes both body and mind. It can help put you in the mood.
  • Meditate: Meditation reduces the production of stress hormones while also indirectly boosting levels of reproductive hormones such as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), estrogen and progesterone by increasing serotonin and melatonin production. (Serotonin and melatonin stimulate the pituitary gland, where these reproductive hormones are produced.)
  • Picture yourself in a calming place: Visualization can be an effective form of stress reduction. It removes you mentally, if not physically, from a provocative situation. Close your eyes and imagine that you're in a place that makes you feel good—maybe the beach, maybe the woods, maybe drifting down the river on a raft.

Cautionary Note

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Most fertility experts caution against the use of herbs during conception. If you decide to give them a whirl, be sure to do your homework first and let your doctor know.

Table Talk

A healthy, balanced diet is essential for your body to function properly. Malnourishment and reduced body fat levels are well-established impediments to conception. There are many nutrients known to specifically contribute to fertility and others that aid conception by helping to neutralize stress.

  • Folic acid is important for a healthy reproductive system and it's essential for fetal development from the moment of conception. It may also be necessary in sperm production. It can be found in asparagus and leafy greens.
  • Vitamin A contributes to sperm production and to normal reproductive cycles. It also promotes healthy cell division. Liver, fatty fish and eggs are great sources.
  • Vitamin B6 contributes to the functioning of the female reproductive system. Deficiency is a special risk among oral contraceptive users. Beans, meat and fish are rich in B6.
  • Vitamin B12 contributes to the health of genetic material in cells. It can increase sperm count and speed up sperm motility. B12 is found in beef, lamb and chicken.
  • Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, may prevent free radical damage to sperm membranes. Strawberries, red cabbage and bell peppers are good sources.
  • Vitamin E may play a role in facilitating conception and it may protect sperm from free radical damage. Avocados, sunflower seeds and Brazil nuts are high in E.
  • Essential fatty acids, those found in fish oils and nuts and seeds, are important to the production of sex hormones.
  • Lycopene, a carotenoid, may improve sperm count and motility. Tomatoes are especially rich in lycopene.
  • Zinc is important for men's hormone metabolism, prostate and sperm health. Also, zinc deficiency may interfere with ovulation. Barley, crab and oysters are rich in zinc.

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