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Is it possible to increase fertility without invasive procedures?

Posted by camilla on September 12, 2012 in fertility, Products with 3 Comments


Sam happened magically. Or naturally. It just seems like magically when I think about it. Around the time the boy turned one, we started trying to have another little person. It just didn’t happen. We were not trying long enough to declare secondary infertility or get depressed about the absence of a second pregnancy. I did get checked out, and there were some completely whacked out things about my system. I got surgery (that’s a whole ‘nother post), got on medicine, and since then, we’ve been taking an extended break from trying. We’ve just been focused on Sam the Mule, which is really a pretty wonderful thing. He’s a spirited child (again, a whole ‘nother post), so it’s been pretty great for the whole family that he’s had the lime light only on him for the past two years. Having gotten to know the boy better, I can say with some certainty that he would have clocked a newborn at my breast right on the head. Alternatively, he might have tried to bite an arm or toe off. Depending on his mood, he may have smothered a new little being with too much love. We’re comfortable with our family unit as it is, and we’re very comfortable with Sam being an older Older Sibling.

Along the way, though, I picked up some knowledge. For those of you who know me well, you may remember that I am an obsessive researcher. Obsession and memorization are among my most notable personality traits. I also like to be a know-it-all and proselytize about all of my amazing knowledge. This is clearly the main reason I have a blog.

During the months we were trying for another pregnancy, I did some pretty helpful field research about naturally increasing fertility. I had a whole regimen of supplements in a nice little pill box, and some of them did assist me. Some of them were a bit questionable, but harmless. Some were delicious, if you like celery. Herein, I shall report my findings for your pleasure and perhaps your use.

First, it’s necessary to figure out why you’re having a bit of difficulty getting a bun in the oven. This is worth a trip to a good OBGYN. He or she may be able to diagnose you with some of the more common causes of infertility: PCOS, endometriosis, dermoid cysts, ovarian cysts, anovulatory cycles, short luteal phase, or some other such mumbo jumbo going on with your body that causes you to get antsy and angry at your uterus. Don’t try to guess what is wrong — just go. Keep in mind that it’s quite normal for folks to try for six months or so, or even a year or so if you are over 30. That can cause major unhappiness, but still, it’s normal.

Here are the overall bits of advice that any doctor, midwife, nurse practitioner, chiropractor, or nutritionist will agree on:

1. Eat healthy. Michael Pollan says, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” For those of you who know me well, you may wonder if I’m practicing what I’m preaching. I eat a lot of pasta and bread, and I cover it in cheese. This is likely not the best fertility diet. For your ute to work well, you have to have your body the best condition possible. So, the incorporation of lots of green things, lots of unprocessed and delightfully fresh foods, and yummy seasonal and local treats is important. Is it proven that eating broccoli and grapes will get you pregnant? Findings are mixed. However, it won’t hurt you, and it will quite likely help you, your mood, and your belly.

2. Exercise. Duh. It will help, it won’t hurt. If we can readapt Pollan’s motto on food, here it is: “Exercise. Not too much. But just enough.” If you are too too skinny and exercising too too much, you may have anovulatory cycles. Your body may think you are starving, and so it won’t produce eggs. When it does produce eggs, they might not be so healthy. So exercise moderately, eat healthy fats, and don’t stray towards the bottom of your BMI range.

3. If you are overweight, lose weight. I like my women curvy. Too curvy can unfortunately make you have anovulatory cycles. Losing 10-15 pounds can change this almost overnight. I can’t find the exact source but if you google, “Lose weight to increase fertility,” you’ll see that over 3 million results appear. Google is never wrong.

4. Be happy. Stress can cause all manner of ills in your body. It follows that you may not be able to get knocked up if you are completely overworked, overwrought, or totally stressed out all the time. Figure out what you need, and go get it. I recommend keeping a journal, taking a walk, or sleeping in. You may opt for talking to a therapist if stress is completely overwhelming you. It can’t hurt.

As for supplements, it’s pretty clear that some things can help. There is a lot of crazy crap on the internet, so don’t believe everything you read. That means that if you are interested in taking a supplement, research it well, look at medical studies, and figure out when and how you should take it. For instance, some supplements should only be taken in the two weeks before ovulation, and not after. This is because they may cause cramping or uterine spasms, increasing the likelihood of a miscarriage. (Red raspberry leaf and evening primrose oil fall into this category).

First — and I must repeat this — go to your doctor, figure out if you are having an issue with fertility, and what that issue might be. A lot of these supplements are harmless, but some could mess with your hormones in a way you don’t like. So read my snippets of advice, then do some research for yourself, and for heaven’s sake, go to the doc! I didn’t include everything here, but these are some popular supplements you might want to look into.

1. Get a damn fine vitamin. My OB always reminds me to take a prenatal vitamin, but I am lazy and cheap, and I don’t like the giant bottle of Costco vitamins I’ve had on my counter for the past year. So I take Sam’s gummy vitamins. Do as I say, readers, not as I do. Buy a high quality prenatal that is easy on the stomach. I used the Rainbow Light Just Once Prenatal One Multivitamin, 150 tablets, and I loved them. They are just once a day, unlike some other high quality vitamins. They are also easy on sensitive stomachs. If you love the idea of whole food vitamins, check out the New Chapter Perfect Prenatal, 192 Count. I’ve always wanted to try them, but they look a bit hurty for the wallet at three times a day.

2. Invest in a high quality fish oil or DHA/EPA pill. Fish oil is important for your heart, your cholesterol, your skin, your hair, and, quite likely, your fertility. According to the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada, “One study on fish oil and other omega-3 fatty acid food sources (pumpkin seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds) showed improved circulation to the uterus and appeared to increase pregnancy rates for women dealing with infertility.” If you are vegetarian or vegan, you will want to stay away from fish oil. So check out Deva Nutrition Deva Vegan DHA-EPA, 90 Count. I eat the fishes, so I go with Costco fish oil pills with the anti-burp enteric coating: Kirkland Signature Enteric Coated Fish Oil Omega 3 1200 MG Fish Oil, 684 MG of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, 180 softgels. When I was pregnant, I went with the super high quality Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Formula, 180-Count. Either way, you want to take one 1000-1200 mg pill twice a day. Again, it can’t hurt. Even if it’s not proven, it can only help.

3. Vitamin B6 is proven to help luteal phase defects. (Having a luteal phase that is too short can result in early miscarriages, as your body starts your menstrual cycle up before the egg has implanted. Totally not cool.) B6 can also increase cervical mucus, which is essential for conception. Get a great B6 supplement, and take it! It cannot hurt you! Source Naturals Vitamin B-6, 50mg, 250 Tablets.

4. Evening primrose oil is another supplement recommended for fertility. Like DHA and EPA, it increases circulation to your uterus. If you have scant cervical mucus, it can also increase your cervical mucus, which is essential for getting pregnant. (It actually does do this! If you have this issue, also drink tons of water.) Only take this supplement during the first 10-14 days of your cycle, as it can cause cramping and delay or interfere with implantation. 2000 mg per day is the recommended dosage of this wonderful oil. Look on Amazon for a high quality evening primrose oil supplement to include in your routine: NOW Foods Evening Primrose Oil 500mg, 100 Softgels,.

5. Vitex is the next big gun in supplements. Vitex is recommended to women who have irregular cycles or issues with ovulation, as it can regulate levels of prolactin and progesterone. It is supposed to regulate cycles, and it can also help women who do not ovulate to ovulate and produce healthy eggs. Studies on Vitex have mostly been inconclusive, but in my trolling of TTC forums, a lot of women who used it ended up ovulating and pregnant within a couple of months of going on Vitex. Check it out here: Nature’s Way – Vitex Fruit, 400 mg, 100 capsules.

6. Red raspberry leaf is frequently recommended to women with all manner of hormonal issues. It is supposed to provide essential nutrients, which are said to increase the health and thickness of your uterine lining. No studies have conclusively proven this effect, but many women swear by it. This supplement is particularly helpful if you have had early losses. Early losses (before 8 weeks or so) can be linked to having insubstantial uterine lining to support implantation. This supplement is also only recommended during the first ten to fourteen days of your cycle. There have not been conclusive studies on red raspberry leaf, but it won’t hurt you. Here is the RRL I was using: Nature’s Way Red Raspberry Leaves , 480 mg, 100 Capsules.

7. Dong quai is a Chinese herb that is related to celery. In tea, it actually does indeed taste very celery-like. Dong quai is reputed to regulate your estrogen production. I drink it in Yogi Woman’s Moon Cycle Tea to … regulate my hormones, I guess? I got it for PMDD symptoms. I have no reports except that it tastes delicious. Here it is in pill form: Nature’s Way Dong Quai Root , 565 mg, 50 Capsules.

8. Maca has not been proven to assist women in getting pregnant, but it’s one of those herbs that, again, many women swear by. Maca is said to regulate hormones in both men and women, which can be beneficial to those who have irregular cycles or for those who have been diagnosed with conditions like endometriosis or PCOS, which upset the natural balance of hormones in the body. A root common to South America, it is gaining popularity in the US as a miracle supplement similar to acai. This supplement is definitely worth a try for those with irregular cycles, as it is unlikely to do any harm to the body. You can get it in powder form (which is not supposed to taste good) or pill form: NOW Foods Maca 500mg, 250 Capsules.

9. Coenzyme-Q10 (CoQ10) is a found in every cell in our bodies, and it is partly responsible for cell regeneration. Studies have found that CoQ10 can assist in rejuvenation of eggs in women who have unhealthy or weak eggs. Since eggs are single cells, I must say this makes sense. Again, this is one that doesn’t hurt to take. It’s supposed to help prevent heart attacks, lower cholesterol, and even increase your lifespan. Recommended! Doctor’s Best High Absorption Coq10 w/ BioPerine (100 mg), 120 Soft gels is available here.

10. Inositol is another supplement that can help restore egg quality. Inositol has also been shown to increase peak progesterone, which is extremely helpful for women with PCOS or low progesterone in general. Low progesterone can result in early losses or prevention of implantation, so this can be a helpful supplement for anyone suffering from those issues. Look for it here: Twinlab Inositol Caps 500mg, 100 Capsules (Pack of 3).

11. Soy-isoflavones is another supplement that is important for the regulation of estrogen. Don’t take this without first having a conversation with your doctor, as you don’t want to mess up your estrogen levels before or during pregnancy. However, this supplement has been shown to assist in implantation. If you have an issue with early losses, ask your doctor if this might be a good supplement for you. Others swear that this is “nature’s Clomid” (Clomid is a drug that helps women ovulate). Check it out here: Spring Valley Dietary Supplement Soy Isoflavones.

12. False unicorn root (mostly I included this one because of the name) is supposed to regulate hormones and increase cervical mucus production. Some reviews say this is true. However, I would recommend taking the tried and true evening primrose oil, and skip this supplement since it’s a repeat of the same shiz that EPO does.

13. Cinnamon is great for lowering insulin resistance, which can be a problem for women with PCOS. It is also likely to prevent extremely heavy periods, which can worsen endometriosis. Check this link out for more information. Look towards buying cinnamon in bulk at Amazon: Nature’s Bounty Cinnamon 1000mg, 100 Capsules (Pack of 3).

14. NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine) has been proven to help women with PCOS or with unexplained infertility. This drug, often used in combination with Clomid, can help women ovulate. Here it is on Amazon: NOW Foods Nac-Acetyl Cysteine 600mg, 100 Vcaps. This is, again, a supplement that should be discussed with a doctor.

15. Royal jelly, or bee pollen, is recommended for egg quality as well. It is supposed to help the body regulate hormones and produce healthy eggs that are ready for implantation. Studies on this supplement are inconclusive, so ask your doctor what he or she thinks. Many acupuncturists recommend this supplement for fertility. If you are interested in checking it out, look here: Durham’s Queen’s Delight (Royal Jelly 1000mg, Propolis 600mg, Beepollen 1500mg) in 3 Daily Capsules.

Just in case you don’t believe me, here is an awesome article that lists some of the studies done on these supplements and herbs.

Let me know if you’ve had any experience with these supplements, or if you know of anything else that can be added to the list!

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  1. Jaclyn DownsSeptember 12, 2012 - 2:24 am #1

    Camilla,

    You sure did a bunch of research! I enjoyed reading this post, and I’m sure that many women will find it beneficial! In addition to cinnamon, I prefer GTF Chromium, which stands for glucose tolerance factor – as it helps to regulate blood sugar imbalances. Diabetics have been found to be deficient, and as you know, PCOS is related to insulin resistance.

    Another supplement that I recommend to my clients that is similar to evening primrose is borage oil – pretty much the same thing. It might be good to rotate between EPO and Borage if taking for a while.

    And I love that #1 is your #1! I am a firm believer in nutrition (as you know) and get excited when other people find this to be true. I love that you didn’t recommend one particular food that you feel strongly about, but rather fresh, unprocessed food (and readers, strive for organic because pesticides are neuroendocrine disruptors!). What is healthy for one person, may be poison for another, so there is not one miracle food for everyone. We must take biochemical individuality into consideration. Raw broccoli can be great for some people, but disastrous for others with low thyroid functioning.

    I hope that this post wasn’t annoyingly long. Apologies if so.. I am just so excited to know that these are your thoughts!

  2. camillaSeptember 12, 2012 - 2:34 am #2

    When I was reading this comment, I was like “Who wrote this? She’s awesome!” It was Jackie, of course. I also take borage oil. I’ll look at GTF chromium too… Interesting! Also, that Jackie clone you produced is mighty squishy and cute!

  3. KatieSeptember 12, 2012 - 11:59 am #3

    It’s nice to see that you are putting the word out about the benefits of certain herbs. I took red raspberry throughout my pregnancy and it’s good stuff. Pregnancy ups the level of metabolic waste in the body so it’s very important to support the organs that cleanse your blood and lymphatic system.

    I was surprised that you included Dong Quai because I was under the impression that this is NOT a good herb if you ARE pregnant. If you balancing hormones it makes sense but it can be harmful to the fetus from what I have been told.

    One infertility/maternal health issue that I find interesting is the relatively common problem of heavy metal contamination – lead, mercury, etc. Apparently a sizable portion of men and women have levels of lead in their bodies that are significantly elevated. Despite this, testing for lead is not part of the standard of care in OB. Why this is so, and testing for very obscure diseases IS part of the standard, does not make a lot of sense to me. It seems like it would be relatively easy to test for.

    Lastly, you are focusing on your fertility but has your spouse been taking supplements too?

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I’m a liberal feminist that believes that liberal, feminist ideals should gel with embracing your gender and motherhood (if that’s what you feel like doing). I support all kinds of moms and dads and parents. Oh and, although I totally love that natural vibe and not harming the environment, I supplement my organic milk and fresh fruits and veggies with the occasional Twix, the frequent Oreo, and the daily Coke Zero. I’m opinionated, not easily offended, and a loudmouth in person and on the internet. I am what I am. Welcome.

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