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When you are struggling to conceive, you will try just about everything to get you that BFP (that is, Big Fat Positive), but is what the doctors are recommending truly effective? What side effects do they have? What alternatives are there?
When you walk into a reproductive endocrinologist’s office, they will want to first know how long you have been trying and probably want to run a slew of tests on you and your partner, and depending on what they discover, they may want to order you some sort of prescription, perhaps Clomid or Progesterone supplementation.
These drugs, while they can absolutely be helpful in conception when needed, can take a toll on your body and lead to a very uncomfortable pregnancy with more symptoms than necessary. They include side effects such as: bloating, pelvic pain, blurred vision, eye sensitivity, liver damage, yellowing of the skin/eyes, hot flashes, nausea, migraines, heavy bleeding, sore breasts, restlessness, hypersensitivity, vaginal dryness, ectopic pregnancy, hemorrhage, vision loss, fetal heart defects, chest pain, hypertension, fetal dwarfism, cysts, cancer, hair loss, acne, allergic reaction, weight gain, placental complications, and more.
Natural Approaches to Fertility
Here at HERBAL, we say, let’s not be too hasty with the drugs!
Here are some suggestions that may work for you in a more natural way before relying on the doctor’s notes…
Increasing the fat and protein in your diet! That’s right, we said it! And no, you will not gain a ton of weight doing this, it is extremely nourishing to your body. Your adrenals require nutrition to work adequately, and if you are binging on carbs and starving yourself of fats and proteins to avoid weight gain, you are starving your adrenals and thyroid, which directly impact your fertility. Even if you are eating plenty of nutrients, you could not be digesting them with poor gut health and poorly functioning digestive system. Give your gallbladder a boost with Betaine HCL plus Pepsin (this is a good one), which helps increase the bile and boosts digestion, Yellow dock (I recommend this tea) will also improve your gallbladder health. Taking a probiotic (this one) is an excellent choice, as well. Coffee or saline enemas may be in your future, if you could have parasites (and most people do), to clear out the gut even more so!
Evaluate how much iron, methylfolate and methylcobalamin (B12) you have in your body. If you are deficient, your body is not focused on reproducing, it is focused on getting you better and absorbing as much as possible for YOU, before you can support another life. Make sure the folate and B12 you select is METHYLATED, otherwise, it has poor bioavailability and may be even more toxic to you than helpful. Black strap molasses and dark leafy greens are a great source of iron, but if you are anything like me, severely anemic, you may need more than that. If you are looking for a supplement, Ritual is a great brand, so is Hemaplex (side note: ALWAYS label read, do not just take our word for it, but investigate those ingredients!) Increasing your vitamin C will also increase your iron absorption and too much calcium blocks your absorption.
Castor oil – Ew, what?! How does a laxative help me? Wait.. don’t run! We aren’t telling you to drink it at all! Instead, warm some castor oil to body temp and give yourself a deep abdominal massage, nightly. Going in a circular motion all across your abdomen, high and low, and even into your thighs, can not only moisturize and heal your skin, but it can improve your fertility by enhancing blood flow and circulation to your reproductive organs. Look into the Mayan Fertility Massage, and make sure to do it every night! If you are in your fertile window, maybe even have your partner do it.. It may lead to a baby in many ways! (Do not use this massage if you think you have conceived or if your pregnancy has been confirmed, it can stimulate miscarriage.)
Wild Yam Root – This yummy root naturally balances your progesterone and estrogen levels. Wild yam also relaxes muscles so if you have an irritable uterus that is causing you to struggle to conceive, wild yam may be your answer. You can find this in creams, capsules, teas and more.
Vitex (Chasteberry) -Chasteberry is a wild plant. It works by stimulating dopamine production in the brain, balancing the levels of prolactin, estrogen, progesterone and LH in the body. It can also stimulate opioid receptors, giving you a little buzz or pain relief from strong menstrual cramps! It is also beneficial in balancing melatonin, helping you sleep. It is a natural inflammatory, which is of large benefit to those with endometriosis. There have been several studies around the world showing the benefits of chasteberry for fertility enhancement, PMS relief, reduction of menopause symptoms, inflammation, acne, excessive body hair and uterine fibroids against a placebo!! There is science behind the claims which is always a plus! You can find it in the wild and pick it yourself if you know what you’re looking for.. as well as purchase a tincture or supplement of it at your local herb or health food store.
Bee Pollen – Can restore damaged ovaries and balance hormones, also very nutritious and gives life to all cells, and easy to add to smoothies. Bee propolis and royal jelly are also extremely beneficial, and for some, more so, than bee pollen. Bee propolis has been evaluated in studies for endometriosis and shows substantial benefit, in comparison to the placebo group.
Maca – Maca contains an array of health benefits, not just for fertility! It contains more calcium than a glass of milk, iodine for your thyroid, a natural muscle builder and toner, emotional well-being, improves memory and focus, aides sleep, and reduces hot flashes/menopausal symptoms. Women are suggested to consume red maca, while men consume black maca, for fertility.
Shatavari – Shatavari is an overall health rejuvenator and is cooling to the body. It is slightly bitter, so mixing with honey, whether in powder, tincture, or tea form, is likely best. You can also order capsules. It is part of the asparagus family, and supports health blood flow, good digestion, may balance breast milk production, and aides in lung health (increasing all over oxygen). This complete rejuvenation to your body can boost your fertility!
Ashwaghanda – This is an adaptogen, which means that it helps your body manage stress and helps the body find balance, whether it is functioning poorly or in over-drive. It is one of the most critical herbs in Ayurvedic medicine which helps balance blood sugar, induces apoptosis (the death of cancer cells), reduces cortisol, increases sperm count and mobility, increases muscle strength, reduce inflammation and more!! It is truly a versatile and necessary herb.
Damiana – Damiana is a natural libido enhancer for both males and females. It relaxes you, makes you feel calm, help you sleep and can even aide ovulation.
Inositol – A natural blood sugar balancer that aides the digestive system and reproductive organ health. This pseudo vitamin (considered B8), synthesized from yeast to create a glucose like structure, may provide relief for those suffering with anxiety, Type II diabetes and PCOS. Studies show no ill effects on the brain, only positive, including increased mood and attention span. It also does not impact liver or kidney health in a negative way like other fertility, mental health and diabetic treatments. It works by decreasing testosterone in the body. Compared to Metformin, Inositol performed at over 40% success rate for improving fertility versus Metformins success rate of only 11%. It is safe for breastfeeding as well as safe for children, including for treatment of ADHD. Inositol is even theorized to be a cancer cell destroyer! A combination of myo-inositol and d-chiro inositol makes it most bio-available and effective in the body!
Your emotional well-being is important too, if you are stressed, depressed, or any other negative feelings, it can hinder your ability to conceive! A blend of Lemon Balm, Dandelion, Nettle, Oatstraw, andRed Clover can aide in not only emotional balancing, but nutrients and gentle detox, as well.
If your stress is caused by high blood pressure, like a high stress job that triggers your adrenaline, or you just get anxious thinking about trying to conceive, try some cayenneor yarrow! They are both blood pressure balancers, can balance your menstrual flow and improve blood circulation all around the body.
What are some other supplements you used for conception? We would love to hear from you!
Most articles claim that there is nothing biological that naturally gives women a desire to conceive. – I beg to differ. Our bodies are set up to desire sex around time of ovulation. Those with regulated hormone function anyway!
Our hormones work in harmony throughout our cycles to accommodate each stage. After menses, the level of estrogen rises higher and higher. This is due to the FHS hormone that is stimulating the follicles, preparing the egg to be released! The LH surge is what kind of, kicks the egg out! This surge happens around 12-36 hours before the egg is released.
Together, Estrogen and the LH surge are shown to naturally increase the desire to be intimate. Studies have shown for there to be an increase in libido in the days prior to ovulation/around ovulation day.
A 6-day window of increased sexual desire when with an exclusive partner is what studies have found, beginning 3-4 days before the LH surge. Naturally, our bodies desire to procreate! Not only this, but our cervical mucus changes before/during ovulation, as well. The cervical mucus that is present prior to/during ovulation is best to accommodate sperm.
In the photo below you can see how the cervical mucus changes throughout the cycle. In the bottom right image, you see peak fertile fluid. This just so happens to arrive around ovulation! This type of fluid is prime environment to transport sperm to the egg!
This cervical mucus change to provide a more wet environment. The change in fluid to this wet mucus correlates with increased pelvic blood flow, as well as increased vaginal sensitivity. All of the above sounds like a recipe for enjoyable intimacy to me! It is also found that women feel more secure, have a higher sense of wellbeing, and lack of loneliness closer to ovulation. This could contribute to a higher libido, no doubt!
Everything works together to help us naturally desire sex around ovulation time! Those with irregular hormone levels such as super high progesterone levels might not see this correlation though.
Those who track their menstrual cycle can see when ovulation is approaching and see the correlation. I know for myself personally, I desire sex most prior to/on ovulation day.
That is also the time where my brain rationalizes another pregnancy. “Maybe having another baby would be a great idea.”
Preventing pregnancy with a natural desire to procreate with your loving partner is a challenge in itself! Temping and tracking to prevent pregnancy can go out the window around ovulation time for many. That is a topic for another day though 😉
Have you ever heard of someone being pregnant but never noticing because they still had a period? How about someone who was pregnant but conceived again while pregnant, carrying two babies? It is possible! There are many variables that could cause this to happen. Today, we are going to talk about a few variations of the uterus!
There are many variations of Uterus. One of the most common congenital anomalies would be a biocornuate uterus, otherwise known as a heart-shaped uterus! It is estimated that a bicornuate uterus is seen in 1-5/1,000 women. You very well may know someone personally that has a heart-shaped uterus. There are many different variations of bicornuate uterus though. Some more severe than others. It can increase pregnancy and birth complications but most go on to deliver perfectly healthy babies!
There is also what is called a didelphys uterus! This is where there are TWO wombs! This is one way a woman could be pregnant but still have a period the entire pregnancy. This isn’t super common, many might not even know this is possible! Statistics say that 1 in every 3,000 people women will have a didelphys uterus.
With a double uterus, there is also a double cervix, as shown above. YES – 2 cervixes!
(Photo above from https://babygest.com/en/uterine-anomalies/. Awesome information to further educate yourself!)
A didelphys uterus can be either unicollis, with 1 vagina OR bicollis, with 2 separate vaginas! Yes, a woman can have 2 vaginas! Many with this anomaly do not realize this until they begin menstruating and notice that they still bled after inserting a tampon into their vagina. They continue to bleed because it is the OTHER vagina that is bleeding! Another reason a woman could be pregnant and still have a period her entire pregnancy, leaving her unaware of conception.
These uterine anomalies are the result of the Mullerian Duct failing to fuse correctly when the female is developing in her mother’s womb. There is no known cause of this at the current time. There are many different variations of uteri that haven’t been covered in this short blog, but it is interesting to see (in the image below) how many variations there are!
Sex is such a taboo topic in our society, isn’t it?? But… why?? If we were more open and proud about our sensuality and sexuality, perhaps we would be able to solve more issues such as painful sex, boring sex, or even, lack thereof. There are so many variables and subjects to discuss in sex, but let’s really dig into motherhood and sex, because, well, we are more experienced in that variation of sex, than let’s say, exhibitionism for example, but hey, if that is your thing – own it!
Trying to conceive, whether it is your first or last, can be rough on your sex life because it can turn sex into a chore, when it should be fun, and bonding. The best way to re-vision this is that you are not scheduling sex, you are scheduling bonding and intimacy time. Make it into a date, if you can, even if it is just a “Netflix and Chill” kind of date in your living room, after the older kids are in bed. Throw on a film thats inappropriate, funny or scary, and cuddle up with some pistachios and chocolate (yum… well-known and science backed aphrodisiacs) and enjoy each other.
When you are trying to PREVENT conception, sex can be intimidating, especially considering us natural-minded mamas that choose not to use hormonal birth control, but really are not prepared to get pregnant again, yet, or ever. Condoms are an option… but have you heard about Neem? Neem has been studied and proven to kill sperm on contact. A male can safely ingest this in neem caps, or by tincture (but just a heads up, it does not taste or smell great, at all), or you can use a Neem oil based lubricant.
Our friend over at How He’s Raised makes this lubricant that is safe and effective.
Also, you really need to consider tracking your fertility, with temping, watching your cervical mucus and checking cervical positioning! We have a video all about it that you can watch here.
Sex During Pregnancy
For pregnant women, sex can be difficult too. You may be overstimulated, exhausted, sore, nauseous, all of the above, and then some. When you feel up to it, sex is amazing for labor preparation, as it stimulates oxytocin release, and semen has natural prostaglandins in it that soften the cervix. Do not worry though, baby will not be harmed. Your cervix and the amniotic and chorionic sacs are protecting baby in your belly and they actually benefit from the oxytocin release, as well.
Having Sex Postpartum
Sex postpartum!! This is one of the worst experiences I went through, personally. With my first, I had an episiotomy and husband stitch (GAG) so I was sore beyond even bearing my own touch after using the bathroom for about 12 weeks or so, let alone attempting sex! Eventually my scar tissue kind of broke itself up enough to be “comfortable” but I was still in pain, every time, especially in positions that increased depth. It wasn’t until 3 years later, when I finally saw a Pelvic Floor Therapist after birthing the surrogate twins, that I realized how much scar tissue I had, and how much I could actually ENJOY sex again. It can make us feel like lesser when we cannot participate in sex postpartum, the way that we used to, especially after our first baby. We may believe that sex will never be the same again and that our spouses will always be longing for someone else. It is okay to be a different type of sexy, you are mama sexy now! You have wider hips for holding, bigger thighs for squeezing, stretch marks for kissing, and such. Paint your body into the beautiful womanly figure that it is. Practice mirror therapy to encourage self-confidence.
Attend a sex retreat if you can! Seriously, my husband and I had one of the most fun and bonding times together as a couple, at a sex retreat. Now, this is definitely not what you are envisioning when you think sex retreat. We did not take a field trip to the dungeon and have a mass orgy for three days straight, but we went out into nature with other couples and singles, played games involving learning about different sexual fetishes, aligned our chakras, practiced couple bonding, chatted with others about their stories and where they came from, did yoga in the nude, had some really yummy food, and made love under the stars. I highly encourage looking into Moksha Magick if you ever get an opportunity, the ceremonies are mesmerizing and enlightening.
Eye gazing can stimulate bonding and increased sexual energy whether you are TTC, freshly postpartum or just doing it, in general.
Sex is a beautiful thing, and not something to be shameful of, by any means. If you are struggling with pain, lack of libido, or anything else that makes sex unpleasurable, please seek someone to help! There are many herbs that can balance hormones to increase libido, and a pelvic floor therapist can do wonders for pain during sex.