For some couples, getting pregnant is as easy as deciding what to have for dinner. But others need a little boost. So if you want to maximize your chances, there are simple steps you can take to help set the stage. While you should consult with your doctor if you’re having fertility concerns, these are five natural fertility boosters you can try while you’re trying to conceive:
1. Tend to your teeth. The eyes may be the windows to the soul, but the mouth may tell the tale of your fertility. Women with periodontal disease (characterized by inflamed gums that bleed easily) took two months longer to get pregnant than women without periodontal disease, according to a recent study from the University of Western Australia. The good news? It’s a problem that’s easy to prevent and treat, says green dentist and KIWI contributing editor Fred Pockrass, D.D.S. Brush, floss, and rinse with a natural antibacterial mouthwash daily. See your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings and more frequently if you do have signs of periodontal disease and are trying to get pregnant, says Pockrass.
2. Strike a pose: It’s no secret that practicing yoga can help reduce overall stress. But did you know that certain yoga poses may help boost fertility? “Yoga can calm and release the tension in the pelvic region, which brings increased blood flow to reproductive organs,” says Jasmine Kaloudis, a certified yoga instructor in Philadelphia. The stress reduction and increased circulation to the pelvis both can play a part in balancing hormonal levels, which is beneficial for fertility. When prepping for pregnancy, Kaloudis recommends doing a few poses for 15 minutes every day:
- LEGS UP A WALL: Lie on the floor with your arms resting beside you, legs stretched up along a wall, backside pressed against the wall. Hold for at least 5 minutes. To end the pose, roll slowly onto your side, curl into the fetal position, and sit up slowly.
- RECLINING GODDESS POSE: Using pillows or blankets, make a nest on the floor so that when you lie down on your back, you’re on a gentle sloping ramp where your head is highest, then heart, and pelvis on the ground. Lift both knees up, bringing your feet toward your pelvis on the floor. Let your knees fall open to either side, and press the bottoms of your feet together. Breathe deeply. Remain in the pose for at least 5 minutes.
- BUTTERFLY POSE: Sit comfortably on a rug or yoga mat. Draw your heels together in front of your pubic bone, allowing your knees to open outward. Hold your feet with your hands covering your toes. Stay here for a few breaths. Then inhale, look up, and draw your shoulders back and chest up. Exhale, then drop your chin toward your chest, lower your head toward your feet, and arch your upper spine. Take several more breaths.
3. Add acupuncture: This ancient Chinese practice is based on the idea that bodily functions are regulated by the flow of vital energy (called chi), functions that can become imbalanced by everyday life and need correcting. “In fertility treatment, it’s thought that inserting needles at specific points on the body may increase blood flow to the uterus, relax the cervix, and inhibit stress hormones that can make it more difficult for an embryo to implant,” says Eric Manheimer of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Manheimer led a study that found that pregnancy rates among women undergoing IVF were boosted by 65 percent when combined with acupuncture. In fact, a single session of acupuncture was shown to increase the chances of pregnancy in women undergoing infertility treatments, says Elizabeth Trattner, a doctor of Chinese medicine and an integrative health care practitioner in Miami Beach, Florida. And the benefits of acupuncture don’t just extend to those undergoing infertility treatments. “I have seen firsthand how patients can become pregnant with the assistance of acupuncture,” says Trattner. “It can be as simple as a patient’s periods becoming more regular,” she says. Because Chinese medicine is based on the individual, there’s not a one-size-fits-all in terms of treatment, but in general, women seeking to increase fertility should receive acupuncture treatments at least twice a month, says Trattner. Some insurance companies will cover acupuncture, so when you ask the practitioner if she has experience treating fertility issues, also ask if she accepts insurance. Find a certified acupuncturist near you at nccaom.org.
4. Opt for herbs. Before jumping into the world of Chinese herbs, a note of caution: Don’t go it alone. Just like acupuncture is tailored to a person’s individual needs, so is the practice of herbal medicine, says Juliette Aiyana, a licensed acupuncturist and trained herbalist, and owner of Aiyana Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs in New York City. Chinese herbalists look at infertility as patterns of energetic disharmony in the body, so treatment is based on an individual’s own pattern of energy disharmony, says Aiyana. Find a Chinese herbalist experienced in fertility needs by searching for an acupuncturist (most are also certified in Chinese herbs, says Aiyana), at nccaom.org. Remedies your herbalist may prescribe:
- GOJI BERRIES are believed to aid fertility by increasing blood flow and chi to reproductive organs.
- MACA ROOT is a South American herb known to boost hormones.
- RED RASPBERRY TEA helps remove blood stagnation (one symptom of this is cramping during your periods), which blocks the chi and blood to the uterus and hinders conception.
- CHASTEBERRY moves chi and blood to help regulate menstrual cycles and increase the chances of conceiving.
- SHANYAO is a kind of Chinese wild yam that helps thicken and strengthen the uterine lining.
5. Indulge in antioxidants: Eating for your baby before there’s a baby may be a key to optimal fertility, according to research. Seventy-nine percent of infertile couples had a lower-than-average intake of foods high in antioxidants, foods like fruits and vegetables, found researchers from Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “This could be the body’s own wisdom,” says Aiyana. “Antioxidants help us clean out the environmental toxins we breathe in and eat; when a body’s ripe with toxins, it’s not a friendly environment for pregnancy,” she says. Help your body deal with toxins by eating whole, organic foods as much as possible, says Aiyana, particularly ones rich in iron, folic acid, calcium, and vitamin D. Many doctors also recommend that women trying to conceive start taking prenatal vitamins as an additional way to get these nutrients.