Red clover (Trifolium pratense), (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You’ve been trying for a while, and you’re still only seeing the single blue line on a pregnancy test. You are still excited and nervous, but losing a little bit of heart. Stress and worry starts creeping in. You start asking yourself, “Will I ever get pregnant?”
You’re not alone in your struggles. You never know what to expect when you decide to “start trying”—it may be right away or it may take a while. You also don’t know how you will react emotionally to the process of trying to get pregnant. Pregnancy and parenthood are two of the most challenging things a couple can go through. And no matter how much you read about it or talk to folks who have been through it, there is no way to fully prepare for or anticipate what will happen throughout your period of trying to conceive, your pregnancy, and ultimately your life as a parent. You gotta roll with the punches!
But you want to help the process along—nothing wrong with that! There are supplements and herbal remedies that have anecdotal evidence of working for couples trying to conceive. In general, eating food is more beneficial than taking a supplement, so see if these herbs come in food form at your local health food store. If not, the capsules should be fine too.
This is becoming the go-to natural supplement to help women’s hormones regain balance, especially relating to ovulation. It is thought to help the pituitary gland with regulating estrogen and progesterone levels, so that a woman can ovulate every cycle. Obviously, you need to ovulate in order to have a baby, so if you suspect that this is what’s happening, this may be one to check out! Vitex is a common name for a berry called chaste berry, which was thought to help medieval monks to remain “chaste.” Ironic that now it is used as a fertility aid!
This plant is thought to help nourish and strengthen the uterus, which is never a bad thing when you’re wanting to conceive! It contains calcium and magnesium, which can help with nervous system function and overall good health.
You’ve heard of this one—it’s in all the energy drinks. It is also thought to regulate hormone levels and improve overall wellness and fertility.
You’ve probably heard of this one, too—often paired with ginseng. It is believed to improve blood flow and help with memory loss. It also functions as an antioxidant in the body, so that never hurts! It may help with blood flow to reproductive organs, making it a great option for a reproductive supplement.
This is a B Complex vitamin thought to help women conceive. B vitamins seem to assist with a variety of things related to conceiving and pregnancy, although the reasoning behind this is not currently understood. It could be that modern woman lack vitamin B-rich diets, and that when the B vitamins are restored in a woman’s body, her “reproductivity” can function at a healthy level (that’s just speculation, though). B vitamins do help a person’s general well-being, so they may be worth looking at for that reason as well.
Vitamins C & E are super-important in maintaining a healthy body! They help prevent and repair cellular damage caused by free radicals. This will likely result in increased energy and vitality (which will likely also show up in the bedroom!), and will help with reproductive organ health. Food sources of vitamins C & E are best, but if you are worried that your diet isn’t rich enough in these antioxidants, feel free to pop a pill (it’s good to start taking prenatal vitamins before you conceive).
Green tea is another antioxidant that can help you conceive. You probably know about all the health benefits of green tea, so make sure to keep sipping! It does contain caffeine, though, so be aware of that. There is not thought to be any harm in caffeine for women trying to conceive and a cup or two during pregnancy should be fine, but some women choose to avoid it altogether.
This is the best natural remedy there is! It doesn’t cost anything, and it helps overall mental and physical well-being. Before you head to the store for supplements, go for a walk a day and see if it helps!
So there are some herbs and supplements to start with! A note about natural: “natural” is not a synonym for “good” or “healthy”—there are lots of natural things that are seriously bad for you! Because natural supplements and herbal remedies do not have strict quality-control measures like the pharmaceuticals industry does, make sure you do research on a company before buying their products. Also, make sure you talk to your health care provider before you start any herbal supplement, as these supplements can be contraindicated with some drugs, or even with other herbal supplements (just because they’re natural doesn’t mean you can just load up on ‘em!). Remember, anything that is good for your health when you’re not trying to conceive is likely also good for your health when you are! Good luck!
Okay, so you are wanting to make a baby with your partner? You want to know how often you should have sex in order to have the best chances to procreate.
It is a somewhat-complex question, but the answer is fairly simple: it depends. Your first consideration is, how often do you need to have sex with your husband in order to maintain your relationship? You may be tempted to want to keep sexual activity for your ovulation, but that may not be what is best for your relationship with your husband. See, your husband is a man, and he will want to have sex with you all the time, before you even consider when you are ovulating. This is important. You need to understand this influence and involve the man’s need to get his rocks off regularly in order to best procreate. You see, a man’s biological impulses come from our cave man times, when we didn’t have calendars or tracking—men just want to sleep with the closest cave woman!
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you ask), men still have those same impulses, so it may not register to your man to tell him that you are trying to make a baby. He will almost certainly not want to have sex with you only once per cycle.
So you can bet he is not interested in when you are ovulating; he will want to have sex with you all the time! That is an important part of a heterosexual relationship in producing a baby, so it’s best if you can acknowledge that.
So, when is it best to have sex?
Good question. If you have sex too rarely in your cycle, your man might not develop a sperm count to accommodate your “wanting to conceive” cycle. So, as mentioned above, try to have sex every few days in order to maintain a sperm count conducive to conceiving during your ovulation.
I see you all shaking your heads and saying, “This makes no sense! How is having sex with our men when we’re not ovulating conducive to producing a child?”
I hear you, and I am impressed by your ability to speak in unison (just kidding!). Men’s systems don’t have the memory that women’s systems have. In fact, men’s systems don’t have much of a memory at all! Men’s testes (where the sperm are produced) are only aware of how many sperm are there, and how many need to be produced. It seems crazy to you, as a woman with an entire cycle’s-worth of hormones, being in touch with your hormones the entire cycle-long, that men are really only interested in hormones as they involved with their testicles and sperm production.
You need to teach your husband about your cycle of hormones when it comes to procreation! And the best way to do this is to get them excited about having sex with you throughout your cycle! Make sure to be honest with your husband about your sexual needs, as well as your reproductive needs, throughout your cycle. Likely, it will be hard for your husband to understand your several-week-long-cycle, but that’s okay (cuz, let’s be honest; his cycle is like 24 hours long!).
Another advantage of maintaining a healthy sexual relationship with your husband is that you and he will both be in touch with a baby being conceived and born. Pregnancy and the post-natal period for a woman are incredibly challenging, and she needs her husband’s support during these tough times, so it’s best to have your male partner on-board with you during these times.
So, what is the answer to the question, “How often should I have sex with my husband, if we’re trying to conceive a child?” It is about 48 hours long—that is, every two days. You can track as long as you like, and you can know when you are ovulating to the end of the world, but to your man, it’s best to keep him involved in the procreation process. This is best achieved through sex and through an ongoing dialogue. Sperm count is best kept up through sex every 48-72 hours. So make sure to get it on often! And enjoy it—it is the best way to relax and maintain your own fabulous female fertility!
So you’ve started tracking your cervical mucus, and you’ve hit a roadblock: it seems that you’re a little (ahem) dry down there. Oh, no! You’re freaking out: what does this mean? Does it mean that I am infertile? Will I never be able to get pregnant? Why is this happening to me?
First, if you’re thinking those things, please take a breath. Calm down, and count to 10. Now, you’re feeling better? Good.
So here it is: chances are, you are overthinking it. If you find that your vagina feels dry (regardless of what time in your cycle it is), your first step is to drink a glass of water. Let’s use Occam’s Razor here: the simplest solution is often the best. So drink some water, eat some soup, up your fluids, and see if that helps.
If you still feel that your mucus is lacking, ask yourself if you have started any new meds recently. If you’ve had allergies and took an antihistamine, that may have an effect on your cervical mucus, since an antihistamine clears out all bodily mucus.
If you’re fully hydrated and have not been taking any new meds or supplements, we can start to look at hormonal causes.
Weight can have an impact on cervical mucus, since weight has a major effect on hormones, especially estrogen. So if you are dealing with a chronically dry vagina, you might want to look at your weight as a potential cause of hormone disruption. (If it is, don’t do anything crazy, like go on a crash diet; just work towards a healthy weight, and you’ll be fine!) Stress also comes into play in a major way when it comes to hormonal balance. One-step you could take is to ensure to eat a whole-food, less-processed diet, exercise daily, and reduce stress levels. Meditation and yoga work for some, kickboxing works for others; find what works for you to maintain lower stress levels in your body so that your hormones can get back to doing their thing.
Now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty: your lack of cervical mucus might be caused by a lack of ovulation. If you have tried all the above, it may be due to anovulation, which is really just a fancy word for lack of ovulation. This could be (and likely is) caused by a hormonal issue, so it would still help to focus on diet, exercise and stress levels. Your last option is that your dryness may be related to your age, but there’s not much you can do about that! So it’s best to focus on overall good health in order to achieve your fertility outcome.
You can go to your doctor’s office and have your blood work tested for hormonal levels. If you are not ovulating, you can look into a drug called Clomid (clomifene), which increases your chances of ovulating. An ironic side effect of Clomid use is that it may dry out cervical mucus, so you may end up back where you started!
At the end of the day, it’s important to try not to be too concerned about your cervical mucus. There could be any number of causes for it, and they may go away as quickly as they show up. Make sure you don’t lose intimacy with your partner or avoid sex because of it. There are some vaginal lubricants that will function in much the same way as cervical mucus in carrying sperm into the cervix where it can fertilize the egg. You should be able to find them in local boutique baby stores or larger pharmacies (make sure you don’t just buy grocery store lube, since most lubes will harm sperm).
It is important that you not feel less sexy or attractive (or even less fertile!) because of a lack of cervical mucus. You are still the fabulous person you were! And you may not be as far away from pregnancy as you think. Good luck!
Oh, that old chestnut. Your weight. There is not an area in your life that your weight doesn’t play into.
First of all, let’s get some things out of the way: your weight does not define you. Your body is the shell for your soul, and as a general rule of thumb, it is best to keep it in as good health as possible. In North American culture, weight is of ultimate importance, and thinner is considered prettier. Girls as young as nine years old are aware of their weight as the main part of their attractiveness, and are going on diets in order to be thinner. So I tread very lightly in discussing weight in a discussion of trying to conceive, which is already a challenging time in the life of a couple.
The most important thing when it comes to your body when you’re trying to conceive, is that you are healthy. Can you move easily? Do you have the stamina to be active in your daily life? Are you strong enough to do daily tasks? Are you eating a healthy, whole-foods based diet? If your answers are mostly “yes,” then you’re probably good, regardless of what your weight numbers are.
If you are too thin, your body may not want to get pregnant, since it may sense that you are in a period of starvation. Stress can exacerbate this effect and make it even more difficult to get pregnant. If you feel that you are too thin or that you are not eating enough, a good place to start is to make sure to eat lots of good fats: eggs, high-fat yogurt, butter, and coconut oil are all good places to start. These high-quality lipids tell your body that you have plenty of food around and your body can focus on reproduction instead of survival. Exercise and lots of water will help with strength and stamina, which your body will need for pregnancy and for new parenthood.
If you feel that you are overweight, or if you feel that you are physically not as well as you would like to be, it is important to start with diet. Focus on a whole-food, unprocessed diet without a lot of added sugar. Sugar is especially bad for women who are trying to lose weight, as it makes your blood sugar levels swing back and forth, which tells your body to store fat. Once you`ve worked on your diet, next focus on exercise—some light to moderate exercise every day will help with a variety of issues, and will make it easier to conceive. Being overweight can negatively affect hormone cycles in your body, so it is important that your weight is healthy for your body.
No matter whether you feel that your body is a good weight, overweight, or underweight, the best place to start is body-acceptance. If you love your body, you are motivated to become healthier, rather than skinnier, and you will be in a much better position to get back in shape after your babe is born.
There are several methods to naturally increase your chances of conceiving; you can use all of them at once or one at a time. Which method(s) you use will be determined by what works best for your physiology, your time commitment, and your ability to remember to write down your results each day!
What you need: a calendar.
Basically, this method is the least invasive, least time-consuming method of the three, as long as you remember to write it down!
Your menstrual cycle starts on the first day of your period. From there, you go through your period (the shedding of the uterine lining), then your ovaries make another egg, release it, your uterine lining thickens, then the egg and uterine lining are expelled again, starting your next cycle. Your fertile time is around the time the egg is released and the uterine lining thickens. It is roughly in the middle of the cycle, although this can vary by a lot.
In this method, you need to write down when your period starts and ends for as many cycles as possible (preferably eight-12). Then there’s some math involved. Pick your longest and shortest cycles. Subtract 18 days from the length of your shortest cycle (for example, if your shortest cycle was 27 days, your number is 9). Then find your longest cycle and subtract 11 from the length of that cycle (say 34; subtracting 11 gets you 23).
So, from day 9 through day 23 is your most fertile time in your cycle (not necessarily all those days are fertile days, but there’s a good chance that your fertile days are within that range). Make sure to keep that in mind throughout the month, and then when day 9 rolls around, it is time to get busy! Make sure you are eating proper meals, keeping yourself moderately active, and that your stress levels are not too high.
Whether you have sex every day or every other day is up to you: sperm can generally survive for around 48 hours inside the vagina, so some people prefer every other day. The advantage of that is that hubby has time to build up his sperm supply over the 48 hours. If you like to feel more in control, you can have sex every day during that time. The disadvantage of that is that your hubs’ junk may not be able to produce as much sperm over a 24 hour turnaround (although that number is still in the billions!), and you may just get plumb tired of it! It may start to feel like a chore over a two-week period to have sex every day, especially if the goal is to get pregnant, and not to be romantic. That is a disadvantage with this entire method: your love-making may not feel spontaneous, and you may feel too proscriptive in your sexual behaviour. However, if you feel that, it may not influence your relationship too much; this could be a great way to boost your reproductive chances!
Soy and Hormones
One of the most natural sources of protein can be found in soy; but soy is also one of the most natural sources of the female reproductive hormone, estrogen. Foods that contain soy also contain phytoestrogens, which are plant-derived estrogens, known as isoflavones. These isoflavones come in different forms with each producing different effects on your body. A few isoflavones function just like the natural estrogens that are already in your body – although they produce a much weaker effect than real estrogen. Other isoflavones act as anti-estrogens whose function is to decrease the activity of natural estrogen. Popular research is showing evidence that phytoestrogens may be able to help with menopausal symptoms, as well as inhibiting cancer cell growth.
Soy and your Fertility
Soy is quite prevalent in many food items today, including infant formula and hamburger patties. Vegans and vegetarians rely heavily on soy to make up a substantial part of their diet. Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration encourage the use of soy in foods to reduce the risk of heart disease in Americans.
However, studies have recently been conducted that prove that eating excessive amounts of soy can decrease fertility in women, prompt early puberty, and disrupt the proper development of both unborn babies and children. Most of these studies have been conducted on rodents because they have a very similar reproductive makeup as humans. The main isoflavone in soy is called genistein, and when fed to female mice it led to reduced fertility and abnormal embryo development, with higher doses resulting in fewer fertilized eggs, according to an article in the Scientific American journal.
According to an article in Medical News Today, a paper that was published in the Biology of Reproduction journal proposes that exposure in the womb or during childhood to estrogenic compounds, such as soy, has the possibility to damage a woman’s fertility when she is an adult.
In the studies done with mice, the researchers discovered that the causes of infertility involved an inability to ovulate, the oviduct having a decreased ability to properly maintain embryo development prior to ovulation, and failure of blastocyst-stage embryos to properly implant into the uterus.
Another report in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition stated a number of research studies that revealed high levels of soy could have the following effects:
- An increase in the overall length of a woman’s menstrual cycle
- A decrease of the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
- A decrease of leutinizing hormone (LH)
It is important to note, that the high levels of soy causing this effect are equal to drinking three 12-ounce glasses of soy milk every day for thirty days.
Another study listed in The American Family Physician magazine revealed that dietary changes could help improve the fertility in one-quarter of all infertile women. This is due, in part, on the fact that the phytoestrogens in soy can increase the follicular phase and since this can lead to fewer menstrual cycles, it is possible that soy will decrease fertility in some women. Nevertheless, the research indicates that women who have multiple fertility risk factors may actually be more sensitive to soy than others.
Another review was reported in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in which it was stated that there was not any significant variation in fertility from soy phytoestrogens consumption in healthy couples in reproductive and developmental toxicity studies. This indicates that normal soy consumption is harmless to fertility. Other reports suggest that in countries where soy products are consumed in huge amounts on a daily basis, the birth rate there is no lower than in countries where soy is not consumed in such quantities.
If you are struggling to fall pregnant, then it may be a good idea to reduce or eliminate your intake of soy in your diet. Tofu, soymilk, tempeh, TVP, and soy nuts, should be avoided, as it is the protein portion of soy that contains the phytoestrogens you need to avoid. Soy sauce does not contain any phytoestrogens, and so it can be safely used.