Infertility is becoming an increasingly frequent problem. Many people go to fertility experts and, by discovering an anatomic problem (e.g. blocked fallopian tubes), or problems with ovulation, are able to get help. Unfortunately, many people find their tests are negative or, despite treatment, find they are unable to get pregnant.
Comprehensive Medicine, which includes both prescription/surgical and natural therapies, can often help when regular day-to-day medical approaches cannot. Infertility is one such case. It is important to recognize that 40% to 50% of problems with infertility are secondary to the man having a low sperm count or underactive sperm activity. Because of this, I recommend the man and woman both do the things noted below to increase their fertility. Before one begins with these things, it is important to look at the optimum timing for intercourse.
When Is The Best Time To Get Started?
Research shows that intercourse which occurs even one day after ovulation is unlikely to result in pregnancy. Intercourse the day of ovulation is most effective and often effective during the three to four day period before ovulation. Intercourse more than six days before ovulation is also unlikely to result in pregnancy. One can use an ovulation thermometer to time their ovulation. Also, the more frequently one has intercourse in the three or four days before ovulation, the more likely one is to get pregnant. New research has overturned the old misconception that frequent intercourse within this three to four day period decreases the chance of pregnancy.
What Can The Woman Do?
There are many day to day things which worsen and improve fertility. Having more than four cups of coffee a day (and possibly any coffee) can result in infertility. Some researchers joke that coffee actually acts as a reasonable form of birth control (I would not rely on it though!). Alcohol also increases infertility caused by ovulatory problems. This results because of increases in a hormone called prolactin. In people who have ovulatory infertility, alcohol can increase the problem by 30% if you have even one drink a day and by 60% if you have more thantwo drinks a day. Alcohol can also aggravate infertility caused by endometriosis. Of much greater concern, however, is the problem of birth defects caused by drinking alcohol during the pregnancy. This is called fetal alcohol syndrome and it is important that alcohol be avoided during the pregnancy. I would also note that taking very hot baths during pregnancy, including hot tubbing, can increase birth defects quite a bit as can taking more than 8,000 IU of vitamin A daily (beta carotene is okay). In addition, it is important that any woman of childbearing age take at least 800 mcg (0.8 mg) of folic acid a day to prevent birth defects. If the woman has had a child with neural tube birth defects in the past, I would increase this up to 4,000 mcg a day. For most women, taking a good multivitamin (we recommend From Fatigued To Fantastic Energy Revitalization System – available on our web site and many health food stores) is very helpful.
Other things which can cause infertility include taking more than 1,000 mg of vitamin C a day. If a woman is doing this and trying to get pregnant, she should decrease it to 500 mg a day. Infertility caused by a higher dose should resolve within a few weeks. Drinking caffeinated sodas (even one a day) can decrease conception by 50%. It is also important to avoid toxic metals (lead, mercury, cadmium), and I would not take melatonin (or much of anything else besides a good multivitamin as noted above and magnesium) when pregnant. High doses of melatonin can raise prolactin levels and may result in temporary infertility. A recent study has also found douching temporarily decreases the probability of getting pregnant by 30%. If your doctor has not checked your prolactin level, be sure this is not elevated.
Now that we have looked at some of the avoidable things which can keep you from getting pregnant, lets take a look at things you can do to help you get pregnant. These include:
- Taking a good multivitamin with folate as noted above. This can increase fertility.
- Taking extra vitamin B6 (approximately 50 mg a day-also present in the Energy Revitalization System by Enzymatic Therapy) can also help you to get pregnant. This is especially true if one has irregular periods or absent periods or inappropriate production of breast milk outside of one’s period.
- Be sure your iron levels are adequate. A blood test (a ferritin level combined with an iron level and iron binding capacity) will tell you this. Unfortunately, doctors are trained to say the iron is normal if your ferritin level is at least 9 ng/ml. Although a ferritin level of 9 shows you have enough iron to prevent anemia, one can have infertility from ferritin levels less than 40. Because of this, I would look at your ferritin test results yourself and make sure the level is at least 40 ng per ml. In a study of women with hair loss with ferritin levels less than 40, seven women who also had infertility became pregnant within 7 months when put on iron. If for some reason you are unable to get your ferritin level checked, it is not unreasonable to take iron (e.g. Chromagen FA 1 tablet a day) for 7 months. Take it on an empty stomach and with at least 200 mg of Vitamin C. Do not take it with in 6 hours of thyroid hormone therapy, or you will not absorb the thyroid. I also would take iron if the percent saturation of iron (calculated from the iron & percent saturation tests noted above) is under 22%.
- If one’s thyroid is low, and this is frequently the case even with normal blood tests, a very low dose of thyroid hormone will often result in people getting pregnant. If you have a tendency to constipation, cold intolerance, dry skin and thin hair, and/or temperatures which run under 98.2_ during the day, there is a good chance your thyroid may be slightly underactive despite normal blood tests. In the absence of underlying heart disease, a trial of a low dose of thyroid hormone (e.g. Armour Thyroid 1/2 grain a day) may help you get pregnant and has a low risk of causing problems. You might have to fight with your doctor a bit to get them to try this for you, but it is worth it. If you have the symptoms I mentioned, remind your doctor that the best endocrinologists stress that it is important to treat the patient and not the blood test. Something he or she might want to remember is that each time we come up with a new thyroid blood test we find a large number of people with an underactive thyroid that the old test missed. There is a very high probability that our current tests are still missing many people with this disease. Do not take iron within six hours of thyroid supplements or the iron will prevent absorption of the thyroid hormone.
- Research by William Jeffries, M.D., an emeritus professor of endocrinology at Case Western Reserve University, has shown that some women’s difficulty getting pregnant can be overcome by taking a low dose of cortisol (Cortef). Although cortisol in high doses for prolonged periods can be very toxic, taking Cortef 5 mg twice a day for 2 to 3 months is unlikely to cause major problems in the absence of high blood pressure or a family history of diabetes. His experience is this can often result in people with infertility getting pregnant as well (although he uses 5 mg 4 times a day). This is especially true with polycystic ovaries (Stein-Leventhal syndrome).
6-Avoid a high protein diet. An animal study conducted at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine has linked high protein diets to impaired pregnancy and less viable offspring. The researchers fed half of their study mice a diet of 25 percent protein (typical daily Atkins’ protein consumption) and the other half 14 percent protein (normal protein consumption) for four weeks before mating them. Only one third of the mouse mothers on the high-protein diet were able to become pregnant, compared to 70% in the normal diet group. The researchers then transferred 174 mice embryos from both groups of mice to surrogate mice fed a normal diet. Only 36 percent of the high protein moms’ embryos developed into fetuses, compared to 70 percent in the control group. The study results were presented European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.
What About The Guys?
Research suggests that sperm counts are dropping throughout the industrialized world. There is a good possibility this is coming from chemicals, especially pesticides, which mimic estrogen effects in the body. In many countries this is becoming an area of major concern. Avoiding chemicals or other toxins is helpful.
I would note there has been over a 50% decrease in sperm counts in the last over 50 years. Interestingly studies show that organic farmers have had increasing sperm counts, as opposed to farmers who use chemicals (who have had a large drop in sperm counts). Using meat from cows that have not been raised and fattened using estrogen (such as meat which is available at Whole Foods Market) is important in any man whose wife is having trouble getting pregnant. Melatonin, verapamil and nifedipine (common heart and blood pressure medicines), or excess alcohol can also cause reversible infertility in males.
There are several things a man can do to markedly improve his sperm count and motility:
- Although in females high dose vitamin C can cause infertility, increasing vitamin C to at least 500 to 1,000 mg a day in males has a marked effect on increasing sperm count and motility. The vitamin C also protects the sperm from genetic damage which can cause inherited diseases or cancer in the child. Taking 500 mg twice a day, for example, can cure infertility in 20% of infertile males.
- Astragalus–an herbal remedy, can increase sperm motility by about 50%.
- Research has shown that high doses of intramuscular vitamin B12 (which are very safe) can increase sperm count in 50% of males with low counts. The dose used in the study was quite high at 1,500 to 6,000 mcg intramuscularly daily. Although the tablets might be helpful, one would only absorb a tiny fraction of the B12 taken by mouth and the treatment needs to be given by injection.
- Coenzyme Q10 200 mg/day(use only the Vitaline form-many others are poor quality) can be very helpful.
- L-arginine Aspartate 9 gm a day for low sperm motility or 4 gram a day for low sperm counts can be helpful.
- Ginkgo Biloba–another herbal remedy taken 120 mg twice a day can help with erectile dysfunction. This takes about 6 to 12 weeks to start working.
- Acetyl-L-carnitine 1.5 -3 gram (1500-3000 mg) a day for 4 months can also increase sperm motility.
- Selenium 200 mcg a day (not more than this as higher doses can be toxic). Taking the Energy Revitalization System multivitamin is a good idea for the man as well as the woman and will supply the 200 mcg of selenium (and 49 other key
- Vitamin E 400 IU a day (not more) can also increase male infertility.
- 50 mg of zinc a day for four months is also helpful.
What Are The Risks Of These Treatments?
Although even natural remedies sometimes have side effects, they are usually safe. Too much iron can be toxic and I prefer to check the iron levels (as noted above) before treating with iron. The risk of taking iron for only three to four months (in the absence of a genetic iron excess disease), however, is low. The main side effect of taking high-dose zinc intake for short periods is nausea.
So Do You Think I Should Go For It?
If you want to get pregnant I certainly would go for it! When you get pregnant, I invite you to read my article on having a healthy pregnancy-naturally!