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Fertility Factors for Women and Men


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Most couples assume they'll be able to conceive a baby as soon as they desire, but 15 to 20 per cent of American couples are "infertile." Infertility means no conception has occurred after one year of trying.

Fertility can be affected by a number of factors, including:

  • nutritional health
  • the health of the reproductive system
  • smoking
  • abuse of alcohol, caffeine, and drugs
  • exposure to environmental toxins
  • glandular function, and
  • stress levels.

Smoking can adversely affect a man's sperm mobility and production, alter a woman's Fallopian-tube function, and damage eggs. Exposure to pesticides, plastics, heavy metals, and other environmental pollutants, which act as estrogen receptors, can impair both male and female fertility.

For women, maintaining a healthy body weight is an important fertility factor. Being either extremely overweight or underweight inhibits ovulation. Avoid using vaginal lubricants and douches, which slow down and even kill sperm. The use of a fertility monitor helps a woman pinpoint her most fertile times and maximizes the potential for conceiving a baby.

In men, preventable adult onset or type II diabetes can cause erectile and ejaculatory difficulties. Other glandular diseases, such as thyroid abnormalities and infections of the prostate, can affect healthy sperm production and ejaculation. Men should avoid soaking in hot tubs, excessive bicycle riding, and wearing snug-fitting underpants.

Nourishing Fertility

Eating a healthy, organic diet that is low in calories and high in nutrients is the ideal dietary approach to fertility. Brigitte Mars, herbalist and author of Sex, Love and Health: A Self-Help Guide to Love and Sex (Basic Health Publications, 2002), suggests an herbal and nutritional supplement program that includes:

  • Antioxidants (beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, zinc, selenium)
  • 400 micrograms of folic acid a day (for women, to prevent neural-tube defects)
  • B-complex vitamins (with additional choline, niacin, vitamin B6, and
    pantothenic acid)
  • Magnesium and calcium
  • Essential fatty acids (like flax-seed oil)
  • GLA (as found in evening primrose oil), and
  • Amino acids arginine and taurine (for men).

Herbal recommendations include alfalfa, ashwagandha, astragalus, damiana, dandelion, fenugreek, avena sativa, red clover blossoms, red raspberry leaves, sarsaparilla, saw palmetto, vitex berry, and dong quai, a Chinese herbal remedy made from the root of Angelica sinensis. Dong quai has been called the "female ginseng" because it is a general tonic for the female reproductive system in much the same way as ginseng is a tonic for the male reproductive system.

Stress reduction is also essential. Many couples conceive soon after they reduce stress levels and relax fully and consciously into their loving, conceptual moments.



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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD