The inability to conceive a child is a deep source of frustration and disappointment for couples all over the world. Feelings of despair, depression and isolation are common responses. This article addresses factors that can contribute to fertility challenges, as well as integrative approaches to resolving both male- and female-related hurdles.

The vast causes of infertility can be linked to the male or the female. When a couple experiences difficulty conceiving for at least 6 months, the first step should be to accurately predict ovulation, using the woman's first morning body temperature, cervical mucus or an ovulation kit. Additional trouble (3-6 months without pregnancy) should prompt an examination of both partners. This is to rule out any anatomical problems that may be preventing pregnancy. A sperm count can also be done to check the number and quality of the existing sperm. After reviewing all test results, the couple and physician can discuss a treatment plan that is best.

Acupuncture as a means to promote fertility is growing in popularity. Research has documented benefit for both male and female participants. For males, acupuncture has demonstrated an ability to increase both sperm quality and quantity [Source: Pei, Siterman]. A small study in female patients demonstrated equal success for acupuncture compared to hormone therapy, with no significant side effects [Source: Gerhard]. Acupuncture has been shown to improve in vitro fertilization (IVF) success as well [Source: Dieterle]. Couples planning to undergo IVF should consider acupuncture in conjunction with the procedure. This method is typically tolerated very well and doesn't disrupt other fertility treatments.

Many nutrients may be helpful in promoting pregnancy. Supplementation with both a multivitamin and B complex has shown beneficial for fertility rates [Source: Chavarro, Schnacter]. While research has focused primarily on the female intake of these nutrients, they are recommended for both partners. All females of childbearing age are recommended at least 400-800 mcg of folic acid a day to help prevent various types of birth defects [Source: Czeizel]. Females may also benefit from the intake of the herb chaste tree. Research is limited, but so far, data points to improved fertility success while taking 200-250 mg, twice a day, of chaste tree extract [Source: Gerhard, Westphal].

Many nutrients have been researched in relation to improving sperm count and motility. Vitamin C, zinc, folic acid and vitamin E have all demonstrated some degree of benefit on the quantity or quality of sperm [Source: Dawson, Wong, Kessopoulou]. Each of these is typically tolerated very well and can be supplemented individually or together in a multivitamin. Suggested dosages range as follows:

  • Vitamin C: 500-1,000 mg daily
  • Vitamin E: 400 IU daily
  • Zinc: 15-25 mg daily
  • Folic acid: 400-800 mcg daily.

The thyroid gland is often an overlooked contributor to infertility. Many ladies who note symptoms of cold hands and feet or frequently feeling cold, dry skin, constipation, brain fog or loss of mental sharpness should have their thyroid gland thoroughly evaluated. Clinically, many women have found improved success with fertility, whether undergoing fertility treatments or not, by having their thyroid function optimized. Low (or high) thyroid function can disrupt the hormone cycle and fertility [Source: Kalro].

Three other wellness factors that can effect fertility are obesity, poor nutrition and stress. All of these issues put pressure on the body. Obesity can disrupt the natural hormone cycle and may lead to polycystic ovaries. Poor nutrition can lead to a lack of quality nutrients to support the proper development of the baby. Many in the western world have a diet high on sugar and fast food, and low on fruits and vegetables. The body will function at its best with the right fuel. Poor nutrition will eventually lead to weight gain, further worsening fertility struggles. 

Couples should consider the strengths and weaknesses of their eating routine, and find ways to help improve their overall nutrition. Stress, unfortunately, can have negative consequences for functions throughout the body. Concerns about fertility can be extremely stressful, compounding the day's existing worries. Couples dealing with problems conceiving should discuss their situation with a doctor and find the optimal treatment plan for their situation. Find outlets to relieve stress such exercise, yoga or tai chi.