Herbal Therapy: Help for Hopeful Mothers

Approximately 10 percent of couples are affected by infertility, defined as the inability to conceive after one year of regular, unprotected intercourse. While conventional fertility treatments have helped many, they can be expensive and invasive, and don't always work.

Dr. Mary Hardy, head of the Integrative Medicine Group at Cedars Sinai Medical Group in Los Angeles, offers patients an herbal treatment option for infertility, as well as herbs to help with a variety of problems during pregnancy. Below, Dr. Hardy answers some frequently asked questions on the subject:

Q: Are there herbs that can help a woman get pregnant?

A: It's believed that through actions in the pituitary, the berry of the chaste tree (Vitex Agnus-castus) supports the production of progesterone and the stabilization of the second half of the cycle, when the egg comes in. This support could help conceive or even avoid miscarriage; however, it is not recommended that you use this herb for difficulty conceiving without being under the care of a knowledgeable health practitioner.

Q: Is this something I could try without a doctor's supervision?

A: When you're doing something like this, it's really important to work with someone who knows the products, what to expect, and how to monitor you. If you'd like to try any herbs, do so with the consent of your ob-gyn, and with a very knowledgeable herbalist. This is not the time to experiment.

Q: How do I find a qualified herbalist?

A: National organizations like the American Holistic Medical Association can give referrals to physicians and naturopaths using herbal medicine.

The American Herbalist Guild is another professional organization and has a referral service. Likewise, other alternative practitioners such as those who practice traditional Chinese medicine, naturopathic physicians, or Ayurvedic medicine practitioners may be experts in their own herbal traditions.

Chiropractors or massage therapists may also know of a good practitioner. Even ask your physician or pharmacist if they know an herbalist whose expertise they respect.

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