Difficulty to conceive is becoming a growing concern, leaving many couples feeling anxious and distressed. Stress and a hectic lifestyle could be the possible causes. Evidence-based research shows links between stress, trauma, anxiety and diminishing fertility rates. Ayurveda offers a holistic approach to improving fertility, for both men and women.
Factors contributing to infertility
- Imbalance of the doshas [the three bio-energetic forces that govern the functionality of your body]
- Poor nutrition of reproductive tissues due to sluggish digestion, increase in toxins or under nourishment
- Overindulgence in sexual activity can deplete the quality of reproductive tissue and cause impotency
- Suppression of sexual urges for long periods can lead to decrease in libido in the long term
- Eating excessive spicy, salty and hot foods could increase pitta dosha
- Physical, mental and emotional stress
- Compromised immunity
- Nervous system imbalances
The journey of a new life
Conception takes place when there is a meeting of healthy sperm and ovum in a healthy uterus. The sperm and egg are the seeds of creation called the ‘bija’ or the ‘shukra dhatu’. This is the last of seven body tissues to be nourished after plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone and bone marrow/nerves. Healthy tissue formation is dependent on the ability to properly digest food, thoughts and emotions, be free of toxins and have balanced doshas [vata, pitta, kapha]. The end result of tissue nourishment is known as ojas or the essence of vitality and immunity. It is no surprise then that the healthier the ojas the better the quality of sperm and egg.
Strong digestive health is the root of producing healthy bija for both men and women. An ayurvedic fertility program can be broken into a 3 stage process over approximately 6 – 8 months. The first phase comprises of cleansing processes of the mind and body followed by a period of rejuvenation to strengthen the body tissues and then comes the conception phase. I advise you to consult an ayurvedic physician for personalised guidance but this article will give you a brief idea of what to expect.
Phase 1: Cleansing
Cleansing the body is one of the key points in ayurveda. This step tailor made considering the environment, gender, age, temperament and family history of both partners. The spring and autumn months especially support the process of cleansing.
Cleansing starts with improving digestion to prevent toxins known as ‘ama’ from building and ensure that optimum nutrition is absorbed from the foods eaten. This process helps the body eliminate toxins.
Panchakarma [five ayurvedic purification methods] would be recommended for deeper cleansing. This period of gentle cleansing over 12 – 14 weeks would include:
- Eating consciously and according to your hunger
- Eating well cooked and easy to digest foods
- Plenty of fresh seasonal vegetables, whole grains and legumes
- Cut back on all processed and fried foods
- Limit gluten, dairy, meats, sugars, alcohol and caffeine
- Invigorate the body with warm oil abhyanga [body massages]
- Engage in gentle exercise and yoga
- Engage in pranayama and meditation
- Refrain from sexual activity, to conserve energy
- Women could add a decoction made of ashoka to their bath water. Ashoka helps to release physical and mental pain
- Digestive compounds such as triphala, hinguwastak, trikatu and avipattikar are useful
- Around weeks 5 – 10, you can consult a practitioner for Panchakarma, include fasting days and a mono diet of khichdi
- After the deeper cleanse you can resume the gentle cleanse
Cleansing is not only limited to the physical body but also involves letting go of emotions that don’t serve you:
- Release negative emotions – anger, resentment, past hurt, grief and any emotional burden. Lighten up your heart!
- Discuss and let go of any dysfunctional patterns that don’t serve your relationship with your partner and express your gratitude for each other. This will encourage emotional closeness and bonding.
- Free your mind of the guilt, a common emotion that most women feel when faced with infertility. Let go of doubts, expectations and pressures to conceive. Affirmations are a great way to assist this process.
Phase 2: Rejuvenation
Rejuvenation known as ‘Rasayana therapy’ is intended to build ojas by nourishing the body, bringing doshas into balance, strengthening the body tissues and restoring normal bodily functions, particularly ovulation.
Both partners would benefit from following a restorative whole foods diet [sattvic] and lifestyle suited to their constitution. You would do well to choose:
- Seasonal fruits [pears, peaches, mango, plums, raisins, figs, dates, grapes, coconut, pomegranate]
- Grains such as basmati rice and quinoa and lentils such as mung
- Dairy proteins including milk, buttermilk, paneer, ghee
- Nuts and seeds including almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds
- Spices including cardamom, nutmeg, saffron, rose, jasmine, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, turmeric, fennel, carom
- Vegetables such as asparagus, sweet potato, broccoli, squash, carrot, beetroot
- Nurture your relationship with your partner with open communication, sharing more love and joy
- Engage in nourishing self care and self love practices such as massage with ashwagandha oil
- Nourish yourself by spending time in nature, especially near water
- Continue to engage in strengthening yoga postures
For women it is important to take mental and physical rest during menstruation and otherwise keep active. Spices such as turmeric and carom [ajwain] are good for keeping the uterine organs cleansed. Ghee is an extremely supportive ingredient. Reduce intake of processed carbohydrates and fats and increase natural proteins along with small amounts of barley with milk. For the male partner, a sattvic diet with an increased quantity of milk, ghee, rice and nuts will be helpful.
Phase 3: Conception
Few months on and your body should feel ready for conception now. Here are a few more tips to get you through the final phase:
- Continue to have a nourishing diet to build ojas and prevent ama
- Timing – many apps are now available to guide you to optimal days around your ovulation. Intercourse 3 – 4 days either side of ovulation increases your chance of conception
- Create a peaceful environment with candles or incense with essential oils that please your senses
- The best position for conceiving is with the woman lying on her back
- After intercourse, drink a cup of warm milk with spices such as saffron, cardamom and ground almond
- Conserve your sexual energy during the non-fertile period
- Avoid intercourse whilst in a negative emotional state, if suffering from compromised immunity, menstruation or if you have overeaten.
Herbs for fertility support
Fertility supporting herbs and tonics such as shatavari [asparagus racemosus], ashwagandha [withania somnifera], ashoka [saraca asoca], kappikachu [Mucuna pruriens], aloe vera and triphala amongst others are highly rejuvenating, promote hormonal balance and encourage production of reproductive fluids – consult your practitioner for safe use. There are also supportive herbal jams chyawanprash and brahmi avaleha, phala grtam.
Yoga and meditation for enhanced fertility
Breathing techniques such as nadi shodhana, ujjayi pranayama and various meditations can help you relax. Yoga postures such as padmasana [lotus pose] can increase the blood flow to the perineum and activate the lower chakras, muladhara [root] and svadisthana [sacral] that govern the sexual functions. Pelvic floor exercises can also enhance circulation to the reproductive organs.
Over and above all, enjoy the process and be patient. It should not add any stress or discomfort. Be connected to your intuition and allow yourself to be guided by that.
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