How to stay fertile in a stressful world
We spend much of our sexually active life fearful of getting pregnant and then suddenly we hit our 30s and feel deeply frustrated it doesn’t happen on command. Yes, we all have a friend who had sex one time without contraception and conceived, but for that one story, there are many more stories of couples struggling for months, even years to have a successful pregnancy. And of course because of this, fertility is now major business from specialized acupuncture clinics to IVF treatments.
Fertility is multidimensional — chemical, emotional, spiritual. You have to consider your body, mind, heart, and spirit to create the abundance necessary to create new life. There are no silver bullets but there are several steps you can take to augment your fertility.
Step 1: Acquaint yourself with your body and its natural cycles
As soon as you start considering making a baby, and you are not on the pill, the first thing to start tracking is your period. There are several apps now, like Glow or Moon Cycle that will allow you to note when your period begins and ends so you can get a feel for how regular you are and how long your cycle is. You calculate the length of your cycle by counting the number of days from the beginning of one period to the beginning of the next one. You may remember from your biology classes at school that the average length is 28 days and that you ovulate around day 14. In reality, some women have a shorter cycle and others have much longer cycles. Some women’s bodies work like clockwork, others are far less predictable. If you are coming off the contraceptive pill, it may take a few months for your body to regulate itself.
What nobody tells us when we are 16 is that there is only a very small window each month where we can get pregnant — typically 4 days. What they also don’t tell us is that even if we have sex before our egg drops, the sperm can hang around and wait for the egg inside of us for up to 48 hours.
As you begin to connect to the natural cycles in your body, you may start to notice other changes in your moods and body. You may be re-acquainting yourself with how your body swells with blood and fluids before you menstruate, how you become more sensitive or even more intuitive around that time. We have learned to think of our periods as a curse. But they are great indicators of health and fertility. In many cultures, before periods became taboo, this “moon time” was considered to be a deeply sacred time where women were most psychic. In semi-nomadic tribes, women would retreat from their daily chores during this time to a moon lodge to weave baskets and invite prophetic dreams. Sometimes this blood was even used to make soil more fertile. To embrace our fertility is also to embrace our periods. To be kind to ourselves during this time. To rest, to eat warm foods, to cry abundantly if that’s what feels right.
You may also start to notice that around the middle of your cycle, you feel sexy, you want to wear tighter clothes. One of my friends also noticed that once a month she really fancied her trainer. You may even notice a white discharge in your underwear that is sticky to the touch. This is what our body makes to trap the sperm so that it can reach the egg. These are all signs that you are ovulating.
In parallel to tracking your cycle on an app and paying more attention to the natural signs of ovulation, it is also a good idea to invest in some ovulation sticks. Do not go cheap on this. I made this mistake the first time I bought some and I got lots of false positives. These sticks will allow you to know the true window of fertility based on certain hormones that are only released when there is an egg that is present. When you get a positive, it will give you a much more accurate indication of when to have sex to increase your chances of conception. Don’t have sex every day though. Have sex every other day to maximise the concentration of sperm in each ejaculation.
Step 2: Re-balance your hormones
Modern life wreaks havoc with our hormones in several ways.
Many household items have substances that mess with our hormones. These so-called endocrine disruptors like BPA and phthalates lurk in everything from cleaning products to synthetic fragrances. Clean out your house of the known culprits and opt for more natural products, especially when it comes to the things you use every day — toothpaste, washing detergent, shampoos. Filter your water at home and stop drinking water from plastic bottles.
The biggest culprit, however, is chronic stress. This is without a doubt the biggest disruptor of all. Cortisone, one of the main hormones released in prolonged times of stress, suppresses both our libido and our fertility. If having a baby is a priority then you need to take active steps towards lessening the stress in your life. That may be incorporating meditation, working fewer hours, making time to exercise and to spend time in Nature.
You can also incorporate hormone normalizing herbs to start to bring your body back into balance. Certain herbs are called “adaptogens” and they are great allies when it comes to re-calibrating your hormones across the board. Traditionally Ashwaghanda in powder form and Tulsi as a tea are good tonic herbs that you can start taking daily.
More specifically for re-balancing sexual hormones and thus improving fertility, the most well respected (and researched) plant medicine is Vitex. This is an especially important herb to take if your menstrual periods are irregular, exceed 30 days or are under 26 days. Vitex is remarkable in that it will regulate sexual hormones whether they are deficient or excessive. It is particularly useful for women who have stopped taking the contraceptive pill after taking it for a long time. For Vitex to take effect it needs to be taken daily for a couple of months.
It is not uncommon for women who have been on the contraceptive pill for a long time to not regain a regular cycle for several months. If there is no sign at all of menstrual blood, you may want to take a tincture of Mugwort until you bleed. Take 5–10 drops 3x a day in conjunction with the Vitex.
Step 3: Nourish yourself
There is no point waiting till you get pregnant to start eating healthily and to quit your bad habits. You need to start before. Excessive drinking, eating badly, smoking, all create inflammation in the body that impedes fertility.
To create new life from your own flesh and bones, you need an abundance of nutrients and good fats. This is how our primal bodies can recognize that we are not in famine and that it is a good time to make babies. Some women need to lose weight to be fertile but most need to put weight on if they are struggling. We actually make our sex hormones from fats so it is very important that you are getting your fast from good sources like oily fish, avocado, olive oil rather than from chips and fries. You also need to have strong iron-rich blood which comes from eating grass-fed red meat like beef, lamb, buffalo and dark green vegetables like kale and arugula. You can also make yourself a nutrient and mineral dense tea. Soak herbs like raspberry leaf, nettles and lemon balm for 4 hours and then drink it throughout the day. The ratio should be 1oz of herb per quart of water.
Self-nourishment and self-care also go way beyond the food we put into our mouths. You must also pay attention to other things that you feed your mind and soul, the media you consume, your internal self talk. Becoming a magnet for a new soul, creating a juicy and welcoming womb, means having kind thoughts towards yourself and watering your seeds of hope and joy rather than despair and anger.
Step 4: Make love, don’t procreate
Once you start trying to make a baby, it can very quickly impact your relationship. Suddenly sex is functional and needs to happen on a schedule. It is important to continue to create space for making love, to create ritual and atmosphere. Take the time to massage your partner, to tell them what you love about them. Flirt. Sext. It is said that to increase the likelihood of conception, a woman should climax 20 minutes after the man has ejaculated.
Step 5: Heal your ancestral wounds
The most complex part of fertility is undoing the unconscious psychological blockages we may have. We cannot become parents without being curious about how we were parented, how our parents were parented. We must reconcile ourselves with the good and the bad so that we can parent intentionally and break harmful patterns.
Make the time to explore questions like:
What does becoming a parent mean to you?
What parental behaviours would you like to replicate from your own childhood? Which would you wish to break or do differently?
What are your hopes and fears about becoming a parent?
Fertility is health. If it is taking time, or you have experienced miscarriage, your body is not letting you down or failing you. It may be asking you to pay attention to aspects of your lifestyle that you haven’t wanted to address until now. Be kind to yourself. Be curious about what your body is asking of you.
Lastly, it takes two to do this. Women put a tremendous amount of pressure on themselves to become the perfect vessel. Both partners need to address the stress in their lives and the measures they take to self-medicate through caffeine, weed, alcohol, food. Both partners need to take care of themselves and each other.
Be well, be safe, be juicy.
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