The body works in miraculous ways, and we witness that in the creation of new life. Many of us are struggling with fertility issues, for a wide variety of reasons, and in my opinion it can never hurt to use lifestyle, nutrition, and herbs to boost vitality, nourish the reproductive system, and improve overall health prior to the journey of parenthood.
I have received a lot of questions lately about herbal medicine for boosting fertility, and plant friends that may help to prepare the body for potential pregnancy.
I really love this question because I see the value and importance of encouraging the body (and mind) into a state of good health before conception. I’ve also witnessed in my own journey that adopting healthy habits BEFORE making the transition into parenthood keeps you energized, grounded, and more resilient. You will be a better model for your children when you know how to prioritize taking care of YOU!
We live in a highly toxic world, and much of our toxicity is passed along to our babies in utero, so detoxification and nourishment prior to trying for babies is in my opinion a must. Refer to this blog post to find out if your detoxification pathways may be sluggish, and what to do about it!
Nutrition and Lifestyle
Here are a few of my nutrition and lifestyle recommendations for boosting fertility. Please do not let this list be a source of overwhelm for you. It’s not about perfection or paranoia. Think of all of the love that you have in your heart for your future baby, and put some of that love into yourself knowing that it will help you be the best you can be, in more ways than just physical.
Eliminate alcohol, cigarettes/weed, or other drugs. If you are unable to eliminate completely, reduce consumption.
Reduce your toxin exposure. Consider switching to natural personal care products, makeup, + household cleaners. If you wear perfume/cologne, get rid of it. Anything with fragrance, let it go. Purchase as much organic food as possible. It’s heartbreaking to think that we have to worry about toxins sprayed on our FOOD, but we do. Look up the dirty/clean15.
Reduce or eliminate inflammatory foods. Foods that damage the gut and affect our delicate microbial balance are in turn damaging to baby, as our microflora is hugely important for the development of their immune system. These foods include processed sugar, gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and processed seed/vegetable oils.
Up your fibre intake. Fibre is what binds to excess toxins, hormones, and waste matter in order to be eliminated from the body. When we don’t consume sufficient fibre, these toxins and hormones are recirculated throughout the body via a process called enterohepatic recirculation. Many women have what is called estrogen dominance, and improper elimination of excess estrogen plays a role in that! Women should aim for a minimum of 25g/day, and men 38. Some great sources are beans/legumes, avocados, berries, pears, apples, psyllium husk, bananas, chia seeds, flaxseeds.
Start taking a prenatal. It’s important to have sufficient amounts of folic acid in the body at least a month prior to conception. I liked and used Platinum Naturals Prenatal!
Move your body! My personal favourite (and biased) recommendation for movement is yoga. It’s got everything you need! Yoga improves strength, especially postural strength, which is necessary for avoiding strain and stress on the back as belly grows. Having a stronger body will also come in handy postpartum when you now have a growing sack of potatoes to carry around with you everywhere! It will also work on flexibility in the hips which prepares the body for an easier labour and delivery. Lastly, yoga teaches you how to breathe. Breathing properly is one of the biggest contributors to overall health and wellbeing.
Get your stress in check. When the body is in a state of chronic stress, it does not feel safe. Our stress response causes us to be in survival mode, and the main priority for a body in survival mode will not be reproduction. There are two things I like to recommend when it comes to stress— building resilience to it, via adaptogenic herbs (found in my Adrenal Aid Tincture or Calm & Cool Capsules), cold therapy, breath work, yoga, and more, and also actively reducing it. Question your reactions to things that are in or out of your control. Life is stressful, but often we make it even more stressful by allowing ourselves to run away with the mind and our expectations.
There are a few things to consider when preparing for pregnancy. As I mentioned above, proper detoxification and elimination are KEY to overall health of the body, and then there are specific womb-nourishing herbs for fertility.
Here are some of my favourite herbs for the female reproductive system:
Dong Quai— often called the “female ginseng”, although it can be used by both males and females. This plant, when used over time, helps to strengthen and tone the uterus. It nourishes the liver and endocrine system, creating balance by boosting the vitality of these important organs. It is safe and nontoxic and can be used for longer periods of time, but avoid using during menstruation or pregnancy.
Vitex (chaste tree berry)-- a normalizing herb for the reproductive system. In the words of David Hoffman, “vitex will always enable what is appropriate to occur.” It stimulates the pituitary gland which can regulate hormonal production, and helps to lengthen the luteal phase of the cycle. It is said to have positive effects on progesterone, and in general is one of the most useful herbs for individuals with a female reproductive system
Wild Yam --considered a pro-progesterone herb, wild yam is in many progesterone creams and supplements all over the world. Wild yam not only encourages better progesterone levels, it normalizes hormones by helping to regulate the ratio of estrogen to progesterone in the system. Used for menstrual irregularity, painful periods, miscarriage, infertility, menopause, and endometriosis. This plant is unique in that along with its affinity for the female reproductive system it is also widely used as a liver tonic. Most hormonal imbalances are due in part to a poorly functioning liver, so this plant works on both systems.
Shatavari --an incredible Ayurvedic herb that is referred to as Rasayana, whole-body tonic. Shatavari is an adaptogenic plant that belongs to the asparagus family, and is used for increasing libido, normalizing hormone production, and rejuvenating the female reproductive system and body as a whole.
Nettle— a nourishing plant that is high in vitamins and minerals. It is a great source of vitamin K, and is useful in preventing hemorrhaging during childbirth. Nettle is a gentle diuretic, can help reduce water retention throughout the cycle.
Raspberry leaf— one of my favourite uterine tonics! It works wonders for toning the uterine muscles in preparation for birth, while also relaxing them to prevent menstrual cramps if not pregnant. Like nettle, it is a nutritive herb that provides easily absorbed vitamins and minerals to the body. I recommend using Womb Love Tea daily, 1-3 cups, to prepare for pregnancy, 1 cup daily throughout pregnancy, and copious amounts during labour and postpartum!
As mentioned above, proper detoxification and elimination are crucial for hormonal balance, and for increasing health and vitality of the body. I recommend Glow Tonic Tincture, which encourages cleansing of the liver, improves digestion, and cleanses the blood, and also triphala capsules. Triphala, a blend of three Indian fruits, is one of the most gentle and yet effective formulas for encouraging healthy elimination and detoxification of the gut.
The herbs mentioned above are all a part of my Cycle Syncing Complete Protocol. This bundle is for women who wish to improve the health of their reproductive system, improve detoxification and elimination, and build resilience to stress. To learn more about the formulas in this bundle, see their descriptions in the shop or read this blog post.
Should you get pregnant while taking these formulas, discontinue use of all but Womb Love Tea until post breastfeeding. Many of the herbs in the formulas are powerful and potent, and may pose risk to baby if supplemented during pregnancy or even through breastmilk if you choose to nurse. I now have a pregnancy and nursing safe section of my shop with a new formula called Lively Liver that is safe for use during pregnancy and nursing.
As always, what I have written above are mere suggestions. There are no “musts” or “shoulds”. Do what feels best for you and your body. Having carried one child myself I can speak to my experience!