No one wants to talk about it in public, but infertility is a widespread problem in the modern world today. In the United States it affects about 17 percent of all the couple of childbearing age, which translates to some five million Americans.
Many causes can contribute to this condition, including those that are emotional, physical and environmental.
Conditions necessary for having a baby
First one should understand the conditions under which it is possible to have a baby. Eggs need to be produced from the woman's ovaries. The man has to produce healthy, viable sperm. The woman's fallopian tubes need to be open and clear in order for the sperm to reach the egg while it is in the fallopian tubes, and for the egg to move down the passage to the uterus.
The lining of the uterus must be suitable for the fertilized egg to become implanted in the uterine wall. Once the egg is implanted, the woman's body must produce the proper hormones for the fertilized egg to be sustained.
Any one of these things can cause the hopes of pregnancy to be dashed.
While the most common cause of infertility is due to the woman's ovulation (see infertility in women), male infertility can also be a problem. Male infertility occurs in 40 percent of all infertility cases. Male infertility may be due to a man's low sperm count, decreased sperm motility, or aberrant sperm morphology. There are several reasons this happens. Saunas and exercising too strenuously can contribute to impaired sperm production.
A topic of some debate in Europe is the effect of birth control pills, and estrogen-like chemicals on male fertility. Such chemicals are not biodegradable by stomach acids and get into the environment, i.e., the soil, water, and through urine. Ultimately these chemicals get into the food chain and in that way can affect both males and females alike.
Other possible causes of infertility are low plasma copper concentrations, abnormalities of the reproductive system, heavy metal toxicity, genetic damage from electromagnetic radiation, and antibodies that the woman may produce against the man's sperm.
The most obvious symptom of infertility is the inability to conceive after an appropriate amount of trying, often considered to be a year. What is not always acknowledged by society is the emotional aspect of the problem. Infertility can cause couples can experience anguish, mourning, loss of self-esteem, and marred self-image. This condition can also result in difficulty between partners, as it is so related to sexual issues. If there is a communication problem between the partners, this can be exacerbated as they try to deal with the emotional trials accompanied with infertility.
Treatment for in fertility ranges from drugs to surgery to in vitro fertilization, the method in which the man's sperm is used to fertilize his female partner's egg outside of her uterus. The embryo is then implanted inside the womb for her to carry to term. This may cost approximately $10,000 per cycle. Modern assisted reproductive technology (ART) also offers the ability to fertilize donor eggs and then implant those in the infertile woman. Thus, a woman is able to bear a child that is not genetically related to her. This method is generally even more costly, as it could run up to $15,000. However, it is important to know that there may be alternative natural solutions that can be tested prior to using ART or other conventional methods of treatment, or in conjunction with these. Some natural approaches are outlined below, although couples should of course work with a holistically-oriented health practitioner to get individualized guidance.
It is always important for the individual to provide the body with proper nutrients by eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. Avoid fat and food additives such as nitrates, nitrites and MSG. It can be helpful for both partners to avoid tobacco and nicotine products, caffeine, alcohol, heavy metals and chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides. Drugs such as marijuana and cocaine can also contribute to infertility.
Relaxation techniques have proven to enhance fertility by increasing vigor and reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. One or both partners may be anxious about becoming pregnant, and a lot of tension can build up around this issue. It's important to address this through some type of emotional or spiritual work. Support, whether it comes from an individual counselor or a group, can make a difference in one's outlook.
Adding specific nutrients to the diet can further enhance the male reproductive systems. Talk to a nutritionally-oriented health practitioner, but in general, these are some of the more important nutrients that can prove to be helpful:
- Zinc - Studies show that consuming 25-50 mg of zinc a day has positive consequences for overcoming male impotence. Foods containing zinc should be eaten, including nuts, seeds, whole grains, and brewer's yeast.
- Vitamin E - This vitamin may improve the sperm's impregnating ability. Food sources rich in vitamin E are wheat germ, whole grains, and uncooked nuts.
- L-Carnitine - Infertility due to low sperm motility may be due to insufficient carnitine levels. Carnitine is generally recognized as being important for the heart muscle, and indeed it is, but studies have also shown that 3,000 mg of oral L-carnitine, taken daily for four months, will increase spermatozoa motility as well.
- Reishi (Ganoderma) Extract - Studies of infertile men with chronic genital inflammation secondary to infection by the human papilloma virus (HPV) find reishi extract effective for overcoming infertility. The extract significantly reduces inflammation of the skin in these patients and improves sperm parameters.
Other nutrients known to help men with infertility are selenium and vitamin D. Herbs that tone renal/adrenal function are part of the Oriental approach, as reproduction is considered to be related to the kidney. These herbs include wormwood, which is a European herb that can be consumed along with the Chinese herbs daughter seed and fructose litchi (a red berry); dong quai, which can be taken as a tea or in capsule form; kelp, which is rich in iodine and thus beneficial for hypothyroidism; and ginseng, an herb that may help strengthen the male reproductive system, as it contains a lot of zinc.
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