Optimizing Fertility Using Ayurveda Wisdom
Written by Dr Erandi Gunathilake, Chief Doctor, Plantation Villa, Sri Lanka
Ayurveda, an ancient lifestyle science and medicine, has given great importance to reproductive health. Starting from the right age to have children, this ancient wisdom has described how to prepare physically, mentally and spiritually for a healthy reproductive outcome. Creating another human being is considered precious and it was given high priority in social and cultural aspects. It was expected and encouraged as it was necessary for the development of the community. The importance of the pre-conception period is highly emphasised and when a girl or a boy matures to the age where they are capable of being a parent, necessary measures for optimizing fertility were embedded in their dietary and daily regime.
When a girl reaches menace, a mother or elderly woman in the family would start educating her towards being a mother. This included not just giving necessary guidance on how to take care of her husband and children, but also grooming, hygiene, menstruation and how it leads to conception, sexual education, art of seduction, measures to follow for a proper conception and pregnancy regimen, along with much more. When a young boy reached adolescence, he was also prepared and taught how to maintain his health as well as hygiene and sexual education. Usage of aphrodisiac was also quite popular in both men and women but it was much more encouraged towards men and “Wrushya Sthree”, healthy dark-skinned women were mentioned as the best aphrodisiac.
When it comes to the point of conception, there are 4 factors that needs to come together: Ṙtu, Kṣethra, Ambu and Beeja.
- Ṙtu (time / phase) – Right age / Right time of the menstrual cycle of a woman
- Kṣethra (field, where conception and continuation of the pregnancy happens) – Female reproductive system
- Ambu (fluids) – Fluids and hormones that nourishes the fetus, essential reproductive hormones and the very essence of immunity and vitality, Ojas
- Beeja (seeds) – Among these factors that are necessary to create a healthy fetus, beeja stands out. Beeja or seeds refers to sperm in men and ovum in the women. Production of reproductive elements (Shukra Dhatu) is linked with a chain of metabolic transformations and it is the most refined and the most complete human tissue of all. It starts with digestion and is linked with nourishment of the body fluids and other tissues of the body. This brings digestion as the starting point of making a healthy reproductive outcome. The healthier you are, the healthier you eat, the healthier and well-nourished sperm and ovum will be produced.
Mind and Spirituality
It is very important to understand that conception is a natural phenomenon. It is essential to adopt a loving and gentle approach towards yourself and your partner. Taking time to conceive is something that can happen naturally and if you can use that time to embrace the process, it will build up a strong wave of self-love, affection towards your partner, and it will make you stronger to sustain the pregnancy period and parenthood.
Welcoming a new life in to the world and becoming a parent must be accompanied with love and compassion. Tendencies of pushing too hard, complaining, blaming or getting stressed, need to be replaced with wholesome qualities such as patience, compassion, kindness and understanding. These can be developed through a regular practice of yoga, meditation and prayers. These will make a significant difference in the outcome as well as the time taken to succeed. Ayurveda encourages this mental and spiritual aspect.
Influence of stress and anxiety plays very important role in fertility. Starting from the influences that can occur to hormone production by interrupting pituitary functions, which can create an imbalance of Vata. This can impact negatively by creating imbalances of ovulation, ejaculation and even reduce the quality of the ova and sperm in the long run. Furthermore, it can cause miscarriages and abnormalities of fetus. Hence maintaining the balance of Vata dosha becomes a very important fact in fertility and pregnancy.
Treatment regimen to follow for both men and women in general starts with the preconception period. It will take about 3 months unless another underlying illness of either partners is involved. The first 4 weeks include preparing the body with cleansing and balancing and last 8 weeks with rejuvenation to deliver full nourishment to the tissues.
Cleansing and Detoxification
Detoxification (preparing for elimination and elimination of toxins) starts with the digestive system. Any digestive problem may lessen nourishment of tissues even if you eat healthy. Therefore, before taking any nourishment therapy, it is important to undergo panchakarma cleansing with an Ayurvedic doctor. Enhancement of Agni (digestive fire) by consumption of digestive herbs and spices, avoiding processed food and regular mealtimes and portions are the starting point of the treatment. Digestive enhancement (Agni Deepana and Pachana) along with oil application (Sneha Karma) and sweating treatments (Sweda Karma) should be combined with necessary panchakarma treatments.
Nasya Karma (nasal herbal application) with herbal formulas can be used to stimulate pituitary gland and support regulation of reproductive hormones. Purgation (Virechana Karma) is also done as it is the major cleansing procedure for the whole body and cleansing Enemas (Vasthi Karma) might also be done if necessary.
Accessory cleansing therapies like sits bath / Yoni Sheka (genital-vaginal irrigation with herbal decoctions) to maintain healthy PH value of the vagina and to heal if there’s any microbial influence as candidiasis, and Nadi Sweda (focused steam therapy) and application of herbal pastes for erectly dysfunction are useful in case of need.
Oil application from head to toe, herbal baths, Shirodhara (relaxing oil treatments), are done along with supportive treatments like sits bath and oil enemas for nourishment and strengthening. Herbal paste application with aromatic and stimulating herbs, herbal scrubs and wraps, along with herbal medicine formulas will provide rejuvenation not just to the reproductive tissue but to the whole body. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Shathavari (Asparagus racemosus), Saffron (Crocus sativus), Amla (Phyllanthus emblica), Kakatikta (Cardiospermum halicacabum), Kapikachchu (Mucuna pruriens), stands out as herbs that strengthens the reproductive system.
Exercising also supports to enhance Agni, and helps overall progress by lifting up stamina. Exercising must be prescribed according to the strength of the person but slow rhythmic exercises are recommended. Breathing exercises like Bhramari Pranayama, Ujjayi Pranayama, Kapalabhati Pranayama and yoga postures like Bhujangasana, Paschimottanasana, Supta Baddha Konasana, Setu Bandhasana, Balasana, Dhanurasana, etc. are beneficial to improve fertility in both men and women. Well balanced Agni (digestive power) will empower Ojas (immunity). These are applicable for both cleansing and rejuvenation phases.
Healthy dietary regimen
Food is medicine. Eating food with more Prana (life energy) and making more variations without limiting your nutrition intake is highlighted.
- Fresh organic vegetables, dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach, broccoli, asparagus, root vegetables like sweet potatoes, beet root, carrots, pumpkin, rubab, asparagus, celery, garlic and onions.
- Whole grains, urad dhal (black gram), millet.
- Fresh fruits such as mango, banana, dates, avocado, figs, peaches, plums, pomegranate, grapes, cherries, coconut, oranges, guava, papayas, pears, plums, blueberries, strawberries.
- Nuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds.
- Saffron, ajwain, turmeric, cumin seeds, black cumin seeds, fennel garlic, cinnamon, clove, coriander, basil, ginger, black pepper, red peppers.
- Non vegan items such as ghee, milk and bee’s honey are also recommended.
- Avoid trans-fats, artificial sweeteners and coloring agents, processed foods, and substances like mono sodium glutamate (MSG), refined carbohydrates, excess alcohol, caffeine and tobacco and red meat.
Lifestyle and Daily Routine
Despite the circumstances of a modern busy lifestyle, it is very important to be engaged with a healthy lifestyle. Sleeping is essential and proper sleep plays a very important effect on hormone balance and for the balance of the mind. Both have huge influence on fertility. Regularity of daily events will naturally support to keep your dosha balanced, especially Vata dosha. Daily self-care and self-massage, meditation and yoga activities are essential. Sexual activities also should be regulated. After the fertile phase it is good to conserve your energy (Shukra dhathu and Ojas) by avoiding frequent intercourse until the next fertile phase.
Other Diseases That Can Influence Fertility
There are other health conditions that influences fertility. In case of such, it is necessary to treat that condition as well. Overweight and obesity, malnutrition (including those who follow very low fat and very low carb diets), eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, endocrine disorders (diabetes, thyroid and adrenal dysfunctions) requires the support of herbs and nutrition guidance before approaching fertility concerns. It is the same with sexually transmitted diseases and other infections, acute or chronic.
Uterine fibroids and polyps, hormonal imbalances, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), imbalances occurred due to excessive use of hormonal birth control methods, and endometriosis, are female health conditions which again can be successfully treated by Ayurveda medicine.
Available data indicate that at least 50 million couples worldwide experience infertility. WHO has calculated that over 10% of women are inflicted, while the burden in men is unknown. Today, we only focus on reproductive health when we are ready to have children. Most of young adults underestimate reproductive health and do not focus on it. Young women even find menstruation a hassle, and its importance only comes into awareness when they are trying to conceive.
Taking hormonal contraceptive methods at early adolescence might influence maturation of pituitary gland and that could create hormonal imbalances later in life. Trying unsafe drugs and not taking safety precautions in sexual activities can expose people to certain sexually transmitted diseases (e.g. gonorrhea, mycoplasma genitalium [MG]), if left untreated can cause infertility and/or complications in conception.
Ayurveda identifies reproductive health as a very important part of a person’s health and wellbeing. Starting from a positive mindset, engaging with a healthy lifestyle with wholesome nutrients and taking essential measures to cleanse the body and mind, providing necessary nourishment together with the support of natural herbs, it is possible to get your fertility to its maximum potential.