Treating Infertility—An Information Sheet for Couples
Infertility affects one in six couples It's even more common in fibromyalgia because of associated hypothyroidism, nutritional deficiencies, and PCOS. These numbers are continuing to rise as sperm counts drop worldwide and undiagnosed thyroid problems increase.
Various factors contribute to the inability to achieve a successful pregnancy. Despite research showing that fertility declines after age 30, women are delaying having children. Infertility may be caused by ovulatory, anatomic, immunologic, infectious, nutritional or hormonal factors on the woman's side. In men, abnormalities of semen parameters are the most common contributors.
After a thorough standard medical work-up, the cause of infertility often remains unexplained. In this setting, the only option many couples are given is IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), which can cost over $30,000—with fees like that as a profit motive it's no wonder research on inexpensive natural options remains so ignored. It's not that doctors don't care. It's just that they remain unaware of these alternatives because company's don't invest in publicizing the information.
The good news is that there are many natural ways to improve all steps of the reproductive process. A large number of studies have successfully explored the use of individual nutritional and hormonal therapies that have resulted in women with unexplained and untreatable infertility often getting pregnant! (Anyone interested in seeing the 39 bracketed study references included below can email me for the list.)
Fertility Support for Women
Below are important things to avoid from now until after your third month of pregnancy, as these can cause infertility. It's OK not to be completely perfect with these guidelines (I know it's a tall order) but do the best you can.
- Avoid coffee and sodas, though tea is OK. Coffee and sodas inhibit fertility—often significantly. Especially avoid caffeine if your prolactin blood test is low, as caffeine can lower it further.
- Avoid melatonin (which is sometimes used to treat insomnia), as it can affect reproductive hormones.
- Avoid taking over 900 mg of supplemental vitamin C, as this can cause infertility (though reversible). However, taking 750 mg a day actually helps fertility.
- Don't take over 7,000 units of supplemental vitamin A a day, as this can cause birth defects. Though beta carotene is OK. (Note that the Energy Revitalization System supplement I list at the end of this article has 3,500 i.u. of vitamin A. The other 3,500 i.u. it contains is beta carotene.)
- Avoid hot tubbing, as it increases birth defect risks. A hot bath below 100 degrees is a safer way to relax. When taking a bath, you typically have much of your upper body out of the water, which makes you less likely to overheat. Also, water in a bath generally cools down while you're in it, as opposed to the constant heating of a hot tub, which further reduces the risk of overheating (a hot tub usually heats to 102-104 degrees, which can overheat your body and can harm your baby).
- Avoid a high-protein or Atkins® diet (an Atkins-like diet in a study of rats decreased fertility over 50%).
- Do not drink alcohol if your prolactin levels are higher than 10. If under 10 avoid it generally as is convenient.
- Avoid vaginal lubricants such as FemGlide, Replens and Astroglide, as these can damage sperm. The Pre-Seed® brand is OK.
- If you smoke, stop until after the baby is born. Smoking contributes to infertility in many ways.
- It works best to have intercourse on the day you ovulate and up to four days before (otherwise "ad lib" whenever you feel like it). It's OK to have intercourse multiple times during this period. For purposes of getting pregnant, intercourse even one day after ovulation is unlikely to result in pregnancy—but OK to do anyway for its other benefits.
- Use whole milk instead of low-fat or fat-free milk products. In a Harvard study, high intake of low-fat dairy foods was associated with an increased risk of infertility, while an increased intake of high-fat dairy foods was associated with a lower risk of infertility. Women consuming at least two servings of low-fat dairy foods per day showed an 85% increased risk of infertility. On the other hand, women consuming at least one serving of high-fat dairy foods per day showed a 27% reduced risk of infertility. Whole-milk products (instead of low-fat ) also taste better!
Ways to Support Healthy Fertility
- Supply overall nutritional support by using the Energy Revitalization System by Enzymatic Therapy, and by maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet[10-13]. As noted above, dieting and high-protein/low-carbohydrate diets are to be avoided[14,15]. Stay on these when you get pregnant and continue through breast feeding.
- Add prescription Armour thyroid 30 mg adjusted to a dose that feels best (with a maximum of 90 mg) or Synthroid 25-75 mcg[16,17] while keeping your Free T4 at below 75% of the upper limit of normal. This can be helpful even if your blood tests are normal. DO NOT TAKE IRON OR CALCIUM SUPPLEMENTS WITHIN SIX HOURS OF THE THYROID DOSE, AS THIS WILL CAUSE THE THYROID TO NOT BE ABSORBED. Take your calcium at dinner and bedtime. Stay on the thyroid throughout your pregnancy (it supports a healthy pregnancy)—though if you get shaky or hyper or feel a racing heart, lower (or stop) the thyroid dose.
- Optimize iron levels. If your ferritin blood test is under 80 or your iron percent saturation is under 25%, treat with an iron tablet once a day after 2 PM on an empty stomach[18,19]. Continue the iron throughout your pregnancy. Do this even if your doctor says that your blood tests are "normal." Double-check the actual ferritin test result numbers to make sure you follow this advice.
- If PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome) is present (suspect it if you have acne, are overweight, and/or have excess facial hair, which is often present when testosterone or DHEA-S levels are elevated), research shows that treatment with the medication metformin 1,500-2,000 mg/day not only increases fertility, but also decreases the risk of serious birth defects considerably[20-24].
- If your prolactin level is over 10, you should strictly avoid alcohol and melatonin (which can raise prolactin). You can add vitamin B6 100 mg (or as needed, but not greater than 200 mg) to bring the prolactin within the normal range. Stop taking this extra B6 around seven months into the pregnancy as it can suppress breast milk production (the amount in my recommended multivitamin is OK to continue).
- If your folic acid levels are in the lower 20% of normal range, you should have a blood test to looking for wheat allergies. If found, you should restrict yourself to a gluten-free diet. You should then also take folic acid 5 mg twice daily.
Fertility Support for Men
These are important things to avoid from now until after your wife gets pregnant, as each can cause infertility. As with my note to the women, it's OK not to be completely perfect with these guidelines. Just do the best you can.
- When convenient, avoid meat that has estrogen by buying your meat from a natural foods store.
- Avoid soy-based foods such as tofu, tempeh, soy cheese and milk. Even modest intakes can drop your sperm count by as much as 40%.
- Avoid melatonin, testosterone, verapamil and nifedipine (the latter two are heart/blood pressure medications), as these can cause infertility (though reversible).
- Avoid alcohol as much as you can and tobacco.
- Sperm do poorly at temperatures over 96 degrees (which is why your testes are designed to hang below the rest of your body where it's cooler). Wear boxer shorts to avoid elevated scrotal temperatures. Do not wear briefs, tight fitting underwear, or jeans. Avoid hot tubs, as well as rowing and ski machines, treadmills and jogging unless your testes can hang freely.
- Avoid aspirin, Motrin or similar medications that block the hormone prostaglandin, as prostaglandins in the seminal fluid may assist sperm. Tylenol is OK in moderation.
- Increase consumption of liquid vegetable oils and avoid cottonseed (which may contain a sperm-inhibiting substance called gossypol). Also avoid palm and coconut oils, and trans, hydrogenated or saturated fats as comfortably able.
Ways to Support Healthy Fertility
All of the below can be taken together in the morning (or split up and taken any time of day).
- Supply overall nutritional support with the Energy Revitalization System vitamin powder. This contains over 50 nutrients including 750 mg of vitamin C and 100 i.u. of vitamin E[30-33]. It also supplies folic acid[34,35] and antioxidants.
- Coenzyme Q10 at 200 mg/day. Take it with food that contains some fats to enhance absorption.
- L-Arginine 4 gm/day.
- Acetyl-L-carnitine (or L-carnitine) 1,000 mg/day can markedly improve sperm motility and the sperm's defenses against attack.
- Zinc 15 mg/day (also present in the vitamin powder recommended in #1 above).
- Ribose 5 gm twice a day (you can use like sugar and mix it into food or drinks, or use the chewable tablet form). In many studies ribose increases energy production, which may also help sperm motility. Take the first dose in the morning and the second one any time later in the day.
Wishing you a happy and healthy pregnancy!
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.