Ayurveda for Fertility
Fertility is one of the best indicators of health, regardless of desire for children. Our bodies are built for reproduction, and when all of our systems are in balance and working together, fertility is more likely. On the flip side, when the body is undernourished, stressed, or out of balance, it can sense its unsuitability for reproduction, and fertility is compromised. Using Ayurveda for fertility helps to support the body and encourage healthy reproductive function.
Ayurveda offers powerful strategies for optimizing fertility through the improvement of overall health and constitutional balance. These strategies can be supplemented with herbal remedies to further optimize reproductive health and promote fertility. It is valuable to optimize fertility, even for those who have no interest in having children. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, fertility is an excellent indicator of overall health, and for the most part, healthy bodies are fertile (there are exceptions to this of course, but for the most part I would say this is the case).
Too often, the burden of pregnancy preparation and infertility challenges are placed on women. Women are the focus of most attention regarding pregnancy preparation, and are often seen as being at fault for a couple’s inability to conceive. It is also vital for men to prepare for conception and identify any potential roots of infertility. This post focuses on ways both men and women can use Ayurveda for fertility.
The Importance of your Constitution
Fertility can be impacted by your constitution, and knowledge of constitution is a key component of using Ayurveda for fertility. Typically, Vatas have low fertility, Pittas have average fertility, and Kaphas have good fertility. Those with dual constitutions will likely fall somewhere in between, or may find that their level of fertility is consistent with one of their dominant doshas.
Knowledge of your constitution is helpful because it can help with identifying the root of any potential fertility issues, or can give an indication of your possible level of fertility. In addition, knowing your constitution is the first step in learning how to balance the body and achieve optimal health and fertility.
If you don’t know your constitution, you can find out by taking a prakriti quiz like this one from Banyan Botanicals.
Nourish the Body with Nutrient-Dense and Balancing Foods
Diet is an important part of using Ayurveda for fertility. Pregnancy and breastfeeding place a large nutrient demand on a woman’s body. It is therefore critical to ensure that you provide your body with sufficient nourishment. This means eating enough food, and as much nutrient-rich food as possible. Women, especially those in western society, have a tendency to under-eat in an effort to achieve a body type that fits what is idealized in popular culture.
Unfortunately, under-eating robs the body of vital nutrients and reduces the fat stores that are so important for nourishing the body and baby throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding. When fat stores are too low, the body senses stress and anticipates famine, signaling that it is not a safe time to carry a baby. Fertility is benefited from being in a more Kapha-focused state, which often results in the body holding on to some extra fat. This fat is beneficial for growing a healthy baby.
For many women, the first step to achieving fertility is increasing food intake and ensuring that as much of that food is dense in nutrients. In addition, be sure to eat in a way that is beneficial for your constitution (learn more about Vata, Pitta, and Kapha). A balanced constitution promotes overall bodily health and consequently promotes fertility in men and women.
Foods that Promote Fertility
Particular foods are especially helpful in providing nutrients that are vital during pregnancy and that can help to promote fertility in both men and women:
Ghee is one of the very best foods for fertility. It is a sattvic food, and calms the mind and purifies the body. Ghee has powerful balancing properties for all three doshas and contains nutrients such as vitamin K2 that are beneficial for fertility. It also aids in the absorption of other nutrients, allowing the body to better utilize the nutrients found in the other foods you consume. Ghee is an incredible rejuvenating food for everyone, and especially for those looking to improve fertility. Ghee is a wonderful, balancing way to incorporate ghee into the diet.
Eat plenty of organic fruits and vegetables, and try to eat a variety of different kinds. Asparagus and broccoli are helpful vegetables for fertility, as they enhance reproductive tissue. Sweet, juicy fruits are especially nourishing. Favor fruits like mango, plums, and peaches, and dried fruits such as dates.
Cumin and turmeric are also beneficial for the reproductive tissues. cumin strengthens the uterus and male reproductive organs, and turmeric improves the relationship between hormones and reproductive tissues.
Proper Food Combining
It is also important to practice proper food combining in order to minimize ama (toxins) that can damage the body and interfere with fertility. Even if you follow dietary recommendations for your constitution, improper food combining can lead to toxin buildup and can impair fertility.
Principles of food combining:
- Eat fruit alone, away from other foods (especially melons)
- Grains can be consumed with meat, vegetables, beans, nuts, or cheese
- Eat vegetables with any other foods except for fruit
- Milk and yogurt should not be consumed with fruit, meat, fish, or yeast-containing breads and should not be consumed together
- Nightshades such as tomatoes and potatoes should not be combined with cucumber or dairy products
- Beans should not be combined with cheese, yogurt, milk, meat, eggs, or fish
- Eggs should not be consumed with beans, cheese, milk, meat, fish, or yogurt
Stress is one of the most insidious and often overlooked challenges for optimal fertility. Stress creates imbalance in the body, which can disrupt fertility even when other aspects of health seem to be aligned.
Anxiety and stress are particularly common in Vatas, further contributing to the naturally low fertility levels among Vata individuals. It is therefore especially important for those with a Vata-dominant constitution to practice stress-relieving techniques on a regular basis. Everyone, regardless of constitution, can benefit from stress-reduction exercises.
Some of the most important and effective stress reduction methods are sleep, yoga, and meditation.
Getting enough sleep is essential to repair the body from physical stressors that it encounters throughout the day. It is also critical in allowing the mind to process the day’s activities. Even if you don’t experience any overtly stressful events during the day, the mental energy required to simply navigate daily life causes stress on the brain. Getting sufficient sleep allows the brain to process, repair, and recharge. If you are struggling to get enough high-quality sleep, I strongly recommend Sarah Ballantyne’s sleep program.
Yoga is also an incredible tool for stress relief and overall physical health. In addition to strengthening the body and stretching muscles, yoga helps to relieve mental stress. Focus especially on restorative yoga when experiencing times of increased physical and mental stress and when trying to optimize fertility. My favorite resource for a variety of yoga types is Lesley Fightmaster. She has an outstanding Youtube channel that I refer to regularly for my practice.
Yoga is the ideal form of movement for reducing stress and improving fertility. High-intensity exercise is popular among women trying to lose weight, but it can be detrimental to fertility. When the body perceives physical stress, it can fall out of balance and become infertile. Be gentle with your body, especially when trying to conceive. A low-stress environment lets the body know it is safe to carry a baby to term and promotes overall balance.
A regular meditation practice is a valuable tool for optimal health. It allows the brain to relax and recharge, improving resilience to daily stresses of all kinds. The ideal form of meditation varies from person to person, and it can take some time to identify what is best for you. I think an excellent starting point is the book Beyond the Breath, which teaches a simple and powerful form of mindfulness meditation. There are many forms of meditation, so find whatever is best for you.
Taking walks in nature is also a wonderful way to practice mindfulness and relax the mind and body. Forest bathing reduces stress and helps to balance the body, regardless of your constitution. Try to take a walk in nature every day if possible to strengthen and relax the body and mind.
Connect with your Partner
You are undertaking a new and exciting journey with your partner. It is important to cultivate love, compassion, and joy in your relationship as you prepare to bring life into the world. This will help to prepare your spiritual and physical bodies for optimal fertility and conception and will ensure that your child is brought into the world with love.
As part of this connection, make sure that you are both in sync with the timing of your decision to have a baby. Ideally, you will both feel stable emotionally and in your living situation, and will conceive during a peaceful time in the world and within your community.
Practice daily gratitude for your partner and practice full and open communication. Talk about any emotional challenges you may be having and practice genuine forgiveness. If you find this process challenging, it can be extremely helpful and healing to find a counselor or therapist to act as a neutral third party as you work through difficult conversations.
Supplements can be a helpful addition to dietary and lifestyle strategies for improved reproductive function and fertility. They offer reproductive system support that enhances the nutrients provided by food, fortifying the body in preparation for conception. These supplements are especially valuable for those actively trying to conceive, more so than for those simply seeking optimal health.
Stimulants and nutritive tonics are the two primary supplements that promote health of the reproductive system. They do this through different mechanisms. Stimulants improve the function of the reproductive system, while tonics specifically improve and increase the tissue that reproductive organs are composed of. Nutritive tonics also support the production of semen and breastmilk. Some herbs act as both stimulants and nutritive tonics, and are some of the most ideal supplements when using Ayurveda for fertility.
A stimulant and rejuvenative tonic, ashwagandha is known for its adaptogenic properties and the promotion of sexual energy. It is especially helpful for promoting virility and sexual stamina in men. Ashwagandha can also help to improve sperm quantity and quality. In women, it helps to regenerate the hormonal system and helps to stabilize the fetus during pregnancy.
A stimulant and tonic, shatavari is the main Ayurvedic rejuvenative for women. It has such a powerful rejuvenative action on the female reproductive system that it is said to give the capacity to have a hundred husbands. See this post for more detailed information about Shatavari.
As a rejuvenative tonic, gokshura is used to encourage fertility in both men and women. It is also called goatweed and can be picked from the wild or purchased in powder form. Gokshura helps keep the urinary tract healthy and prevents infection, which can be more common during pregnancy. It is also beneficial for women postpartum and can increase semen production in men. To make gokshura tea, boil 1 Tablespoon of gokshura in in 2 cups of water.
Marshmallow is a nutritive tonic for the reproductive tissues. It is especially beneficial for promoting healthy mucus membranes, which are essential for a healthy cervix and optimal fertility.
Blood Cleanse is an herbal blend that is especially helpful for women with excess Pitta. The blood is a primary nutrient system during pregnancy, so it is important to keep it healthy through gentle detoxification.
Healthy digestion is important for nutrient absorption and to attain balance in the body. Choose a digestive support supplement based on whether Vata, Pitta, or Kapha is most out of balance in your constitution.
When yours and your partner’s bodies are healthy and balanced, and you are in a connected and prepared place, you have set the groundwork for optimal fertility and a healthy baby. One often-overlooked and misunderstood aspect of conception is fertility awareness. A woman is only fertile for a few days each month, so in order to achieve pregnancy intercourse must occur during that fertile window. Outside of that window, sperm won’t meet the egg and pregnancy cannot occur.
There is a wealth of incredible information about fertility awareness that can help you to learn about reproductive health and achieve pregnancy. My favorite book on the subject is called Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. I also really love the Fertility Friday blog and podcast, where Lisa provides free information about fertility awareness and talks with leaders in the field.
Do you have any thoughts, questions, or recommendations? Please share them in the comments!