Infertility, Women

What is Infertility?

A couple who has wholeheartedly attempted to conceive a pregnancy for greater than one year without results is considered infertile. About 17% of couples have difficulty conceiving a child. Although the causes of infertility in men are fairly straightforward, such is not the case in women, who can have difficulty conceiving for causes ranging from reproductive tract damage from previous pelvic infections, to ovarian cysts or tumors, to endometriosis, to hormonal imbalances. And because the causes vary so widely, the evaluation of infertility in women is often a much more extensive (and expensive) proposition. In addition to the medical remedies that may be necessary to help overcome structural or hormonal abnormalities that contribute to your infertility, what can you do nutritionally that may help? Let's take a look.

Infertility womenWhat helps Infertility?

• Deficiency of folic acid can contribute to your difficulty conceiving. If you have symptoms of folic acid deficiency, ask your physician to check your blood for indications of low folic acid (large red blood cells and low folate levels in serum and in red blood cells). If this evaluation proves you to be deficient in this vitamin, supplementation with folic acid may help you conceive. Recommendation: If you are deficient, take 5 mg of folic acid 3 times daily until your blood tests return to normal, then continue to supplement 5 mg per day for 3 months to 1 year. The vitamins of the B-complex work best when all members of the group are present, so you should also take 50 mg vitamin B-complex with each dose of folic acid. Please read the discussion of this vitamin in the A-to-Z Nutrient listings, especially regarding the need to monitor your levels of vitamin B12 when you supplement more than 1/2 mg of folic acid per day.

•  Supplementation with vitamin B6 may help to increase your levels of progesterone, one of the major female reproductive hormones. Recommendation: Take 100 to 150 mg of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) daily for 6 months to assess your response. Some women require higher doses (sometimes as much as 800 mg per day), but doses above 200 mg per day have caused permanent nerve damage in some people when taken for prolonged periods. If you supplement above the 150 mg dose, you should only do so under the direct supervision of your personal physician. And even at lower doses, if you should develop numbness, tingling, pins-and-needles sensations, or painful sensations in your hands or arms, feet, or legs, you should immediately stop the vitamin.

• If you are low in iron by blood testing, that deficiency may contribute to your difficulty conceiving. Recommendation: If you are found deficient in iron, take chelated iron (iron glycinate) in a dose of 10 mg twice daily, or if you cannot find a chelated iron replacement, take a combination of 90 mg ferrous sulfate plus 500 mg vitamin C 2 to 3 times daily until you build your iron level back up to normal.

•  If you have a deficiency of vitamin Bl2 significant enough to cause pernicious anemia, which in and of itself is a rarity in childbearing years, that usually leads to an infertility problem that you can correct by supplementing the vitamin. Recommendation: If you have pernicious anemia, take vitamin B12 in a dose of 500 to 1000 micrograms per week until your anemia responds, then continue the injection once monthly for 6 months to a year.

• Proper body composition, by which we mean the right amount of body fat on a normally muscled frame, is important to your ability to conceive. In medical research examining the problem of infertility in women, over half the women seeking help in trying to conceive had ceased to have menstrual periods following weight loss. Having a body weight less than 85% of the ideal weight for your height increases your risk of infertility by nearly 5 times. Having a body weight more than 120% above ideal for your height more than doubles your risk of infertility. Recommendation: Refer to the Macronutrient discussion found on page 23. Here you will find guidelines for calculating your lean body weight and instructions on how to construct a healthy diet. (If you are underweight, you should eat a number of grams of protein that will support the weight of muscle you want to build to, not the amount you currently weigh.)

• Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) stimulates the pituitary gland and restores fertility to some women. Recommendation: Take 50 mg daily.


What makes Infertility worse?

• Abuse of alcohol can cause your brain to release more of the hormone prolactin (the hormone that normally causes milk production during and after pregnancy), and this may interfere with your ability to conceive. Recommendation: If you are having trouble conceiving, we would suggest that you avoid alcoholic beverages entirely; however, a single glass of wine, a single "lite" beer, or a half-ounce of distilled spirits once or twice a week probably won't be enough to cause this problem.

•  Explore the possibility of heavy metal poisoning, which may affect ovulation. Heavy metal poisoning is job hazard for some people who work daily with high concentrations of lead, aluminum, mercury, or cadmium. Also, if a person is subjected to these metals on a regular basis, say, lead in water, poisoning can result. A hair analysis can reveal intoxication.

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