Infertility is perhaps one of the simplest health issues to understand but one of the most nuanced issues to resolve. A startlingly high percentage of couples struggle to conceive children, and the Western medical community considers those who endure this struggle in excess of a year to suffer from some level of infertility. Perhaps what is so complicated about this malady is the large variety of circumstances that could potentially lead to a couple conceiving. The woman could be facing mechanical issues in her reproductive system, such as damage to her fallopian tubes or anomalies in her cervical canal, or possibly hormonal issues that compromise the production of eggs. The man could suffer from a low sperm count, testicular issues, or other maladies that result in infertility. And, the incidence of diseases like cancer could potentially compromise either gender’s reproductive capacity.
Western treatment of infertility can be just as varied as the potential causes, including surgical alterations, fertility drugs, and even an artificial insemination protocol that bypasses aspects of the natural process. However, many couples are successful in overcoming the incidence of infertility simply through persistence in their attempts to conceive.
Ayurvedic tradition suggests that the human body is made up of seven layers of tissue, which it calls dhatus. The body creates these various layers of tissue from the sustenance we consume, and does so on an ever-increasing scale of refinement. At the most basic level, it creates plasma. But then it further refines the plasma to then create blood, muscle, fat, bone, and marrow. Each layer requires greater amounts of energy to produce, much like the finer vintages of wine require additional time to ferment than cheaper alternatives. But it is the seventh and final layer of tissue – the reproductive tissues of ovum and semen – that requires the greatest development. Indeed, the entire body’s system of producing tissue culminates in its most intense, most creative act – that of producing new life.
What this means is that infertility is considered by Ayurvedic practitioners to be indicative of a flaw in this system. Somehow, along the path toward the creation of the seventh tissue, something has undermined the natural order of this creative act. In this way, the Ayurvedic perspective on infertility is analogous with that of its Western counterpart – both suggest a potentially large variety of issues to be the condition’s root cause.
An Ayurvedic regimen that is intended to restore fertility in a couple will likely be driven by the intention to restore health and balance to the body’s tissues. It is significant that each of the seven tissue layers is governed by one of the three doshas, but of potentially greater significance is the fact that five of the seven layers are governed by the earthy, nourishing quality of the Kapha dosha.
While a variety of different therapies and treatments ultimately help the body to produce healthier, more balanced tissues, many of the regimens for infertility will call upon herbs, foods, and lifestyle choices that build greater strength in the patient’s kapha energy. This enhancement of the body’s nourishing elements will likewise foster greater nourishment for the future child.
When either or both members of a couple neglect their body and mind in the act of conceiving a child, there is a diminished likelihood of conception. Often, compromised physical health and a high incidence of stress will undermine fertility to the point of causing significant problems when the couple attempts to procreate. A lifestyle meant to facilitate the conception of a child will generally favor peaceful, balanced behaviors as well as a generally wholesome and nourishing diet. The following changes will help an infertile couple to increase the likelihood of pregnancy.
Ayurveda teaches us that disease and sickness is derived from poor digestion and inappropriate food choices, so we make deliberate and conscious choices as to what foods we do and do not put in our body. When we suffer from a specific ailment, we then have an opportunity to make even more specific food choices to increase the chance of resolving the body’s imbalance. Food needs to be in season, in moderate combinations of one or two food groups, not too hot or cold, in a modest enough quantity to allow for room left over in the stomach, consumed without too much liquid which hinders digestive power, and fresh and not left over from more than a few hours before. The following foods will help to ground and nourish the body to provide better health to the couple when setting out to conceive.
Rice (white basmati)
While some foods can help to balance an aggravated dosha, other foods can cause further imbalance. Dry and cold foods as well as pungent, bitter and astringent tastes will dry out the body and aggravate the Vata dosha; sour, salty and pungent tastes as well as spicy foods will add more heat to the body and aggravate the Pitta dosha; sweet, sour and salty tasting foods will add heaviness to the body and aggravate the Kapha dosha. The following foods should be avoided in response to infertility:
Raw and cold foods
Excessive amounts of garlic and onions
Addiction to any one food type
Eating the same thing every day
Generally, Ayurveda discourages the consumption of too many cold beverages, as doing so hinders the strength of the body’s digestive fire. Instead, favor room temperature or hot beverages to encourage the strength of the digestive fire.
Herbs are used in the Ayurvedic system much like Western medicine utilizes medicines and vitamins and can be taken like a tea 2 to 3 times a day. Herbs aid in the digestion of food, the breakdown and elimination of toxins, and strengthen the cellular structure of our system for greater vitality. Herbs become more potent once mixed with other herbs of similar properties. Mix 2 to 4 different herbs from the below list together by adding a quarter to a half teaspoon full of each, for a total of 1 teaspoon of herbs total. Drink these in a half a cup of hot water.
When applied therapeutically to specific ailments, yoga postures provide an opportunity to strengthen the body, rid it of toxic matter, and restore balance. The postures included in this section can be practiced as part of a more general sequence or can be focused on in short sessions. When first exploring yoga postures, it is best to only practice them for twenty minutes or so per day and buildup from there once the body becomes more flexible.
Auspicious pose (swastikasana)
Seated forward bend
Standing forward bend
Legs up the wall
Aromatherapy utilizes the fragrances of essential oils when applied to the skin. Essential oils can burn the skin and therefore must be diluted with a base oil such as sesame, coconut, sunflower, canola, or mustard oil. Mix 1 fluid ounce of base oil with about 12 drops of essential oil before applying to skin. You can also just mix 5 drops of base oil to one drop of essential oil if using on one spot.
Pregnancy can be enhanced with rose, lotus, lavender, and lily oil.
Ayurvedic tradition suggests that repeating certain words or sounds can help a person suffering from an ailment restore subtle balance to nerve tissue and enhance one’s mental clarity. Different sounds are prescribed to either repeat mentally or chant outwardly. These sounds are also used and repeated in the mind for the purpose of spiritual growth.
Controlling the breath is a central practice toward developing peace and stillness in the mind and body. When the breath is under our control, we are no longer at the mercy of the senses that are stimulated by everything and lead to greater fluctuations of the mind. When applied to the context of resolving specific ailments, the breath is used as a tool for developing lung capacity, heating and cooling the body and resolving mental afflictions like anxiety and stress. Like with the yoga postures above, breathing exercises are likely to be of significant benefit to those who suffer from considerable amounts of stress.
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