There are many good reasons women decide to delay having children until their mid-to-late thirties, one of which is usually not enhanced fertile health. Women today are inundated with reasons as to why it will be more difficult – if not impossible – to conceive after the age of thirty-five. And, yet, we know from the ancient wisdom of Chinese Medicine (and other traditional healing systems) that a woman’s fertility is not simply a spiral downward, diminishing with each passing month from menarche to menopause, but that she has the capacity to increase her fertile health at any age. I’ll show you how.
Wise On Her Own
The female hormonal system is incredibly wise, and life wants to be created with each ovulating cycle. In perfect harmony, there isn’t much need for intervention to balance hormones or facilitate conception (other than timing!). The problem is that many women experience some form of hormonal imbalance due to various endocrine disruptors in the modern lifestyle – many of which are, thankfully, reversible.
Long-term hormonal birth control use, stress, poor sleep habits, under/inappropriate nutrition, previous pregnancies/births, lack of or excessive physical movement, environmental toxins, or living out of alignment with purpose are a just a few ways in which a woman’s delicate system can be thrown out of whack. Compounded over years, these factors can play a significant role in diminished fertility.
While we can generally agree that the female hormonal landscape is ripe for conception from the ages of 24-34, this doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy to get pregnant during these years. There are a myriad of imbalances affecting young women that impact fertility – polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis and systemic inflammation to name a few. Conversely, there is no reason a woman can’t enjoy heightened fertility well into her early forties as long as she prioritizes her fertile health by setting her body up for healthy conception and pregnancy early.
In our culture, most young women learn the power of their fertility in the form of prescription birth control. Very little, if any, education or information is discussed about the role of hormonal balance on her systemic health and how to support it. Rather, pregnancy prevention becomes the priority to many women for the majority of their “fertile years.” While I absolutely believe in planned pregnancies, and appropriate use of various birth control methods (including hormonal ones), we have undermined the value of nurturing a woman’s fertile health for reasons beyond baby-making.
We need to start thinking about hormonal health (aka ‘fertile health’ during a woman’s menstruating years) as a baseline for our systemic health. The endocrine system plays a major role in the foundation of our systemic and immune health – along with the nervous, lymphatic, circulatory and digestive systems. It is of paramount importance and should be a part of the female health consciousness from teenage years – even if taking hormonal birth control.
Finding Your Fertile Balance
As human beings we are dynamic and in constant flow – much like the world around us. Chinese Medicine has found ways to return balance when change tips the scales too far in one direction. By taking a holistic look and making specific changes to support healthy endocrine function, fertility can be augmented or preserved in any menstruating woman. In fact, some might argue there is an increased ability to enhance fertility later in life because of life experience, more financial freedom and greater self-awareness/self-care.
Each woman is, of course, individual and her constitutional factors will be unique to her along with her prognosis on reversing infertility factors. Customized support is ideal for uncovering a woman’s unique fertile blueprint, but the suggestions below will set most individuals on a path to reduced inflammation and improved fertility. In fact, most of my clients following this protocol have noted improvements in other areas of their health – better sleep, clearer skin, thicker hair, improved energy, easier periods and better mood.
I have seen this protocol reverse PCOS and allow for healthy pregnancy without any other form of intervention, and I have seen it assist natural pregnancies in women aged 41, 42 and even 44 – women who were told it wouldn’t happen for them. It’s safe and appropriate to use alongside Assisted Reproductive Therapies (ART). I’ve seen it return hormonal balance to women who don’t get a period, or who are having symptoms after coming off hormonal birth control. It’s a gentle and effective way to improve your fertile and hormonal health.
5 Steps to Preserving/Optimizing Fertility
1. Cut the Crap
This of course applies to processed “fast” food and irritants like white sugar, but also to toxic relationships, jobs, environments, limiting beliefs and lifestyle habits that aren’t in service of your highest good. Let go of what no longer serves.
2. Increase Nourishment
Key nutrients are essential. High quality fats, protein and anti-oxidants are the backbone of hormonal health. Coconut oil, grass fed butter/ghee, avocados, nuts/seeds, whole eggs (pastured), dark greens, orange vegetables, berries, wild caught seafood and fish roe and grass fed beef, duck, lamb and liver are ideal fertile foods.
3. Increase Absorption
The best diet in the world won’t help if the nutrients aren’t properly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream via the intestines. Digestive health is paramount to fertile health. Bone broth, lacto-fermented foods like pickles, apple cider vinegar and cultured dairy (if tolerated) are key. Supplementation with a high quality collagen supplement and a probiotic may also be helpful in some cases.
4. Increase Circulation
Now that you have increased nutrient density and absorption, we need to get that nutrient-rich blood flowing to the reproductive organs and glands. Gentle movement, acupuncture, abdominal massage, breathing exercises and improved hydration are a few ways to do this.
5. Practice Relaxation
Just as with exercise, regular relaxation practices are extremely important to healthy hormonal flow since they directly impact stress response and liver energy (qi), our hormonal regulator. Seated or walking meditation, chanting, scheduled naps, breathing exercises and guided imagery are a few ways – do whatever calls to you and find time to practice it daily.
Perhaps you are reading this while taking hormonal birth control but know in your heart you want to be pregnant one day and hope that dream will come true when you are ready. Or perhaps you have already been trying to get pregnant with your first, second or subsequent child and are looking for ways to optimize your efforts. Maybe you’re not trying to get pregnant but just want more balanced hormones. You are in the right place. Take these suggestions as guidelines that you can course-correct based on your individual circumstance, preferences and goals.
I wish you all the best on your journey to fertile (and hormonal) health. Please drop me a note and tell me your story.
This is Erin Borbet’s first article for Carly Snyder MD, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have her aboard. I interviewed Erin on my radio show, MD for Moms, on October 16th, 2016.
Erin has a Masters of Traditional Chinese Medicine, is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Board Certified in Chinese Herbal Medicine and has nearly ten years of clinical experience in women’s reproductive health.
After seven years of private practice in New York City, Erin now works with women remotely – from the comfort of their own homes – using custom herbal formulations, nutrition and intuitive life coaching to regain vibrant health. She lives in the Teton Valley with her husband and two daughters.