Infertility: Improving the Odds

One in five U.S. couples is infertile. Learn to use natural remedies to help conceive a healthy baby.

| November/December 2004

  • Vitex helps promote ovulation and restore hormonal balance.
    Christopher Hobbs

  • Damiana is beneficial for circulation and sperm development.
    Steven Foster

Quick and easy” may have described the conception of their first child, but when Fern Reiss and her husband, Jonathan, decided to have another baby, the key words became “frantic and desperate.” One miscarriage and three years later, Fern just couldn’t seem to get pregnant again.

Unlike the experience of the Baby Boom generation of the 1950s and ’60s, for whom getting pregnant was sometimes too easy and trouble-free, a new generation of couples is having to deal with the frustration and heartache of infertility, defined as the inability to produce a pregnancy after 12 months of trying. This struggle to conceive now affects one in five couples in the United States — a statistic that rises with age, with one in two couples in their 40s becoming infertile.

Cause and Effect

A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that a number of environmental and dietary factors are to blame for the rising infertility rates.

“We live in an estrogen-rich environment,” says William Wong, Ph.D., a Texas-based naturopathic doctor, writer and lecturer on natural health and exercise. A conglomeration of pesticides, plastics, petrochemical byproducts and other synthetic estrogens and estrogen imitators fills our world. Add to that the excess of hormones and hormone-like compounds we consume in everyday food, and humankind is suddenly on estrogen overload.

“This estrogen dominance can affect ovulation in women, and can lower sperm count, sperm viability and the amount of seminal fluid produced in men,” Wong explains. Some experts also believe that uterine fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts and infections of the reproductive organs — all which can impair fertility in women — are often the result of estrogen overload.

Reiss, a nutrition expert, realized that dietary changes had solved many of her family’s previous medical problems, so why wouldn’t similar changes work with infertility? Researching the topic, she discovered numerous studies that reinforced this idea. Inspired, she began to incorporate in her and her husband’s diet foods linked to increased fertility and prevention of miscarriage. “We conceived two months later,” Reiss says. She subsequently wrote The Infertility Diet: Get Pregnant and Prevent Miscarriage (

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