You’ve made the big life decision to have a child (or maybe another one). But so far, nothing has happened. Why isn’t your body cooperating?
Infertility is a rising problem today. Around 1 in 10 couples worldwide have difficulty getting pregnant. (1)
If you don’t succeed on the first few tries, there’s no need to worry. It can take healthy, fertile couples up to a year to conceive a child.
But if it’s been longer than a year for you or you’re 35 or older, you may want to take a closer look at your body. There could be underlying issues in you or your partner that make conception more difficult.
Infertility: Men vs. Women
Infertility doesn’t play favorites. It can happen to either sex at any age. There are many reasons why you or your partner may have fertility issues. Eight to twelve percent of the population struggles to conceive, and that number is a bit higher for women over 35 years of age. (2)
Women in their 30s are about half as fertile as women in their early 20s, and a woman’s chance of conception declines significantly after age 35. Male fertility also declines with age, but more gradually, unless illness or injury plays a role. (3)
Common Causes of Infertility
There are many reasons why infertility occurs in both genders. (4)
In women, some of the conditions that affect fertility include:
Early menopause — Although the causes are unknown, sometimes the ovaries stop working, and menopause occurs in women under 40.
Endometriosis — When endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus, it can affect the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and uterus function.
Fallopian tube blockage or damage — Inflammation of the fallopian tube can result from adhesions, endometriosis, infections, or pelvic inflammatory disease.
Ovulation disorders — Too much or too little thyroid hormone, too much exercise, eating disorders, or tumors can affect the release of eggs from the ovaries.
Pelvic adhesions — Bands of scar tissue can form after abdominal or pelvic surgery, appendicitis, endometriosis, or pelvic infection, and can bind organs.
Uterine or cervical abnormalities — These can include congenital physiological abnormalities, benign tumors in the uterine wall, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or uterine polyps.
In men, some of the conditions that affect fertility include:
Abnormal sperm production or function — Can occur from diabetes, enlarged veins in the testes, genetic defects, reproductive infections such as gonorrhea or HIV, or undescended testicles.
Risk Factors for Infertility
Many of the risk factors for infertility are the same for both genders. Some of those risk factors include: (5, 6, 7, 8)
Alcohol use — For women, there is no safe amount of alcohol to use either when trying to get pregnant or when pregnant. Alcohol can cause infertility and damage to the unborn fetus while pregnant. In men, heavy alcohol use also can cause infertility issues.
BMI — For both men and women, being significantly overweight or underweight can affect fertility.
Stress — Women with infertility report an increase in depression and stress. But it is unclear whether depression and stress cause infertility. To help with your chances of conceiving, you may consider ways of reducing depression and stress. There are no definitive answers on the role stress may play in male infertility.
Tobacco use — Clinical studies have shown that for women who smoke, the risk of miscarriage increases, early spontaneous abortions increase, and pregnancy chances decrease. For men, tobacco use can compromise sperm quality.
How Do Toxins Affect Fertility?
In today’s world, toxins are in the air, soil, and water. Environmental toxins, mitochondrial dysfunction, and Lyme disease may all contribute to infertility issues. Environmental toxins in particular may be the root cause of many pregnancy difficulties.
Environmental toxins are everywhere. Heavy metals and chemicals in the air, water, food, and health-and-beauty aids damage fertility in many ways. These cause decreasing sperm count and function in men, and ovulation issues, endocrine disruption, damage to the reproductive system, and inability to carry the fetus to term in women.
When you experience infertility issues, looking to eliminate possible heavy metals and chemical toxicity is always a good place to start. Often, supporting the body by removing toxins can help with infertility issues. (9, 10, 11)
Environmental toxins contribute to infertility in four ways:
- Damage to the female reproductive system
- Damage to the male reproductive system
- Endocrine disruption
- Impaired fetal viability (survival likelihood for premature babies)
This damage decreases fertility and makes in vitro fertilization less likely to succeed. Many chemicals hinder fertility, including air pollutants, chemicals, and heavy metals. But products that contain glyphosate, such as herbicides/weed killers, have the most detrimental long-term effects.
Glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicides. Studies have shown that glyphosate can greatly affect mitochondrial activity, as well as sperm mobility and viability. It acts as an endocrine disruptor in mammals.
In addition to triggering infertility, glyphosate can damage the fetus during pregnancy and cause long-term damage to the cells and organs of the mother and child post-delivery.
If you think you could have glyphosate in your system, detoxing your body is crucial before you attempt to conceive. Detoxing harmful toxins, supporting the digestive system, and restoring cellular function can improve your chances of conception. (12, 13, 14, 15)
Look to binders to help remove pesticides and herbicides, including glyphosate. (16, 17, 18)
Studies show that heavy metals can lead to infertility. The most common heavy metals seen in people are arsenic, lead, and mercury, with mercury being the second-most toxic substance in the United States. Mercury can commonly be found in dental fillings and seafood. Lead can be found in residuals from leaded gasoline, lead paint, and lead pipes in older homes. (19, 20)
Reducing heavy metals can improve conception chances for women. Again, binders can help you to remove the harmful heavy metals that may be causing infertility. (21, 22)
Radioactive elements in soil and rocks can leach out and contaminate water supplies. One analysis suggests that 170 million people across all 50 states in the U.S. may have potentially dangerous levels of radioactive elements in their drinking water. Check these interactive maps for environmental and water source radioactivity concerns in your area.
Research has linked fertility concerns and sexual dysfunction in both men and women to environmental exposure like radioactivity. One animal study found radioactive elements can harm sperm count. (23, 24, 25)
If this is a concern for you, binders may help target radioactive elements and related chemicals to remove them from your body. (26)
Your mitochondria play an essential role in fertility. Healthy mitochondria are vital to having healthy sperm and ovarian cell quality. Without healthy mitochondria, cells cannot grow or multiply normally.
A mature egg contains more mitochondria than any other cell in the human body, so the health of the mitochondria in the mother is vital to a woman’s chances of conception. Sperm quality is found to be directly associated with mitochondria health. Unhealthy sperm mitochondria can lead to infertility.
As you age, so do your mitochondria. By adding proper nutrients to your diet, both you and your mitochondria can function at their best.
Coenzyme Q-10 and L-Carnitine have proven effective in improving mitochondrial health. You can look for these and other mitochondrial-supportive aid. (27, 28, 29)
Lyme Disease and Irregular Menstruation
Studies on the link between Lyme disease and infertility are inconclusive, so more research is needed. However, Lyme disease can disrupt menstruation, which can be a significant factor regarding fertility.
Menstruation and ovulation helps determine conception. Research has found that women with inconsistent menstruation, or shorter cycles, are more likely to experience fertility complications. Early diagnosis and treatment of menstrual irregularities can help to prevent infertility. (30, 31)
If Lyme disease factors into your menstruation inconsistency, you may want to incorporate natural herbs to reach the source of the issue. By addressing Lyme, you may better support your body and remove a potential roadblock to a safe and successful pregnancy.
Other Natural Supports for Infertility
Besides addressing these specific potential root causes, other areas of your general health may affect fertility. Look to reset your body’s foundation not only to help improve your overall chances of pregnancy, but to support your body if pregnancy comes. (32, 33)
Drainage — Supporting drainage is important to prepare the body to bring a healthy baby into the world. Drainage relates to how well or poorly the body processes and moves things out of the body. If the body isn’t moving things through and out of the body properly, then blockages can occur. This can lead to bloating, constipation, and toxic die-off symptoms. By opening the drainage pathways in the body, you can prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy.
Immune support — The immune system plays an essential role in fertility. Women with asthma, autoimmune disease, and other conditions involving the immune system are at risk for poor pregnancy outcomes. Since the fetus is directly connected with the mother, an unhealthy immune system can affect both mother and child.
Inflammation control — Inflammation is a sign that something is wrong in the body. Inflammation can affect hormone production, plus the function of the ovaries and ovulation. It is also associated with endometriosis. By supporting the body with inflammation-taming foods, you can heal from the inside out.
When to Seek Additional Help
If you have been trying to conceive for less than one year and don’t have any underlying conditions, you most likely do not need to seek professional help.
However, if you’re female and have experienced any of the following, working with a healthcare practitioner may be necessary: (34)
- Are age 35 or older and have been trying to conceive for six months or longer
- Are diagnosed with endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease
- Are over age 40
- Have had multiple miscarriages
- Have irregular or absent periods
- Have known fertility problems
- Have painful periods
If you're male and have experienced any of the following, working with a healthcare practitioner may be necessary:
- A history of testicular, prostate, or sexual problems
- A low sperm count or other problems with sperm
- Family members with infertility problems
- Small testicles or swelling in the scrotum
If you suspect toxicity is the underlying cause of infertility, look for binders and herbs to help naturally clear them out. However, if you aren't sure where to begin, work to support fundamental areas like mitochondrial health. Resetting the body may be what you need to overcome any roadblocks in your way. Overall, looking at the body and wellness as a whole can help you get to the root cause of many issues, including infertility.