by John P. Thomas
In the previous article on infertility and fecundity , I discussed some of the scientific research concerning environmental factors and lifestyle choices that contribute to the high rate of infertility in America. Currently, one out of every six couples of child bearing age in the United States is infertile. [1, 2]
In this article, I will be discussing what infertile couples can do to prepare themselves for conceiving and giving birth to a healthy child. I will share recommendations from physicians and researchers who support the use of lifestyle changes to bring about pregnancy for couples who are having difficulty conceiving children.
There are alternatives to medical and pharmaceutical approaches for overcoming infertility. The use of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) is the medical system’s approach for treating infertility. ART has high costs and serious risks, which many couples do not realize.
Scientific research about the causes of human infertility was discussed in the previous article . You may wish to read the previous article to deepen your understanding of this topic.
What is Assisted Reproductive Technology and is It Safe?
Many couples experience frustration, anxiety, and even depression when they are unable to conceive and successfully bear children. When this happens, it is easy to just give up and turn toward pursuing high cost medically assisted conception.
Medically assisted conception uses what is officially called Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). It is also given the name in vitro fertilization and describes various techniques that are used to produce what has been commonly known as test tube babies. However, couples should be aware that ART is extremely expensive and there are health risks associated with the use of the procedures. Risks apply to mothers to-be and to children conceived by the use of ART.
There are many researchers who are evaluating whether the use of fertility drugs and the manipulation of eggs and sperm in the laboratory are setting the stage for adverse health effects in children.
ART procedures use eggs retrieved during an outpatient surgical procedure. The woman’s eggs are combined with sperm in a petri dish; then the resulting embryo is placed in the woman’s uterus with the hope it will implant. Multiple embryos are placed in the uterus to increase the likelihood of pregnancy. The consequence of this technique is the high possibility of producing multiple children. This technique, and the one described in the next paragraph, requires laparoscopic surgery to harvest eggs from the woman’s ovaries, which introduces the potential for surgical complications. 
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), is a type of ART developed to address problems with sperm quality such as when a man’s sperm cells have a limited ability to move on their own or when there is a very low sperm count. Today it is performed in roughly 60% of ART cycles in the United States. In this procedure, an individual sperm is injected through a microneedle directly into an egg. Multiple eggs are fertilized in this way, and then one or more embryos are placed into the woman’s uterus. The number of embryos that are implanted are determined by the woman’s age and the quality of the eggs. 
Does the Use of ART Cause Birth Defects?
A May 2012 study examined birth defect incidence in nearly 309,000 Australian children, 6,163 of whom were conceived through ART. The investigators found that birth defects occurred in 9.9% of babies where a sperm cell was mechanically injected directly into an egg. This is compared with a 7.0% rate of defects among babies that were conceived in a petri dish. They found that 5.8% of babies conceived naturally had birth defects. The researchers found that there was a 26% increased risk of birth defects among babies conceived using any form of ART. 
Historically, physicians typically implanted more than one embryo at a time to improve the odds of success during the first use of ART. This is done, because most patients must cover the full cost of the procedure and doctors and patients hope that pregnancy will take place in the first attempt. But the multiple births that often result have been consistently linked with poorer health outcomes for the babies. Poorer health outcomes are also true for multiple births that result from natural conception. 
Most women who pursue ART are over age 35, which introduces its own set of health risks to mother and child. 
Infants conceived through ART have a higher risk of having low birth weight, preterm births, being stillborn, or dying within the first week of life. [8, 9, 10] A few studies have also shown increases in cerebral palsy following ART. [11, 12]
Other researchers are examining whether the presence of weak sperm cells, which require mechanical injection into an egg cell, is an indication of deficient sperm quality. Researchers wonder if low quality sperm could lead to adverse health effects later in life.
Simon Fishel, a professor and managing director of the Centres for Assisted Reproduction (CARE) Fertility Group in the United Kingdom, says that the mechanical injection of a sperm into an egg can allow severely compromised sperm to fertilize an egg, which may cause problems in the future offspring. “If there are gene issues, epigenetic factors, autistic-related factors, fertility gene defects, et cetera, associated with the severely compromised sperm condition, these may be carried across when in vivo fertilization could not occur.”  (In vivo fertilization refers to normal fertilization of an egg by a sperm within a woman’s body.)
Carmen Sapienza, a professor at the Fels Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology at Temple University, says that although babies born through ART generally appear perfectly normal, they may have moderately increased risks for a number of the undesirable outcomes that low birth weight can perpetuate. For example, he says if babies’ growth is restricted, it may mean that the genes involved in the body’s ability to metabolize sugar could be affected, leading to potential problems with hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. He says many of these potential effects might not manifest until adulthood. Therefore, some researchers are exploring questions such as what happens when these people turn 50 and whether ART adults will be more likely to have diabetes. 
The topic of excess fertilized eggs is not always addressed. Unused fertilized eggs are usually frozen for use in future ART cycles. The best quality fertilized eggs are selected for implantation. Unused fertilized eggs will eventually be discarded. For couples who understand that life begins at conception, this represents the destruction of life.
Additional information about the possible unintended consequences of ART is contained in this article: Altering the Primal Environment: Health Effects Associated with Assisted Reproductive Technologies
What are the Alternatives to Assisted Reproductive Technologies?
The beginning point for repairing the reproductive health of couples is to clean the toxins out of the couple’s food, water, personal care products, household environment, work environment, and of course their bodies. The second step is to address nutritional issues that can affect fertility. The final step is to adopt new lifestyle choices that are supportive of healthy reproductive functioning.
The first point to be made is that there is no single magic bullet that is going to break the condition of infertility. There are a large number of natural health strategies that will increase the likelihood of conception and a full term healthy pregnancy. So, as you read, please don’t look for the one or two items that you like and ignore the rest, because they might seem too extreme. Everything works together.
In following these suggestions, you are not just trying to get pregnant, but are truly trying to improve your overall health so that you can conceive. People with poor health may find it difficult to conceive and will tend to have more pregnancy related complications. People who avoid the high carbohydrate and low fat foods that typify the standard American diet will do much to improve their health.
When I was a young person and hung out with other young people who were in various stages of giving birth to new family members, I found that most couples didn’t consider diet to be particularly relevant to the process. This was especially true for men. There was some awareness among women that they should not drink alcohol or smoke marijuana while they were pregnant, but their basic diet was unchanged.
The ideas that diet has a minimal effect on health, and diet is not related to disease formation, are concepts that have become quite popular in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Historical Perspectives on Diet and Pregnancy
In primitive cultures or in the largely agricultural based culture that we had in America before 1900, it was common knowledge that health and diet were related. People who kept animals such as horses, chickens, and milk cows were well aware that the diet and quality of care that was provided to the animals affected the health of their animals. This seems so obvious to not even be worth mentioning. But today, it is common for most people, including many physicians, to deny the relevance of diet even in cases of life-threatening illness.
I continue to be amazed by reports that I have heard from people with cancer who have told me that their doctors said that it doesn’t matter what they eat. In fact, they should just stick with the standard American diet even though strong evidence exists that this diet is a major contributing factor to the development of cancer.
In the past, many so called primitive people groups gave serious attention to all aspects of reproduction. They did not see the process of producing children as a casual, haphazard, or accidental activity. They intentionally prepared their young men and women for the important work of conceiving and producing healthy children. They were preparing for the future of their people.
Some groups included certain foods such as fish eggs in the diet to provide the building blocks that were needed to facilitate conception and to provide for uncomplicated pregnancy and birth.
Fish eggs were sometimes fed to women for many months before marriage to prepare the young woman for her important future work. In some cultures the men also ate highly nutritious fish eggs or consumed male fish milk (semen) or the gonads of male fish. In other cultures, couples ate moose thyroid glands during the fall moose mating season. This stimulated human fecundity, which resulted in most children being born the following June.
To further explain the commitment that some cultures have given to producing children, I want to share a paragraph from the work of Dr. Weston A. Price. He traveled the world in the 1930s to examine patterns of eating to learn how natural native diets kept people so healthy. Dr. Price stated:
When I visited the native Fijian Museum at Suva, I found the director well-informed with regard to the practices of the natives in the matter of producing healthy normal children. He provided me with a shell of a species of spider crab which the natives use for feeding the mothers so that the children will be physically excellent and bright mentally, clearly indicating that they were conscious that the mother’s food influenced both the physical and mental capacity of the child. The care with which expectant mothers were treated was unique in many of the Pacific Islands. For example, in one group we were informed that the mother told the chief immediately when she became pregnant. The chief called a feast in celebration and in honor of the new member that would come to join their colony. At this feast the members of the colony pledged themselves to adopt the child if its own parents should die. At this feast the chief appointed one or two young men to be responsible for going to the sea from day to day to secure the special sea foods that expectant mothers need to nourish the child. 
I am not saying that young couples need to eat moose thyroid gland, male fish organs, or crabs from the Fiji islands in order to become pregnant. My point is that we have largely lost the natural desire to make pregnancy and the production of healthy children our number one priority.
In the preceding example, the people celebrated the potential arrival of a new member of their community and were willing to go through extreme efforts to make sure that the nutritional needs of pregnant women were met. This is such a powerful contrast to the fast-food standard American diet of convenience that most young couples eat today. How many of us would walk for perhaps several miles every day to forage in the ocean to gather certain types of seafood for a pregnant woman so that she could be physically and emotionally fit for the work of making a baby?
These so called primitive cultures emphasized all aspects of childbearing and gave great respect and honor to the young adults who were giving life to the next generation.
Get the eBook on How to Overcome Infertility Naturally
If you are seeking for natural ways as opposed to drugs to increase your fertility, I hope that you obtain the eBook below that we have created on fertility. In that book, you will understand that the suggestions being offered there are made with respect and honor for the important work that young couples are doing for us. It is truly a special time of your life and I wish to be an encouragement to you as you work to solve the problem of your infertility.
The eBook contains the information from this article, as well as my first article on this topic:
In addition to all of the information contained in these two articles, it also includes the following practical advice:
Cleaning the Toxic Load from Your Life and Your Body
- Suggestions Concerning Pesticides in Your Environment
- Suggestions Concerning Pesticides in Your food
- Suggestions Concerning Pesticides in Your Water
- Suggestions Concerning Plasticizing Chemicals
- Suggestions Concerning Smoking and Air Pollution
- Suggestions Concerning Formaldehyde and other Chemical Additives in Cleaning Products
- Suggestions Concerning Solvents
- Suggestions Concerning Doing a Home Makeover
- Suggestions Concerning Pharmaceutical Drugs and Vaccines
- Suggestions Concerning Coffee, Alcohol, and other Recreational Drugs
- Suggestions Concerning Toxic Exposure at Work
Making Lifestyle Changes
- Suggestions Concerning Your Weight
- Suggestions for How to Lose Weight
- Suggestions Concerning Cell Phones and other Electronic Devices
- Suggestions about Sleep
- Suggestions Concerning Alternative Health Practitioners
- Suggestions Concerning Prayer
- Waiting after Making Lifestyle changes before Trying to Conceive
Read Today’s Rapidly Growing Infertility Problem on your mobile device!
 “Why Are Infertility Rates on the Rise?” (Three experts weigh in on national survey that shows that even more US couples are experiencing infertility), Jacqueline Tourville, BabyZone, January 2013, Retrieved 9/9/2014. http://www.babyzone.com/getting-pregnant/infertility/us-infertility-rates-rising_231910 
 “Almost one in six couples face infertility,” Genevra Pittman, Reuters, January 11, 2013. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/11/us-couples-infertility-idUSBRE90A13Y20130111 
 ASRM. Assisted Reproductive Technologies: A Guide for Patients. Birmingham, AL: American Society for Reproductive Medicine (2011), Retrieved 9/17/14. http://www.sart.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/Resources/Patient_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Info_Booklets/ART.pdf 
 Davies MJ1, Moore VM, Willson KJ, Van Essen P, Priest K, Scott H, Haan EA, Chan A.; “Reproductive technologies and the risk of birth defects,” N Engl J Med. 2012 May 10, PMID: 22559061.
 EHP – Altering the Primal Environment: Health Effects Associated with Assisted Reproductive Technologies, Retrieved 9/18/14. http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/120-a390/
 Helmerhorst FM1, Perquin DA, Donker D, Keirse MJ.; “Perinatal outcome of singletons and twins after assisted conception: a systematic review of controlled studies,” BMJ. 2004 Jan 31, PMID: 14742347.
 McDonald S1, Murphy K, Beyene J, Ohlsson A.; “Perinatal outcomes of in vitro fertilization twins: a systematic review and meta-analyses,” Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2005 Jul, PMID: 16021072.
 Pandey S1, Shetty A, Hamilton M, Bhattacharya S, Maheshwari A.; “Obstetric and perinatal outcomes in singleton pregnancies resulting from IVF/ICSI: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” Hum Reprod Update. 2012 September-Octover, PMID: 22611174.
 Zhu JL1, Hvidtjørn D, Basso O, Obel C, Thorsen P, Uldall P, Olsen J.; “Parental infertility and cerebral palsy in children.,”  Hum Reprod. 2010 December, PMID: 21045245.
 Hvidtjørn D1, Grove J, Schendel D, Svaerke C, Schieve LA, Uldall P, Ernst E, Jacobsson B, Thorsen P.; “Multiplicity and early gestational age contribute to an increased risk of cerebral palsy from assisted conception: a population-based cohort study,” Hum Reprod. 2010 Aug, PMID: 20554642.
 EHP – Altering the Primal Environment: Health Effects Associated with Assisted Reproductive Technologies. http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/120-a390/
 Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Dr. Weston A. Price, online version, Chapter 21. http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200251h.html