From Dr Oz’s advice on the best positions for conception to Hippocrates’ mixture of honey, cumin and other herbs to open the cervix, there is no shortage of “natural” infertility “hacks.” The internet (and your aunt, based on what she read on the internet) is full of strange but quick and effective secret ways to your infertility.
The truth is that for millennia individuals have struggled with infertility and they have looked to the world around them for answers and for treatments. Until very recently, the only options for treatments were those that nature provided. Let’s try and demystify some “natural-fertility-boosters” that have passed the test of time, and see if they are still of use to us now.
Natural Fertility Aids
The first supplement to discuss is Maca (AKA maca-maca, maino, ayak chichira, macanoids and ayak willku). Maca is a commonly used fertility aid. In its natural form, it is a root plant that looks like a turnip; but has a chemical makeup similar to a grain. It also contains high levels of p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate. While there may be nothing romantic about that name, it is reportedly the secret ingredient that gives Maca its aphrodisiac properties. Interestingly, Inca warriors used to eat Maca before battle. This was probably because of the high calorie content of the plant. Just like modern day marathon runners prepare with a “pasta party” before their big run.
While Maca doesn’t seem to have any effect at all on female fertility, some studies have shown that it may slightly increase sperm concentration. Maca gets rated 3 stars on the GENESIS Fertility Scale. It doesn’t seem to improve female fertility per se, but it may help boost sperm counts and help get couples “in the mood”. That definitely boosts your chances for conception. ⭐⭐⭐
Royal Jelly is another “natural fertility booster”. It is a secretion that comes out of the heads of worker bees and is used to nourish bee larvae and queen-bees. In bees and flies it stimulates ovarian development. But in humans. . . not so much. In fact, Royal Jelly may increase testosterone (generally a hormone thought to reduce fertility when present in high levels). It may also block estrogen receptors in the body like the chemical DES (Diethylstilbestrol), which is now banned in the US due to its harmful effects on developing fetuses. This natural supplement gets 0 stars on the GENESIS scale since it may do harm.
Also know as CoQ10, ubiquinone, or ubidecarenon, this is another supplement often used to boost lagging fertility. It enhances the energy production of the mitochondria (the powerhouse of our cells) to process and recycle energy more efficiently. This is especially important in the ovary since low energy is thought to be one of the reasons that “old eggs” don’t work as well as young eggs. It seems that CoQ10 may reduce ovarian aging and improve egg health by improving mitochondrial strength. But remember: it can take up to 90 days for eggs to develop. So if your doctor recommends supplemental CoQ10, it is important to give it up to 3 months to start working. Great natural sources of CoQ10 are healthy fats such as olive oil and salmon, but it can also be found in chicken and soybeans. CoQ10 gets 5 stars on the GENESIS Fertility Scale. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
One of the most common questions that we are asked at GENESIS is “should I do acupuncture to help get pregnant?” Well, before we can talk about if it boosts fertility, we have to ask about its safety. The short answer to that seems to be that yes. In the right hands and a safe environment, acupuncture poses very little risk to mom or baby during pregnancy. Now if it helps you get pregnant. . . well, that’s not such a simple question.
While there are some studies that have shown that acupuncture used just before and after an embryo transfer improves success rates, there are lots of other studies that have shown that it has no effect. That being said, it’s not all bad news, we have seen that acupuncture could help with some chronic problems that reduce fertility such as low thyroid hormone or painful periods. As an extra bonus, acupuncture also appears to reduce stress and anxiety. That is always a welcome relief. It is important, however, that your acupuncturist knows that you are trying to get pregnant because improper technique may cause harm and possibly even miscarriage. Overall we give it three stars on the GENESIS Fertility Scale. ⭐⭐⭐
Considering natural fertility treatments?
A lot of natural fertility treatments have survived to this day because they were based on keen insights and observation. But that does not mean that they are without risks. The most important thing to keep in mind is that any treatment that works will also have side effects. This is especially true with natural treatments since they may contain massive amounts of potent chemicals. It is always important to contact your care provider to make sure that these treatments are safe for you.
Original post January 6, 2017
Updated August 12, 2021