By Caroline Grace Ashurst, L.Ac., M.Ac.
of Restorative Harmony Acupuncture
Many women today are starting families a little later in life than in years past, and may feel overwhelmed and scared embarking upon the process of becoming pregnant. We live in a culture today where by and large, we are an “island” when it comes to pregnancy and birthing. In indigenous cultures and early American culture, support and advice from women of the community was a profound cushion for the rite of passage that is the child-birthing journey. Nowadays in mainstream American culture, women typically seek out western physicians as a first recourse for fertility support instead of the wisdom and time-tested secrets from the elders, the community, and Midwives.
Before ever having to inquire with physicians, many women attempting to get pregnant actually have some very simple, natural options that they can explore first in order to support healthy fertility. The beauty and earthiness of natural fertility approaches have the power to be especially beneficial for mamas-to-be, since it empowers women to easefully reflect and observe their natural body’s rhythms. Women who start the process of becoming pregnant a little later in life tend to often want instant results, and focus intently on the end goal. Allowing time to truly relish the process and become acquainted with your body’s innate brilliance and power is a very feminine approach to fertility, since receptivity and “allowing” are natural feminine qualities, and you are engaging in a feminine body process in itself. One of the most beneficial aspects of this process is that you get to know your body intimately, and develop a relationship with it that only you can truly have.
All matter of energetics aside, the benefit of these approaches is that they are incredibly inexpensive compared to western processes that cost anywhere from $300 (Intrauterine Insemination) to upwards of $20,000 (In Vitro Fertilization) to perform.
Below are some of the natural methods used today that engage the receptive, feminine aspect of fertility and conception:
Daily observation and charting of your Basal Body Temperature, cervical mucus, and cervical position can give you an accurate sense of your ovulation as well as your most fertile days in your personal cycle. You can chart any one or all of these observatory techniques in order to get clear about your ovulation and fertility.
Basal Body Temperature:
Basal body temperature (BBT) is your temperature when you first wake up in the morning. The body’s resting temperature increases four-tenths of a degree Fahrenheit under the influence of progesterone at ovulation.
To record your BBT, you need to use a basal thermometer (an electronic thermometer is perfect for this- BD brand is preferred). To use a basal thermometer, you need to take your temperature before you get out of bed. Try to take your temperature at the same time each morning, and before you have anything to eat or drink, and preferably before 7:30 am.
When you ovulate, hormonal changes trigger a slight rise in your BBT, which lasts at least until your next period. Ovulation is indicated when your temperature spikes and stays that way for at least three days in a row. You are most fertile on the day of the temperature spike and on the few days before. So, the first month or two of charting your temperature will only tell you when you’ve already ovulated. But you’ll be able to see whether there is a pattern.
If there is a pattern, you’ll be able to predict your most fertile days the next time around and work out the best days to have sex. If you do become pregnant, your temperature will stay elevated throughout your pregnancy.
If you are ill, or forget to take your temperature immediately on waking, any pattern you find may be inaccurate.
A great resource with step-by-step instructions is: http://natural-fertility-info.com/menstrual-calendar-charting-your-signs-of-fertility.html. You may download a free fertility chart here: http://natural-fertility-info.com/wp-content/uploads/fertility-charting-fahrenheit.pdf
Cervical mucus changes throughout the month depending on what physiologically is occurring in your cycle. Fertile type mucus is produced by the cervix during the days when the ova are maturing and preparing for ovulation, and is integral to fertility.
Your cervix is located at the top of your vagina, connecting to your uterus. Glands in your cervix produce this mucus, and around the time of ovulation, the consistency becomes very similar to that of egg whites: it is clear and is very string-y and if you have it on your fingers and move them apart, you will notice that it stretches without breaking. This is your fertile cervical mucus. It helps lubricate everything during your most fertile days and helps sperm have a better chance at penetration of the uterus. It also is indicative of your most fertile time, since this estrogen-rich, fertile type of mucus is produced during the days leading up to and including ovulation.
If you are trying to conceive, use the wet, slippery days for sexual relations. You can chart these days as well along with your BBT.
The position of your cervix changes throughout the month depending on the phase you are on in your menstrual cycle. You can examine your cervix’s position by yourself on a daily basis so that you may notice the patterns of change, and thus determine your most fertile days.
Again, your cervix is located at the very top of your vagina, so you may want to kneel or put a foot up on the tub or toilet to have easier access. Remember to wash your hands well before starting the process. Your vagina has a sort of spongy feel that gives way easily to pressure, and the cervix is like a firm, round dimple. Some say it feels like the tip of your nose when you’re not in the fertile phase of your cycle, and like the firmness of your lips when you are fertile — this is what you’re feeling for.
Reach your index or middle finger inside of your vagina, and slowly (don’t scratch yourself!) slide your finger in as far as you can reach, a sort of in and upward motion. If you’re not close to ovulation, you should find your cervix easily. If you are ovulating, your cervix may be higher in your body and more difficult to reach.
When you’re just learning how to check your cervical position, you should check your cervical position every so many days, even when you don’t think you’re ovulating. It’s much easier to find when you’re not ovulating, and you’ll have a better idea of what you’re feeling.
As ovulation approaches, the cervix moves higher up, becoming softer and less firm and the opening in the center feels more spacious and open. High, soft and open is a possible indication of approaching ovulation: you should make time for sex if you want to get pregnant. Low, firm and closed is not a fertile sign, and you’re probably not ovulating yet.
Once you get used to checking your cervical position, fertile signs become very easy to recognize, but it does take practice and time to learn. Be patient with yourself, try to do it the same time every day, and don’t check it during or after sex because intercourse shifts the position of the cervix. You can chart this as well in your fertility charting process.
Other Natural Methods of Fertility Enhancement:
Castor oil, which is derived from the Castor seed (also known as Ricinus Communis), has been used for many years because it is thought to be incredibly healing and detoxifying.
It is used in packs for a variety of reasons and is said to help heal digestion and increase elimination, stimulate the liver and help detox, relieve pain (especially menstrual and uterine pain), reduce inflammation, and increase lymphatic flow (your lymph system is like the “trash pick up” system of your body; it flushes out the trash and toxins but can become sluggish and slow due to diet and overall health).
Castor oil packs are very popular today, and women use them to help detox their bodies before conception, as well as to support ovarian, fallopian tube, uterine, and egg health. Castor oil packs are good to use during the infertile days of the month, and should not be used if you are pregnant or think you may be.
A great online resource with directions for using Castor oil packs is available at: http://natural-fertility-info.com/castor-oil-therapy
Acupuncture & Herbs:
Acupuncture & Herbs are highly regarded in the natural fertility world for their ability to assist qi (the natural energy of the body) and fluids (including blood and clear fluids) in circulating and flowing properly. If there is a blockage in the natural order of energy in the body, blood and fluids cannot properly assist in their fertility duties. Acupuncture & Herbs administered by a professional is a safe approach to fertility support and can open up any blocked or stagnant energy channels that may be preventing healthy conception.