Some may laugh at the question, but for many couples wishing to have a child this is serious business. We usually put considerable effort into preventing pregnancy so that we sometimes forget that conception is not the automatic consequence of intercourse.

In fact, millions of couples in the United States attempt to become pregnant each year but fail and are considered infertile. A common medical definition of infertility is no conception after 12 months of unprotected sex. Also take into account that many women deciding to discontinue hormonal contraceptives do not even resume regular menstrual cycles for three to six, sometimes as much as 12 months.

So what exactly does it take to get pregnant?

We know that humans, like other mammals, have been procreating naturally for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, to ensure the survival of our species. Our bodies are exquisitely designed to create and nurture new life. We have ways, conscious and unconscious, to identify the most suitable partner and develop relationships that do not only promote conception but also provide ongoing care to our offspring until, one day, they can live independently and start families of their own.

We think that “chemistry” plays an important role in the intricate process of conception, pregnancy and birth. Most people will agree that a loving, respectful and sensitive relationship between partners is the best environment for attempting to conceive a child. If your emotions are in tune with each other, chances are your hormones will run more smoothly, too. A woman’s reproductive cycle is like a finely tuned orchestra of different hormones regulating body tissues at different times of your monthly cycle to perform their functions effectively and just at the right time.

What could go wrong?

Causes of infertility, which may manifest as difficulty to either conceive or carry pregnancy to term, run the gamut from physical obstructions in the fallopian tubes or the uterus, anovulation, hormonal disorders, chronic disease such as diabetes to genetic disorders. Both men and women can be the cause of the couple’s infertility. Sometimes, conventional medicine is unable to determine—and treat—the cause (so-called unexplained infertility). This is especially true if environmental factors such as medications, chemicals or toxicants are suspected.

However, one of the biggest obstacles to a well regulated menstrual cycle is stress. Stress comes in many different disguises. You may be working too hard or preoccupied with worries. Your mind may be rattling, preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep. Lack of sleep can, of course, make you feel drained in the day, but it also affects your immune system. If your immune system is out of balance, it may prevent conception or even turn against the body’s own tissues (autoimmunity), or not recognize a blastocyst as a developing embryo. Stress can also arrive at your doorstep through the environment you live in. It can be noise, air pollution, or a sense of threat. The quality of food and drink we ingest can affect our body’s health at the cellular level and disturb our metabolism. Chemicals in our foods, either herbicides, pesticides and hormones used to grow them or additives to process or preserve them, are not natural to the body’s internal environment, and their many interactions and effects are still only marginally understood.

Wisdom from the East

Traditionally, practitioners of Chinese medicine encourage couples to reduce stress in their lives for several months before attempting to conceive. This includes keeping reasonable work hours, reducing travel, eating healthily and regularly, exercising and spending time in nature to unwind, and, of course, developing a close relationship with your partner. Herbs are often prescribed to balance your organ systems, support your stress response, and nourish your body and mind so that they are in optimal health and can provide a fertile field for the seeds of new life.

Remember that our bodies possess an innate wisdom which has ensured the survival of our species for millenia. Less is sometimes more, so simplifying your life can often tip the balance in the right direction.

© 2024 Christiane Siebert