Boost Fertility and Get Pregnant Faster

Treating female and male patients for fertility issues. Acupuncture is a much better option than IUI, IVF, etc. No damaging hormone therapy or side effects have been observed. Just beautiful, serene babies conceived in 3 to 6 months after one starts treatments.

Maximize Your Fertility

A short guide to help women prepare for a successful pregnancy.

By Ann Cecil-Sterman & Andrew Sterman

Beginning the Journey

You’d like to become pregnant. Perhaps you’re just beginning the journey; perhaps you’ve been trying for a long time and are deeply frustrated with the difficulties you’re experiencing. Perhaps you are perplexed about how other people find it easy to have children and yet their diet and lifestyle are a mess! How can that be? Perhaps you were pregnant before and just can’t seem to conceive again. If you feel you are doing everything possible, if you’ve been told that there is nothing wrong and yet there is either no conception or you’ve experienced a miscarriage, don’t give up. There are many practical things you can do to dramatically raise your chances of success; time-tested, clear strategies, some surprisingly simple. For 3500 years, the population of China flourished using the wisdom of their brilliant medicine. The great Chinese medical texts were written in the Han Dynasty, 2200 years ago. Their contents and the accompanying oral explanations have been held in a living tradition ever since. This constitutes the world’s oldest scholarly medicine, developed in a culture that places central value on children and family. At the very beginning, in Chapter One of the Su Wen (2nd century, BCE), we are reminded that all health problems arise because we do not follow the examples of nature.

1. Preparing for conception: Building versus Clearing

In order to produce, generate, or grow something, we must first prepare the field. The main internal resources needed to ensure fertility and successful pregnancy are blood and fluids. Since you’ll be using your resources to actually build another human being, your body itself must be in a deeply nourished state.

Very often we find that women trying to get pregnant, though eating carefully, are eating with the wrong strategy; they are eating a clearing diet.

Clearing diets fall into three categories: detoxifying diets, anti-inflammatory diets, and weight reduction diets. They all aim to force the body to let go of something; they drain, expel, sweep, excrete, sweat, clear, drop and flush. They flush the liver, flush the kidneys, cleanse the blood, sweep the intestines, clear the skin, empty the bowels, etc. Although beneficial for some people at certain times, this is the wrong kind of “healthy diet” for pregnancy and fertility because they are about loss. As a culture we take for granted the idea that low-salt, low-fat, low-carb, low-calorie diets will keep us healthy, but this is the wrong strategy for fertility.

To become pregnant we need a building diet. We need to generate, produce, grow, enhance, nourish, flourish, store, and feel replete, warm, ripe and moist. Diets that resonate with these intentions have a warming and upholding quality. They help us become like beautifully full, warm vessels. This isn’t license to eat junk food or to eat in excess. Rather, preparing for pregnancy requires well-balanced meals full of healthy oils, healthy carbs, ample protein, lots of green vegetables for minerals and vitamins, some fruit, nuts and seeds, all prepared in a way to be easily digested, supporting what we want: internal warmth with plenty of moistness, blood and hormones.

It’s also important to avoid anything that is dehydrating. Coffee, chocolate, sugar, fried food, anything carbonated including carbonated water and even teas all get in the way of being properly hydrated. Drink plain flat water, but even more important is including soups, broths, stews, and hot-wet breakfasts like oatmeal or rice congee. The change you’ll feel is quite incredible, and extremely helpful for fertility. Treats such as gentle herbal tea can be included on occasion.

2. Staying warm inside and out.

Staying warm is crucial.  Chinese Medicine is all about applying observations about nature in practical ways for personal health. In winter, almost nothing grows. Plants are dormant and animals sleep and do not mate or give birth. Cold is a contracting force, in sharp contrast to the expansive quality of fertility.

To become and stay pregnant, the body must be warm and moist, even if it’s cold outdoors. This inner warmth will allow you to expand and hold the baby up in the uterus.

Many women who come to the office tell us that they have been “eating perfectly”, making smoothies in the morning with ingredients straight from the fridge, then eating salads for lunch and dinner, along with juices and lots of fruit. If there is a hint of residual cold inside, these cold and raw foods act as contraceptives, no matter how many nutrients they contain. Certainly, if a raw kale leaf were compared to a cooked one in a laboratory, the raw leaf would be found to contain more nutrients, but the cooked kale leaf is much easier to digest. This is crucial for fertility at the level of fundamental health.

Raw foods and cold foods slow down the process of digestion. The body waits for warmth in order to proceed. All digestion works best in a warm tract. Raw and cold foods force the stomach to produce more heat to warm the food up enough to break it down. Over time this takes a toll on vitality. Digestion slows and in advanced cases, there may be undigested food in the stools. The loss of internal heat results in a subtle cooling of the inner body. Prolonged cooling of the digestive tract leads directly to a tendency for Qi to descend. Diarrhea, frequent urination, heavy periods, prolapses, miscarriages and apparent infertility can result.

Eating a cooked, warm diet is very important when cultivating fertility according to Eastern medical principles. Instead of vegetable juices, make vegetable broths. Instead of salads, eat cooked vegetables— not trendy, crunchy crudité, but vegetables cooked just enough that you can put your fork right into them. Don’t avoid grains; grains support and strengthen digestion. Choose skillfully from non-glutinous grains including millet, rice, quinoa, amaranth, teff, sorghum, and corn, (all organic and non-GMO). These grains warm the gut and through their bulk, keep the bowels moving naturally.

Don’t miss meals! Eat breakfast every day and make sure it includes protein. Wet breakfasts are best for fertility. See Andrew Sterman’s advice for wet breakfast recipes, including the magical but simple dish known as congee, the Chinese staple for thousands of years. Eggs are also wonderful. Other Asian cultures have perfect breakfasts with small portions of grain, fish, vegetables and even pickles.

Foods with a particular resonance with fertility include sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, chestnuts, clams, mussels, scallops and oysters (which should be gently cooked).

3. Building Blood and Fluids.

The body must feel that it is able to manufacture enough blood and fluids in order to become pregnant. Fluids are important because they are the precursor of all substance in the body. Digestion cannot take place without plenty of internal fluids. Blood itself is produced from our internal supply of rich fluids. At conception your body immediately begins the process of doubling your blood volume, beginning the process of storing resources to support pregnancy. Therefore, one goal for healthy pregnancy is to maximize the availability of blood. Blood is the conduit between you and your baby, carrying nutrients (products of your digestive tract) from your blood to your baby. There are two factors in keeping your blood in good order. The first is diet. Vegans and vegetarians must be careful that their protein intake is adequate. For those who do eat meat, beef soups and stews are much better than steaks for helping the body build blood. Red meat is superior to poultry for fertility support. Vegetarians and meat eaters alike should rely on soups, with lentils, root vegetables, and plenty of cooked green vegetables. Dark green leafy veggies are excellent, including kale, collard, broccoli, string beans. Rotate your greens. Stay away from bitter greens until very late in pregnancy: broccoli rabe, dandelion, radicchio, and endive will be invaluable later but not now. Other valuable foods in digestive health are white rice, millet, sweet potato, butternut squash, zucchini, beets and berries. Bone broths are wonderful but they must not be spicy. Spicy broths will stir the constitution (the Qi that supports fertility) and that Qi should stay calm.

4. Kidney Yin and Hormones.

At conception, a cascade of hormones and their transporting fluids are activated. The essential hormones for fertility are made from cholesterol, a natural component of saturated fat, which is an essential part of a pre-pregnancy and pregnancy diet. In Chinese medicine this is part of what we call the cultivation of Kidney Yin. Yin is so highly valued in Chinese culture, that at celebration feasts they serve their richest, fattiest foods. (Keep in mind there are no studies that link saturated fat intake with heart disease. Heart disease is caused by inflammation from sugar, processed food and stress.) So, eat butter without fear, eat the fat on your meat, eat oily fish and stay away from low-fat versions of foods that normally have this wonderful support for fertility.

5. Digestive Qi must uphold.

Cold tend to sink, in the body as in the outside world. Cold can sink from the lungs and from the digestive tract into the lower belly where it tends to gather and be held in the uterus. (In men, cold tends to gather in the prostate.) Cold in the uterus can become almost fixed, because the lower belly is designed to be a holding place. Conception may take place but fail to hold due to a lack of warmth and the strong upholding energy that comes with that warmth. Any collection of cold in the lower belly must be actively dislodged. In Chinese medicine this is called scattering cold and can be done with acupuncture, diet, herbs, or other methods. At home, diet is the best way to work. Over a period of three months, use warming kitchen herbs in your food, such as fresh ginger, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, oregano, cumin, mustard seed and rosemary. Warming spices amplify the benefits of the all-cooked diet. These herbs have specific vectors to the lower belly. They’re added to real food, not taken as supplements in pill form. Here we want warming spices rather than hot ones; garlic and hot peppers are irritants and too extreme. They’re too drying and stimulating for pregnancy stability.

Once there is sufficient blood and warmth has been restored to the uterus, the next stage is to ensure that a pregnancy can be upheld. The Qi that is transmitted from the Spleen and Pancreas provides this upholding, ascending energy. These qualities are again supported by a warm, fully cooked diet.

6. Collaboration of Heaven.

Whether viewed through a personal faith, spiritual practice, or scientific approach, everyone can agree that an essential part of pregnancy is beyond our control. In the spiritual medicine from China that is rooted in

Daoism, conception occurs when the grace of the Divine is breathed in through the lungs and descends to the reproductive center where it sparks the meeting of sperm and egg and infuses that union with life.

With this in mind, good breathing and healthy lungs become essential for fertility. If the lungs are impeded by phlegm and mucus, dietary changes must be made. Gluten, sugar, milk, cheese, and cold or raw foods all eventually create phlegm in the digestive tract. The gut will try to thin it down and excrete it, but if the gut is already weakened, the phlegm is sent to the lungs for expectoration. If there is inadequate Qi to expel the phlegm, it becomes stuck in the lungs. Longstanding phlegm stagnates lung Qi and inhibits the essence of breath’s movement to the uterus. Conception becomes difficult. Dietary changes and a positive awareness invite the participation of heaven.

If you can cultivate the idea that heaven plays a part in conception, it’s possible to let go of much of the immense stress that can build up when trying again and again to conceive, handing at least some of the project over to a greater power. With that said, be sure to have intercourse when your vaginal mucus is clear, like egg-white, and dedicate that union to the life you are inviting in. A relaxed and laughing spirit resonates with the effortlessness of Divine influence. Try less hard. Many people become pregnant after they give up, for these reasons.

7. The role of Male’s Health.

Men’s fertility is founded in deep health. Chinese medicine considers the contribution of the father to be just as important as that of the mother, at least for conception. Men’s focus is on hydration and preservation of what is known in Chinese medicine as essence or constitutional Qi. This Qi can be damaged by dehydration, inflammation, alcohol, drugs, lack of sleep, or excess sexual activity. The process of becoming pregnant is greatly enhanced as men cultivate their intention and support their partner in the creation of something larger than themselves.

8. During pregnancy.

Once conception has taken place and your pregnancy is well established, the same dietary habits continue. The omissions and the additions remain the same. Stay away from cold foods, raw foods and from gluten, sugar, milk and cheese. If you love dairy, choose yogurt (room temperature will do). Eat well, plenty of wet breakfasts, soups and stews. Eat everything cooked and warm.

Morning sickness is most often a sign that the Qi of the Spleen is doing its job of upholding the pregnancy successfully, perhaps even a bit too much. We are always happy to see some nausea in the first trimester, as a sign of strong upholding function. The upbearing of healthy Spleen Qi can be so exuberant during pregnancy that it can cause problems with the stomach welcoming food (a descending aspect). If it gets too much, eat plenty of sweet potato, carrot, and a lot of fresh ginger (ginger is a potent anti-nausea herb).

Blood tests can tax the Qi that is responsible for overseeing the generation of blood. Every time a test is ordered, it’s very important to ask what the test would achieve. Blood is precious, and never more so than when you are pregnant. Conserve your blood. Urine tests can determine pregnancy. When even small amounts of blood are taken, the body senses that there is an emergency level loss, stimulating a stress response to replace that blood. This depletes the very Qi that is holding the pregnancy up in the uterus. If that Qi is already taxed through stress, poor sleep or poor diet, the pregnancy may be compromised.  In the same spirit, ultrasounds can disturb the fetus. Ask every time what they are checking for and if the tests are necessary. Be your own advocate and try to minimize testing that is not considered essential.

Cravings are a sign that the body is looking for a specific energetic stimulation. Cravings should be answered without indulging in raw foods, cold foods, sugar, gluten, milk or cheese. Work out what taste your body wants and provide that taste in a healthy fashion. For example, if you tend to crave salty potato chips, add enough sea salt to your meals to be satisfying. For sugar cravings, eat sweet potato and beets. For sour, eat pickles or fermented foods.

Stress. It’s very important not to engage in stress. In ancient China, pregnant women were protected from emotional stress. They were kept away from conflicts within the family and from any bad news. This enabled the pregnancy to continue in a sanctuary environment. Today, this would include political news and scary movies. It’s very important not to read books that tell every possible problem that can happen in pregnancy or paint pregnancy as an illness, a chore, or an unpleasant medical condition. Pregnancy is as natural as breathing and should be enjoyed as much as possible. Any three or four year-trained licensed acupuncturist can assist with issues that arise during pregnancy. (The abdomen is not needled during pregnancy.) Rest and hydration are crucial. Pregnant women do best when they go to bed early. Calm is to be treasured.

Meditation is an invaluable tool for the cultivation of a feeling of calm and gratitude. After all, the life you are growing is more important than any of the ups and downs that would normally command your attention.

Starting a few days before your due date, eat foods that help descend. These are most powerfully broccoli rabe, dandelion, radicchio, and endive. Asparagus is a favorite food for labor due to its highly invigorating energetic. Stop all sour foods including pickles and yogurt, and especially stay off cold and raw foods as they will slow movement.

9. Labor and Delivery.

During labor, stay hydrated and walk as much as you comfortably can. The Qi that is stimulated through walking is the same Qi that creates contractions. It’s also important to stay upright because the action of gravity pressing the baby’s head down stimulates the hormone that dilates the cervix. Having a doula can be wonderful to help you know the latest safe point to leave home if you are traveling to give birth.

When at your birth venue, keep walking around if you can. More birth venues are now willing to allow women to walk around rather than have them lie down with fetal monitors strapped on. It’s important to eat during labor. Soups are ideal. It takes an enormous amount of energy to go through labor and to give birth. Again, avoid cold foods, as they do not support the enormous movement required. Acupuncture is useful if you need assistance with induction or in turning a breech baby.

10. Birth.

Ideally, birth should take place in a warm room with low light to minimize the shock of entering the world. Calm welcoming voices and an atmosphere of reverence and love helps make the transition to the outside world as seamless as possible. If you find yourself in the opposite situation, have someone ready to advocate for you. Unless there is an emergency, do not allow the cord to be cut until it has stopped pumping. At birth the lungs take a little while to become accustomed to the act of breathing. The umbilical cord provides vital stability while the lungs are in the process of starting up. When the lungs are ready to take over fully, the umbilical cord stops pumping. To cut it early places tremendous stress on the lungs and heart of the little newborn.

Have as much skin-to-skin contact as possible between you and your baby. Stay in contact with your baby. Breastfeed as early as possible. Most breastfeeding problems can be resolved successfully with a little skillful guidance. The birth venue should provide professional help if latching is difficult (if you don’t have a doula).

11. Going Home.

You must be cared for at least for one month, much more if possible. Someone must bring you food at very regular intervals. If you have no help, cook big pots of stew and soup to freeze in advance of labor. Focus on getting as much rest as you can and expend minimal energy on things that don’t matter. Cell phone electromagnetic fields are disturbing to babies’ brains; limit your time on them. Your full time job is to feed your baby, be in contact with your baby, and sleep when your baby sleeps. Remember, even though children can get spoiled later, you can never spoil a baby. They have no idea that they are separate from you. Give them everything they want. All they want is you (and your partner), breast milk, a clean diaper, and sleep. Eat a lot of good food, drink water and rest, rest, rest. Gaze into your baby’s eyes as you feed. When your spirits engage through eye-to-eye contact, hearts and minds relax in the midst of anything and everything.

This is an introduction to the immensely rich Chinese Medical teachings on fertility, conception, pregnancy, delivery, postpartum care, and pediatrics. If your questions are beyond the scope of this summary, it is recommended that you consult a well-trained and experienced practitioner along with your other chosen medical providers. Wish you the best in this very special time of your life!

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12 weeks treatment course
  1. Acupuncture
  2. Dietary and lifestyle counseling leading to a healthy pregnancy