We are created to procreate. It is one of our human conditions to want to lead a long and healthy life and to have children. Like many of the best things in life it often goes more smoothly if it is planned.
The sperm and ovum is produced about 3 months prior, Ideally pregnancy starts about six months before conception as both partners prepare themselves for the magical act of creation. As a good gardener says, it is essential to prepare the ground so that your seeds can grow, or so that your body is clean and nourished and unobstructed by toxins and blockages. It is vital that the mother-to-be is at optimum health so that she stays strong for the journey ahead. The father-to-be must rid himself of toxins and nourish his reproductive tissue so that optimum fertilisation can take place. Fertility awareness and basal body temperature can be very useful for the woman to take her temperature every morning to monitor hormone balance through the guidance and education of a practitioner. This will give you a clear insight into the fluctuations of temperature in relation to the cycle of the dosha and flow of the hormones. It tells you when you are ovulating, how consistent your pre and post-ovulatory temperatures are and may indicate what sort of herbal treatment you may benefit from, if required. The volume and quality of cervical fluid is one of the best indicators of ovulation and indicates the optimum time for conception. It is a good idea to check the quality of cervical mucus when you think you are ovulating to ensure that it has a clear, egg-white consistency and stringy quality.
A priority for understanding your health in Ayurveda is establishing your constitution, known as your prakriti. It is best for you to see an Ayurvedic practitioner to determine this and from here you can tell the best diet for you both, the best time of year for you to try to conceive and other appropriate lifestyle recommendations.
Before we look at what Ayurveda recommends we do to get into this rejuvenated condition we need to understand the reproductive system.
The Ayurvedic view of egg and sperm production
Eggs and sperm are the result of the deepest level of nutritional transformation. All that we eat and drink gets continually refined until it is transformed into the most vital essence, the potential of life, known as ‘shukra’ in Sanskrit. This is the seed of life.
Ayurveda believes that if there are any obstructions in the body then the reproductive system becomes deficient and it is necessary to undergo a programme of rejuvenation to re-establish the health of the reproductive tissues. ‘Obstructions’ may be such problems as an impaired digestive system, excess weight, anaemia, IBS, constipation, fibroids etc.
Certain foods and herbs are more egg and sperm potentiating than others.
Un-homoginised full cream Milk, almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, saffron, honey and ghee are all seen as the ultimate reproductive foods in Ayurveda.
Herbs such as Ashwagandha and Shatavari are all used to enhance egg and sperm quality and quantity. Ashwagandha is the fertility tonic for vata types, Shatavari is the tonic for pitta types and a herb called Punarnava is often taken by kapha types.
The Ayurvedic view of the menstrual cycle
As menstruation is controlled by the different doshas here is a quick overview of what is happening in your cycle from the Ayurvedic point of view. Normal menses are considered to be on a 26-30 day cycle, 5 days long, moderate flow, moderate colour, no clots, no discomfort, no PMS.
The cycle is divided into three phases according to the different doshas.
Kapha phase: From the end of bleeding until ovulation is a time of building the endometrium and increasing kapha. Oestrogen is increasing. It is the phase of restoring strength to the body and preparing for conception.
Pitta phase: This lasts from ovulation until your period starts. The corpus luteum secretes progesterone which peaks during this phase. This prepares the endometrium for implantation of the fertilized egg and the breasts for milk production. This can be a time of PMS due to pitta accumulating in the blood and liver. As the blood channels and menstruation are connected this means that there can be extra heat in the system and this can lead to feelings of irritation and emotional overload.
Vata phase: This predominates during the period itself. Apana vayu (the force that regulates all downward movements in the body) pushes the menses down and out, therefore emptying the contents of the womb when menses occur and facilitating delivery during birth.
Understanding the doshas in the menstrual cycleIn order to enhance fertility it is essential that any signs of the doshas being out of balance are normalised.
1.Vata regulates the nervous system. Interestingly, the menstrual cycle is closely related with the nervous system and a relaxed nervous system helps to have a smooth menstrual cycle. Vata also affects the plasma tissue responsible for much of the nourishment of the tissues and the quality of the menstrual flow. Excess vata can dry the plasma. This results in a chain of events from plasma through blood to the menstrual flow. The key here is to balancing vata dosha.
‧ Signs of vata being too high are: Scanty flow, dark red/brown/black/dry/old blood, menstrual cramps (pricking pain, moving pain, numbness), pain radiating down into groin, thighs and lower back ache, a short and less than 5 day period, irregular cycle, long cycle, Endometriosis, vaginal numbness, painful discharge, painful ovulation, frothy flow, stiffness, depression, fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, insomnia, weakness, feeling cold, vaginal dryness, lower abdominal distension, constipation, gas and headaches. It may be an idea to take organic Triphala as well as Ginger to improve digestion and circulation in the lower abdomen. Contact your Ayurvedic Practitioner for a vata balancing programme.
2. Pitta governs the flow of blood and the menstrual channel. Toxins from digestive imperfection seep into the blood creating heat and toxins; hence the importance of keeping ‘hot’ pitta under control.
‧ Signs of pitta being too high are: Excess flow, dark red or purple blood, bright red blood, clotting, a longer than 5-7 day menses, inter menstrual spotting, the period can come early, frequent periods, hot discharge, foul odour, sensations of heat, flushing, fever, skin rashes, acne, headaches on temples, migraines, photosensitivity, skin rashes, irritability, anger and diarrhoea. Try including some organic Aloe vera juice or Amla capsules to help clear the heat. Contact your Ayurvedic Practitioner for a pitta balancing programme.
3. Kapha is responsible for all anabolic activity and is generated by the plasma tissue and so any problem with metabolism in this tissue will create various kapha problems.