In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a widely used assisted reproductive technology that has helped many couples and individuals achieve their dream of parenthood. It has helped many individuals and couples achieve pregnancy when natural conception is not possible or successful. Millions of babies have been born with IVF to date. However, it also has several drawbacks and challenges. Ayurveda, on the other hand, offers a holistic approach to infertility treatment. It considers the individual’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being as well as their overall lifestyle. Ayurvedic treatment works on many levels simultaneously.
IVF success rate depends on factors like age, quality of eggs and sperm, the readiness of the uterus, etc. Good quality eggs and sperm are a key aspect of the IVF process, ultimately affecting the chances of a healthy pregnancy and the birth of a child. Also, uterus lining (endometrium) preparation and its receptivity are also important for the implantation of an embryo. If that is poor and the reproductive system is not healthy there are chances of the cycle getting failed. IVF focuses on forced conception even if the body is not prepared for it. Repeated failure of IVF cycles can cause a lot of stress for couples. These are the possible areas where Ayurveda can complement IVF and help women in achieving a healthy pregnancy.
As per Ayurveda, conception is comparable to planting a seed and there are four factors essential for conception namely seed (egg and sperm), soil (reproductive organs), season (fertility period), and water (nutrition). Fertility treatments in Ayurveda regularize the metabolism of the body, purify reproductive organs, maintain hormonal equilibrium, improve endometrium lining (uterus lining) & receptivity, increase egg and sperm quality, and relieve stress.
Here are some ways in which Ayurveda can be integrated with IVF:
- Preconception Care: Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of preparing the body for conception. This involves detoxification, dietary changes, and lifestyle adjustments to create a favorable environment for conception. Ayurveda also emphasizes the importance of sexual health and intimacy in the context of preconception care. Proper timing and techniques for sexual intercourse are advised for optimal results. Balancing doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha) is also essential.
- Panchakarma: Panchakarma is an Ayurvedic detoxification process that can be used to eliminate toxins from the body. Some couples opt for Panchakarma treatments before starting IVF to ensure their bodies are in the best possible condition for pregnancy. These therapies may include treatments like Basti, Uttarbasti, Vaman, Virechan, and Nasya using different Ayurvedic formulations as per the cause of infertility and according to the body constitution of the patient.
Oil massages, herbal steam baths, and herbal enemas to cleanse and rejuvenate the body. Basti acts on vata and increases the strength of reproductive organs. Uttarbasti, an intrauterine instillation of medicated oil or ghee acts on endometrial receptors. Vamana and Virechana detox the whole body and improve digestive fire (agni) for the nourishment of reproductive organs. Yoniprakshalana, done by irrigation of the vulva and vagina with warm decoction, and Pichudharan done by insertion of a sterile tampoon soaked in medicated ghee or oil in the posterior fornix of the vagina are also helpful in infertility. However, it is extremely important to consult and get treatment from a qualified doctor only for these treatments.
- Diet, Nutrition, and supplements: Ayurveda places a strong emphasis on diet and nutrition. An Ayurvedic practitioner can provide guidance on the most suitable foods and herbs to support fertility. This may include consuming specific foods, herbs, and supplements that are believed to enhance reproductive health. Ayurveda focuses on a healthy fresh wholesome diet without preservatives and chemical additives. Whole grains, a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables especially green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds preferably soaked, dairy products and some healthy fat like butter and ghee must be part of the diet. Stale processed and chemical-laden foods and trans-fat must be avoided.
- Stress Reduction: Ayurveda incorporates stress reduction techniques like yoga, meditation, and Pranayama (breathing exercises), which can help reduce stress and anxiety during the IVF process. Stress can have a negative impact on fertility and a cheerful mindset increases the chances of conception. Procedures like Shirodhara and massages can be done to reduce stress and relax the mind.
- Herbal Remedies: Ayurveda offers a wide range of herbal remedies that are believed to support reproductive health. Some of these herbs are thought to improve egg quality, balance hormones, and promote a healthy menstrual cycle. practitioners may recommend specific herbal supplements to support fertility and balance the doshas.
Herbs like Ashwagandha, Shatavari, Gokshura, shilajit, Ashoka, kachnar, Punarnava, etc are commonly used to enhance reproductive health. Supplements are thee that help with regularizing the menstrual cycle, improve energy level, enhance the quality of eggs and sperms, and strengthens the reproductive system. Since most of the medicines are from natural sources only, there are rarely any serious short-term or long-term ill-effects on the body.
- Lifestyle Changes: Ayurveda encourages making positive lifestyle changes according to body type and seasonal variations (Rutucharya). It emphasizes on maintaining a regular daily routine (dinacharya) and avoiding harmful habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. It advises avoiding exposure to toxins, including food chemicals and environmental pollutants, as these can negatively affect fertility and the health of the child.
Emotional well-being is closely linked to fertility and preconception health. Improving the physical and mental health of the body is given a lot of importance before and during pregnancy. Exercise and yoga should be an integral part of lifestyle. It improves circulation, balances hormones, and increases blood flow to the pelvis. One should learn yoga asanas like Surya Namaskara, Gomukhasan, Sarvangasan, Pavanmuktasan, Ardhamatsyandrasan, Naukasan, Dhanurasan, Shalabhasan etc. to strengthen your body systems.
Ayurveda is highly individualized, and a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner can create a personalized plan based on your unique constitution and health concerns. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that good health can be achieved by maintaining a balance between the mind, body, and spirit. By correcting imbalances in the body, it is possible to treat infertility issues through Ayurveda. So, integrating Ayurveda with IVF may help in improving the success rate of IVF along with providing a more holistic approach towards treatment.