one of the nastiest human iron-ies is that some people spend years gumming up their lovemaking to avoid conceiving, then discover when they finally want to that they can't. Between 10 and 20 per cent of couples have this lousy experience. If you've tried procreating over half a year or so and come up empty, the first trip is to a medical doctor to find out whose equipment isn't working and why. If there is a blockage, either in the fallopian tubes or in the male's reproductive pathway, surgery may be in order. But most causes of infertility are best dealt with holistically, without medicine's high-tech and very pricey gadgetry, like sperm injection or in vitro fertilization.
People who endure these procedures only increase their chance of a live birth by 4 per cent, and may suffer ovarian hyper-stimulation or multiple births.
Compare that to the gentler approach of alt health practitioners. They point to the hormone-mimicking chemicals that screw up people's apparati, and suggest organics and avoiding the synthetic hormones found in lawn pesticides and household cleaners.
Hidden infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia can tamper with the works of both sexes. Alcohol is toxic to the male baby-making system and caffeine, tobacco and marijuana will dull the procreative juices of both partners.
Guys who want good sperm counts should keep cool, avoiding hot baths, tight pants -- and, yes, even underwear. Both sexes need zinc, which is found in beans, soy and whole grains, or supplement with 15 to 30 mg daily, with 1 mg of copper for balance. (Take no more than this -- it can be toxic.) Also, ensure you're not vitamin B-12 deficient.
Besides minding your vitamins, try wise-woman herbalist Susun Weed's red clover infusion, good for both sexes. At night, pour a quart of boiling water over an ounce of dry herb. Cover tightly, steep till morning, strain and drink one to four cups daily for 12 to 18 months. This revs sperm and egg production and softens fallopian scar tissue. Raspberry leaves, prepared similarly, are a uterine tonic and increase the number and friskiness of sperm. Chasteberry can also be useful: 20-40 mg daily.
EXPERTS"For women, a clogged liver throws hormone levels off. I recommend liver cleansers like dandelion and parsley. I look for subclinical thyroid deficiency. Sitz baths and castor oil packs can open blocked fallopian tubes.'
JULIE WYATT, Naturopath
"Fertility rituals prepare the spirit to conceive. In one successful ritual I did, the woman painted eggs in beautiful colours. Honour the fertility around you. Walk to a river, kiss a flower. Draw the Goddess, become her, sing her."
CERRIDWEN, Toronto witch
"I don't think nutrition plays a role except for severely malnourished people. Sperm counts are lower in polluted areas. Toxins also get deposited in the ovaries. It would be interesting to see how this affects fertility. Stress can elevate prolactin and cortisone, which can have a negative effect on the ovaries."
ANNE CLAESSENS MD, Toronto Centre for Advanced Reproductive Technology
"I recommend dietary change, relaxation techniques, acupuncture and homeopathy. Fibroids and endometriosis can also be treated holistically.'
JUDITH FIORE, Naturopathic Centre for Reproductive Health
"Low-motility sperm can be due to heat consuming body fluid. Treatment involves clearing the heat. In women, infertility may be due to deficiency of energy (qi) in the blood. We use herbs and acupuncture to facilitate circulation.'
MARY X. WU, Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine