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Harnessing Ayurveda for fertility

Harnessing Ayurveda for fertility

Ayurveda looks at managing the cause of infertility, thereby promoting conception  
Illustration of a pregnant woman
Representational Image | Shutterstock

Zaiba Kauser (name changed as per request), 29, from Sangli, Maharashtra had been trying to conceive for five years without success. In despair, she and her husband decided to give ayurvedic therapy a shot following the advice of her friends.  

On the couple’s first visit to her clinic, Dr Pradnya Amrut Patil, an ayurvedic gynecologist, collected details about Kauser’s menstrual cycles as well as that of the couple’s lifestyle and food habits, and recommended blood investigations, semen analysis, and an ultrasound follicular study.  

The follicular study captures the images of the uterus and ovaries, especially the follicles (sacs found in ovaries) that track ovulation. Kauser’s ultrasound scan revealed an anovulatory cycle (absence of ovulation) while her husband’s semen analysis showed usual readings. Dr Pradnya suggested therapies focusing mainly on correcting Kauser’s ovulation.  

Her therapy started with a counselling session during which she was asked to inculcate healthy eating habits and relaxation techniques such as meditation. She was also recommended herbal medicines to induce ovulation along with supportive medicines such as folic acid and multivitamins. After five months of these therapies and lifestyle changes, Kauser was able to conceive, and is now in her last trimester of pregnancy. 

“It was possible only because of a positive attitude, hope, and confidence boosted by my doctor,” says Kauser. 

Ayurvedic view on fertility  

Ayurvedic experts promote natural conception. They consider four factors that contribute to fertility:  

  • Age (Ritu kala) – reproductive age and fertile period  
  • Reproductive health (kshetra) 
  • Quality of sperm and ovum (beeja) 
  • Nutrition (ambu)  

Disruption to any of these four factors can make it difficult to conceive naturally and produce healthy offspring.  

Causes of infertility  

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines infertility as the failure to get pregnant after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. This can be due to problems with ovulation. There are various causes such as –  

  • Fallopian tube ailments (blockage in the tubes or inflammations) 
  • Uterine disorders such as endometriosis or fibroids  
  • Ovary disorders such as polycystic ovarian syndrome or follicular disorders  
  • Endocrinal disorders such as obesity, and thyroid disorders  

Female infertility can be either primary (never pregnant) or secondary (had at least one pregnancy).  

Read more about female infertility here 

Clinical evaluation using modern diagnostic tools  

“Ayurvedic gynaecologists evaluate a woman’s menstrual cycles and lifestyle to understand if she is stressed and plan the management accordingly,” comments ayurvedic expert Dr Priya Rohal from Shamli, Uttar Pradesh.  

Dr Prajakta Patil, an ayurvedic gynaecologist from Dr Prajakta’s Ayurveda Gynecology and Pregnancy Care Clinic in Mumbai makes use of modern diagnostic tools to evaluate and diagnose medical conditions.  

“We should get help from the latest diagnostic tools and tests, but only after a thorough clinical examination as per ayurvedic guidelines,” adds Dr Prajakta.  

Management plan 

Restoring the air element (vata) is considered essential for menstruation and fertility. But the management also depends on whether it is primary or secondary infertility and, on the cause, as well. Counselling, detox therapies, relaxation techniques and herbal medicines are a part of the management plan, which is customised.  

  • Counselling and education  

Counselling is mandatory while managing infertility, says Dr Prajakta. A 2020 review paper provides evidence that psychological interventions can reduce anxiety symptoms and increase pregnancy rates.  

A 2021 clinical trial by the Kerman University of Medical Sciences, Iran that studied the efficacy of counselling on 60 infertile couples found that comprehensive education and counselling from the time of diagnosis and management improves the emotional status of those being treated. “Educating and correcting a distorted lifestyle itself serves as a solution at times,” adds Dr Prajakta.  

Physicians discuss the details of the management plan, its duration and the specific diet and lifestyle to be followed during the period. It is also mandatory to take the consent of the person before beginning the therapies.   

  • Addressing the cause  

Issues such as PCOS or hypothyroidism are first addressed followed by the actual management of infertility. Results are often delayed for individuals with health issues that require long-term attention. Generally, managing the underlying health issue encourages ovulation and aids in conception.  

  • Panchakarma therapies (detox therapies) 

Although detox therapies are not used in each condition, it helps in preparing the body for conception. In addition to panchakarma (five major therapies), another specific procedure uttara basti (introduction of medicated ghee or oil into the uterine cavity) is recommended for managing female infertility. 

“If nothing works, uttarabasti comes to the rescue,” says Dr Prajakta. She advises this procedure if herbal oral medicines do not produce the desired result for more than six months.  

Studies have shown its efficacy, especially in fallopian tube blockage conditions. A small-scale study by the Institute for Post Graduate Teaching and Research in Ayurveda, Jamnagar, Gujarat found uttara basti to be effective in managing tubal blockage with no significant complication. The study included 19 women diagnosed with fallopian tubal blockage who underwent the procedure for six days.   

  • Role of herbal formulations   

Ayurvedic experts recommend using herbs and poly-herbal formulations to manage infertility. A 2021 case study by Dr Susheela Chaudhary and a team from the National Institute of Ayurveda, Jaipur found primary infertility due to PCOS in a 29-year-old with a two-year history of infertility. She was given two herbal formulations – shatapushpa churna (powder of Anethum sowa or dill seeds) and phalasarpi (a ghee-based formulation with 20 ingredients). These herbal preparations were given for two months after which the participant was able to conceive naturally.   

In another case study, a 30-year-old with an eight-year history of infertility was given Panchakarma therapy along with herbal medicines for 16 weeks, after which she was able to conceive.   

Several attempts at conducting clinical trials involving a large population have been made. However, these studies have not been published in the public domain due to lack of documentation and reporting, say experts.  

  • Ayurvedic management lacks awareness  

Dr Prajakta opines that people reach out to ayurvedic experts after hearing of them and their successes through word of mouth. However, there is still a huge gap between the experts and those in need of their services due to the lack of scientific communication and evidence-based clinical trials. 

In addition, people also think that Ayurveda takes years to deliver results and its medicines are bitter. However, Dr Prajakta highlights that ayurvedic medicines are currently more palatable and therapies can be customised to suit people’s needs. 

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