Female sterility can be defined as the inability to conceive after a year of unprotected intercourse.
Sterility in females is a result of either the impairment of the ovary, uterus, fallopian tubes, or hormones controlling the functions of these organs as well as diseases suffered by the would-be mother.
Defects in the genital organs may be structural (organic) or functional. To correct the organic defects, surgical measures have to be taken.
Ayurveda and Female Sterility
The conception of a child takes place with healthy sperm, healthy sperm and a healthy uterus. The reproductive health of men and women depends on strength of reproductive tissue called shukra dhatu. In women, shukra dhatu is seen as the egg that’s part of the monthly cycle and in men the semen makes up the shukra tissue.
The shukra dhatu is the product of a long line of metabolic transformations which start with the digestion of food and then the nutrients being transformed into blood, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow and finally, to shukra tissue.
This means that the health of all the other tissues (dhatus) in the body directly impact the health of the shukra dhatu.
Vandhyatva (vandhya meaning barren, childless) is the closest term for defining female sterility in Ayurveda.
Functional defects of the organs and tissues caused by the simultaneous aggravation of all the three doshas can be successfully treated by Ayurvedic medicines.
Ayurvedic anatomy of the female reproductive system
In Ayurvedic anatomy, ‘shroni’ refers to the pelvis. Female pelvis is considered to be 24 angulas. It is heavier as compared to the pelvis of the male. As per Ayurvedic anatomy, there are three srotas (channels of circulation) in female’s body –
- Rajovaha Srota (channels of circulation dealing with menses): They include garbasahya (uterus), cervix and yoni (vagina) along with their blood vessels.
- Artavaha Srota (channels of circulation dealing with menses): They include ovary and fallopian tube along with their blood vessels.
- Stanyavaha Srota (channels of circulation dealing with milk): They include stanya (breasts) along with its blood vessels.
‘Ashaya’ refers to any organ. ‘Garbhasaya’ means uterus and is situated behind the ‘bhagasthi’ (anatomically known as symphysis pubis) and a little above the bladder. ‘Yoni’ is used to describe the female genital tract.
Types of female infertility according to the classical Ayurvedic texts
Vandya: Completely sterile, incurable
Apraja: Can fall pregnant, curable
Sapraja: Become infertile after having already conceived one or more children
The menstrual cycle can be affected by a variety of factors such as poor diet, emotional instability, extreme physical stress, imbalanced lifestyle, etc. which can cause the doshas (Ayurvedic biohumors) to lose equilibrium.
- Dryness in the mouth of the cervix, fallopian tubes and vagina (this dryness causes sperm not to stick)
- Hormonal imbalance
- Scanty flow
Pitta dosha: This is the dosha associated with the elements of Fire and Water. The following symptoms will manifest in case of a Pitta imbalance.
- Excessive bleeding, inflammation and pain
- Hot flow, burning pain in the uterine area
- Blisters, fibroids, ulcers
- Highly acidic environment where sperm cannot survive
Kapha dosha: This is the dosha associated with the elements of Earth and Water. The following symptoms will manifest in case of a Kapha imbalance.
- Cool, sticky cysts
- The uterine lining becomes thick
- White discharge, irregular bleeding and irregular cycles
Out of these, the Vata dosha is the one that easily goes out of balance and is the cause of functional defects in the egg, implantation issues which can cause infertility. Excessive exercise, anxiety, fear, trauma or irregular eating habits or eating a Vata-aggravating diet that’s primarily cold, dry and light foods.
Though infertility could easily be caused by the other doshas as well. For example, Pitta people may be infertile owing to scarred tissue in the fallopian tube, blockages in the ascent of the sperm or descent of the ovum. The fiery nature of Pitta causes excess heat to build up which may deplete the Shukra Dhatu (reproductive tissue).
The prominence of the water element in Kapha is the reason that people of Kaphic constitution usually have the healthiest and strongest reproductive systems as water supports Shukra Dhatu. A diet that’s high in cold, heavy and oily foods along with sedentary lifestyle can result in infertility in those with this constitution. In such case, there is thickening of the fallopian tubes, development of uterine fibroids and often the displacement of the other doshas. There may be a tendency for scar tissue to develop when Pitta magnifies Kapha.
Symptoms of Female Sterility
- Heavy or less bleeding in periods
- Irregular or absence of menstrual cycles
- Pelvic pain, back pain and abdominal cramps
- Pain during sex
- Infection of the genital or pelvic regions
- Fibroids or cysts
- Mid-cycle bleeding
- Recurrent miscarriages (more than 3)
- Sudden severe acne
- Hair loss or hair thinning
- Sudden weight gain
Root Causes of Female Sterility
- Cervical issues: Anomalies of the cervical canal could mean that sperms are not able to find passage. This is majorly due to excess mucus production or previous cervical surgery. The treatment of cervical causes is insemination at an intrauterine level.
- Hormonal imbalances: For some women, ovulation is a challenge. The hormonal rhythm is synced in a way that the egg is released from the ovary and the female sex organ and the endometrium (the inner lining of the uterus) thickens. Sometimes, these changes are not coordination. These causes are treated with pelvic surgeries, hormonal examination and ovulation kits.
- Injury to fallopian tubes: Any trauma to the fallopian tubes inhibits the contact between ovum and spermatozoon. Pelvic infections, pelvic operations and endometriosis, results in damage to the tubes.
- Uterine malfunctions: Anomaly in the constitution of the uterus; uterine polyps and uterine fibroids could be possible causes.
- Unexplained infertility: The cause of infertility will not be able to be identifies in about 20% of couples using the presently available methods of investigation.
Ayurvedic Treatment for Infertility in Female
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Phala Kalyan Ghrita