Heather Grzych is the author of The Ayurvedic Guide to Fertility. A board-certified ayurvedic practitioner, she bridges the worlds of conventional and alternative medicine to help women and men heal their physical and emotional lives. Grzych is on the board of directors for the National Ayurvedic Medical Association and has consulted with doctors, governments and insurance companies. She lives in California’s San Francisco Bay Area and works with women and couples online at http://heathergrzych.com.
Q: What inspired you to write The Ayurvedic Guide to Fertility?
A: Two main things. First, I had so many clients in my practice who were struggling to decide whether or not to have a child, or stressed about picking the right partner, or concerned about their own health and menstrual cycles. I could really relate so much to these women because I felt like I had been all of them at some point in my life. I left a corporate career to go back to school to get a master’s degree in ayurveda in my mid to late thirties, while I was feeling the full pressure of my biological clock and wondering if I was ever going to be a mother. I had heard all the challenges that women over 35 have in becoming mothers, and though many of my clients went through IVF (in vitro fertilization) or other medically assisted reproductive procedures, I was certain that I did not want to do that, so I used ayurvedic practices to prime my own body for conception in the event the right opportunity arose. At the same time, like many women, I struggled to try to release my grip of control on the process, but getting healthy the ayurvedic way showed me the things that were within my power.
Q: Please explain the four fertility factors.
A: There are four factors that influence optimum fertility: Seed, Season, Field and Water. In this case, the seed represents the sperm and the ovum. The season represents the time of the month, as the body changes in its cycle; the time of year, because the body changes in response to the weather and climate; and the time of life, as the body changes in each of its stages. Field represents, at a basic level, the uterus—the environment where the seed is implanted, which is impacted by the larger macrocosm—the whole body, the environment one lives in, the people around, the sensory input, and even what happens in the cosmos. And then we water our seeds at the right time and in the right amounts to give them nourishment, support and help them grow. It’s all a gardening metaphor and the same principles can actually be used for any creative endeavor.
Q: What is the connection between overall health and reproductive health?
A: A fertile body is the natural outcome of a healthy body. When our own bodies are getting what they really need, and metabolizing well, then there will be good-quality reproductive material available for potential new beings. A healthy body is a receptive and resilient collection of various kinds of channels, the reproductive tract being one of these channels. If there are imbalances, toxicity or wounds from the past that are affecting one’s health—physically, mentally or emotionally—there will be a physiological impact on the body that can complicate good health and fertility.
Q: Talk about ayurveda’s indicators of fertility.
A: I wrote about these in the book, and these are direct from the ancient texts that we study in ayurveda. These are ways fertility is detected without some ovulation stick to pee on or blood test to take. The texts say that a fertile woman will have freedom from diseases, laziness and greed. This makes sense because poor health and metabolic issues are some of the biggest obstacles in fertility. She will have aliveness of senses, which is a sign that her channels are open and that her body has been properly cleansed. She will have a strong libido, which is an indicator that the body parts involved in conception are receiving energy. Lastly, the texts say that she will have a good-quality voice, and this one is really interesting to me. I suspect that our voices sound pleasing to the mates that are biologically suitable for us, and there are even some studies today on how a woman’s voice is more attractive during the fertile times of the menstrual cycle. I think adding these indicators to the fertility awareness methods that many women are using today can really enhance a woman’s understanding of her fertility.
Q: What are some healthy fertility practices women can do when trying to conceive?
A: First, setting up lifestyle and dietary routines that are appropriate for her kind of body, so that she is really creating the right environment for her health. Second, understanding if there is any toxicity that needs to be cleansed before conceiving, and if so, then giving enough time to properly cleanse and rejuvenate before trying to conceive. Sometimes it requires looking at some difficult patterns, and even some of the painful experiences in our lives to fully process them and restore health.
Since metabolism is such a huge factor in fertility, I recommend fasting for a lot of my clients—sometimes little tweaks to their diet, or something like intermittent fasting, but other times, women need a longer-term and more comprehensive cleansing method called panchakarma, which requires working with an ayurvedic professional.
She needs to do a lot of self-study, and I offer some ways to study her body in the book.
Q: What advice do you have for couples with reproductive issues?
A: First, I want to recognize that sometimes infertility happens from things that are outside of one’s control, and for that I have no advice except for each person to do their best to be healthy and happy, and learn the things you do have control over. Reproduction is a four-way street: the woman, the man, the new soul and the universe. Women are often better at paying attention to their fertility, but men must also be encouraged to take care of themselves and do the same self-study, though obviously their anatomy is a little different! I wrote a whole chapter on evaluating and treating the male partner’s health because this is so important. The best partnership is when each individual cares for him/herself well. No one should know your own body better than you, and you have to take responsibility for this. And the vision for creating a good life together will work best when it’s co-created between the partners.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: I want to address how scary it could be for a woman contemplating having a child now, in the pandemic, because the effects of COVID-19 on a pregnant woman and a fetus is still unknown, and also be-cause our larger environments and routines have been disrupted so much. But since the virus is a known risk, there are ways to mitigate it and live your life safely. Times of disruption often provide excellent opportunities for developing new health routines—mainly because new routines are going to happen anyway. The question is whether you are going to be involved in designing these routines so that they truly benefit your health.