Most couples who seek fertility treatment find out a great deal about sophisticated medical technologies but very little about the relatively simple measures they themselves can take to improve their chances of conceiving. These highly effective self-help strategies include easily implemented dietary and lifestyle changes. Such measures cost little or nothing, their success has been scientifically documented, and yet most of these couples will not have been told about them. Why on earth is this?

The cynical answer is that infertility has become ‘big business’. As Professor Robert Winston points out in his book Making Babies, there are now at least 21 IVF units in London alone. And more and more units are opening because they are ‘highly profitable in the private sector’. Couples who desperately want to have a baby are very vulnerable. Even though some IVF units have extremely low success rates, such couples are still willing to gamble a great deal of time and money in order to try to conceive.

In contrast, there are no big financial gains to be made in helping couples to look at their lifestyle or to correct their vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Yet this approach makes such sense, and its success can now be measured -thanks to an organization called Foresight, of which I am the Chair.

Over the last 20 years, Foresight has pioneered an approach to fertility that looks at the fundamentals of health, including lifestyle, diet, pollutants, infections and environmental and occupational hazards and gives an unprecedented 80 per cent success rate. Researchers from the University of Surrey followed the progress of 367 couples over a period of three years (1990-3). The women were aged between 22 and 45, and the men were aged 25 to 59. In all, 37 per cent of the couples had a history of infertility, and 38 per cent had experienced between one and five miscarriages (others had had other problems, including still births, malformations and low birth-weight babies).

Many of the couples were older, coming to the trial as a ‘last resort’. They were all asked to eliminate smoking and alcohol, and to follow the recommendations (such as buying organic food, having infections checked and having mineral analysis). All the couples were given personal supplement programmes and were then re-tested to make sure their levels had returned to normal.

By the end of the three-year trial, 89 per cent (327 of the couples) had given birth. Out of those couples with a previous history of infertility, 81 per cent conceived and had babies. Out of those who had experienced a previous miscarriage, 83 per cent had a baby within the three years of the study, without experiencing another miscarriage.

Of the 327 babies born to the couples in the study, no baby was born before 36 weeks and none was lighter than 51b 2oz (2.368kg).There were no miscarriages, perinatal deaths or malformations. The national average for miscarriages is one in four so one could at least have expected 80 miscarriages, but there were none. No baby was admitted to a special care baby unit.

A number of the couples had already tried IVF – sometimes two or three times – without success. Yet 65 per cent of this group conceived naturally on the Foresight programme without needing another IVF cycle.

These results are undeniably impressive and speak for themselves. Yet sceptics maintain that they are ‘too good to be true’. To date, the results have been published in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine but not in a standard medical journal. This is because, in order to be accepted by a medical journal, there must be a control group.

In a normal double-blind placebo controlled trial, to assess the efficacy of a headache remedy, for example, volunteers are randomly assigned to either a control group (placebo) or a treatment group (headache remedy). The volunteers don’t know if they are taking the placebo or the remedy, and nor does the scientist running the trial. All the volunteers in the treated group get the same dose of headache remedy.

However, in the Foresight study each person was given an individual supplement programme according to their needs. So they were all taking different dosages and supplements, depending on how deficient or toxic they were.

This is an important point because the double-blind placebo controlled trial is the ‘gold standard’ in medicine but it cannot take into account that we are all unique and that we may need different treatments to increase our fertility. And it is this ‘individually tailored’ approach which I believe is the key to finding a natural solution to infertility. The fact is that 37 per cent of the couples in the Foresight study had an established history of fertility problems and had undergone medical investigation. They did something different – changed their dietary habits and lifestyle – and then conceived.


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