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Be Fruitful

The Essential Guide to Maximizing Fertility and Giving Birth to a Healthy Child

Foreword by Andrew Weil, MD

About The Book

From an internationally recognized integrative physician, a thorough guide to fertility that encompasses all aspects of female well-being to help women prepare their bodies for easy conception, pregnancy, and the delivery of healthy babies.

The increase in environmental toxins, processed foods, and stress, as well as the advancing ages at which couples seek to have children, have made it more difficult for women to conceive. In Be Fruitful, Dr. Victoria Maizes, an expert on women’s health and the executive director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, delivers all the information women and their partners need in order to conceive with ease and confidence, and to bear healthy children.

Warm, friendly, and hands-on, Be Fruitful offers a comprehensive self-assessment to help identify any potential physical, emotional, and practical roadblocks that may interfere with conception, as well as clear and easy-to-follow dietary, supplemental, and exercise recommendations proven to increase optimal fertility. Dr. Maizes details how nutrition, mind-body practices, elimination of environmental toxins, and traditional Chinese medicine can all contribute to a successful pregnancy.

Unique in its integrative approach, Be Fruitful acknowledges that wellness comes from caring for the entire person—not just the physical body—a crucial factor for the countless women trying to conceive and committed to transforming their overall health.


With excitement, joy, and perhaps a bit of trepidation, you’re considering having a baby. This primal urge is an intrinsic part of being human. What could be more natural or straightforward? Every day, women become pregnant, sometimes unintentionally. On the other hand, many women have difficulty conceiving, which can be emotionally traumatic, exhausting, or frustrating. My opinion is that pregnancy is well worth preparing for. Whether it’s ensuring that you are immune to chicken pox, taking a multivitamin with folic acid to reduce neural tube defects, or approaching your ideal weight to avoid gestational diabetes, we know that there are things you can do to prepare your body for conception and to up the odds of bearing a healthy child. Those activities, and much more, are the subject of this book.

Conception, happily, is a dream that most couples achieve. Yet we’ve all heard anxiety-fueling stories of frustration and heartbreak, even for people in their twenties. This anecdotal evidence has many women asking whether there’s some kind of fertility crisis today. Is it now harder to get pregnant for some reason?

The answer is “maybe.” The U.S. birth rate is about the same as it was in the mid-1980s (down from a high point in 1990). But the current statistics may be bolstered by the success of assisted-reproduction technologies that didn’t exist in the past. Certainly there are challenges to fertility today that our mothers and grandmothers never faced: new birth control methods; unprecedented cultural pressure to be thin—and, on the flip side, epidemic obesity—both of which take a toll; high rates of hormone-disrupting stress; a fast-food diet that leads many to consume the exact opposite foods from those that bolster fertility; and environmental toxins permeating everything from our water bottles to our lip gloss to the food we eat and the air we breathe. In this book, I use the principles of integrative medicine to provide you with up-to-date information on nutrition, the mind-body connection, the vitamins you should be taking, and the environmental chemicals that you will want to avoid, with the goal of helping you prepare your body, mind, and spirit for easy conception and a healthy pregnancy.

Integrative medicine addresses the challenges to our health and fertility by synthesizing advances in medical science and the wisdom of healing traditions. In today’s high-stress, chemical-laden, frequently unhealthy environment, integrative medicine is the most effective way to prepare for pregnancy, guiding you to create an oasis of health. Within these pages, you will find answers to your questions on topics ranging from the physical (what to eat, what supplements to take) to the environmental (toxins to be wary of), from the mind-body (breath work, meditation) to the spiritual (ceremony and prayer). You will also find a complete discussion of the most recent scientific findings from conventional medicine, as well as wisdom from traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda. This approach is proven to not only make it easier to get pregnant, but also reduce the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, and birth defects, and, through epigenetic influences, it can alter gene expression, thereby enhancing the health of your child.

Let me offer another argument for well-informed preparation. In 2011, the New England Journal of Medicine reported a study of women who took antidepressant medication of the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) class three months prior to conceiving or during their pregnancy. They found a two to three times higher rate of autism in children of mothers who took these medications. Now, this is preliminary research that needs further study before we advise all women planning pregnancies to stop taking antidepressants. But if you were no longer depressed, or had only mild depression to begin with, wouldn’t you wish to be informed of the potential risk so that you could make your own decision about whether or not to continue the drug while you planned to conceive? At present, 50 percent of Americans are taking at least one prescription medication; the use of many of these drugs should be reexamined vis-à-vis conception. And it is not only about avoidance: two additional studies published in 2011 revealed that women who took multivitamins one to three months before becoming pregnant reduced their chances of having a child with autism or severe language delay.

I advocate for thoughtful preparation to make your body as welcoming as possible for a baby. Fertility requires health and vitality; ideally, you would not seek to create another life when your body is depleted. In this book, I focus on the integrative medicine approach, which can enhance your innate ability to conceive and bear a child. Integrative medicine is the thoughtful synthesis of conventional and alternative medicines; in keeping with this philosophy, I not only present the scientific evidence from research trials on nutrition, mind-body, and environmental factors, but also synthesize the wisdom that emerges from healing systems such as traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, ceremony, rituals, and intuition. While I am a doctor trained in Western medicine, I value the experience of these traditions and the practitioners who have honed their skills through years of study and clinical practice. Within these pages, you will find the voices of acupuncturists, Ayurvedic practitioners, mind-body therapists, nutritionists, and a wide range of physicians. Integrative medicine honors working as a team, and acknowledges that no one person can know everything.

 • • • 

Often I am asked, “Is there an ideal age to have a baby?” Biologically, the answer is clear. Peak fertility occurs in a woman’s midtwenties. For most of us, however, other factors weigh in. There are social considerations: Do I have the right partner? Is he ready? Financial constraints also influence us; having a baby and raising a child are expensive! And educational and career aspirations can be all-consuming early in adult life. In these pages, I tackle difficult realities straight on. The media has portrayed advances in reproductive technology as a panacea. We are regaled with celebrities who conceive and bear children in midlife, leaving many women to believe they can have children easily, with a bit of help from modern medicine, at age forty or even fifty. This has obscured the fact that as women age, fertility declines and miscarriage rates increase. So I ask younger women to think carefully about whether it might be best if they were to have children earlier, and I help women of all ages to maximize their fertility with the full range of integrative approaches.

In a certain respect, the challenge that we face today is an unintended consequence of the miraculous invention of the birth control pill. Introduced in 1965, it allowed women, for the first time in history, to be sexually active and to control whether or not they bore children. This freedom helped women avoid unplanned pregnancies, and drove up the average age of first childbirth from twenty-one in 1968 to twenty-five in 2002. As we swallow these pills from our teenage years on, we can lose touch with our underlying cycles, and with the fact that time is slipping by. I advocate that women become reacquainted with their cycles, as this will make it easier to conceive. It also provides warnings of potential fertility problems (polycystic ovarian syndrome, short luteal phase, and more) that are better addressed at earlier stages and younger ages when they will be easier to reverse.

Soon after the pill was introduced, women successfully fought for and won equal rights to jobs, housing, and financial and public services. We have access to unprecedented work opportunities, and building a career often overlaps with our years of maximal fertility. While social programs in Canada and Europe legislate a paid year off after childbirth with guaranteed job preservation, in the United States, we have not made this commitment to families.

The philosophy and practices presented in this book emerge from my work as executive director at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. I have spent fourteen years at the center founded by my mentor, Dr. Andrew Weil, caring for patients and designing educational programs for health professionals. Our center developed the curriculum for integrative medicine and offers the most extensive range of integrative medical training programs in the world. I interviewed many of our fellowship graduates for this book, and I include their wisdom and clinical experience on these pages.

I grew up in the shadow of infertility. As a child, I wondered about my grandmother’s older sister, and why she couldn’t have children. My mother’s younger sister, who lived just a few blocks away, struggled unsuccessfully to become pregnant. Diagnostic tests and interventions were talked about in hushed whispers; a cloud hung over the topic. As an adult, when I queried my aunt, she described herself as being “just too late.” When she was forty, IVF was brought into widespread practice—but at that time, she was considered too old. Observing her sadness over not being able to have a child inspired me to focus on a career in women’s health.

For more than twenty-five years, I have had the honor and privilege of working with women on health issues that matter to them. From everyday maladies to their struggles with breast cancer, transition through menopause, and desire to become pregnant, I have walked the path with them as physician and partner. I have been deeply touched by the longing to have a child, and the incredible joy that pregnancy and birth bring.

As an integrative physician, I am passionate about health and wellness. My days (and sometimes my nights) are devoted to preventing disease, maintaining health, and restoring good health in those who have become ill. I fervently believe that the greatest opportunity we have to impact health is when helping a couple prepare for pregnancy. This is the fundamental reason I am writing this book: to help you become pregnant with greater ease and to bear the healthiest child possible.

I hope you will find the information you need in this book in order to more easily achieve a pregnancy and to birth a healthy child. I encourage you to set an intention to do all you can to make yourself a welcoming host for a new life. I am honored to serve as your advisor to help you prepare physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually for the exciting events to come.

About The Author

Photograph by Daniel Snyder

Victoria Maizes, M.D., is executive director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and a professor of medicine, family medicine, and public health at the University of Arizona. An internationally recognized leader in integrative medicine, Dr. Maizes lectures worldwide to academic and community audiences on women’s health, aging, nutrition, and cancer. The co-editor of Integrative Women’s Health, the 2010 Oxford University Press textbook, she was named one of the world’s intelligent optimists in 2009. For more information, please visit

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (February 5, 2013)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451645477

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Raves and Reviews

“It's clear from the very first chapter of this power-packed guide on maximizing fertility that a hands-on clinician, brainy scientist, holistic thinker and compassionate, thoughtful woman is offering up the very latest and best that integrative medicine has to offer. Be Fruitful is an eminently readable, warm, encouraging, practical book bursting with a wealth of consequential information, backed up by clinical research and epidemiology. It is destined to become a well-worn, gratefully used reference book for anyone interested in fertility, whether professionally or personally.”
--Belleruth Naparstek, LISW, BCD, author of Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal; and creator of the Health Journeys Guided Imagery series.

Who knew that low fat milk might lower your fertility, while hypnosis could boost it? I found Dr. Maizes' well researched book to be a treasure trove of this kind of valuable, but rarely discussed, advice. Be Fruitful is the perfect read for anyone seeking a happy pregnancy and a healthy baby."

– Daphne Miller, MD, author of The Jungle Effect and Farmacology

"For some of us, the road to motherhood is strewn with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. In Be Fruitful, Dr. Victoria Maizes has given us a superb, well researched guide to help transform our obstacles into health and life-affirming opportunities."

– Julia Indichova, author of The Fertile Female: How the Power of Longing for a Child Can Save Your Life and Change the World

“Women interested in protecting and maximizing their fertility will find this book filled with up- to-date facts that are easy to put into practice. I will recommend this book to my women patients in their late teens and early twenties to help them maximize wellness and fertility years before they start trying to have children. This is a must have book in my integrative medicine medical reference library.”

– Roberta Lee, MD, author of The Super Stress Solution and Vice Chair, Department of Integrative Medicine Continuum for Health and Healing Beth Israel Medical Center

“Be Fruitful is a must read for any woman currently attempting or planning for a pregnancy. Dr. Maizes is a leading advocate for Woman’s Integrative and Preventative Healthcare and her book provides practical, proven strategies for improving the chances of becoming pregnant and as well as enjoying a successful pregnancy. The importance of pre-pregnancy planning cannot be overstated. As a Reproductive Endocrinologist, I see daily how the positive influence an integrative approach to healthcare can benefit patients. This is a book I will ask all of my patients to read.”

– Carmelo Sgarlata, MD, Reproductive Science Center of San Francisco and former President of the Bay Area Reproductive Endocrinologist Society

“A well-rounded approach to ensuring a successful pregnancy. Maizes provides a wealth of practical advice and a comprehensive self-assessment test covering contraception, nutrition, diet and exercise, environmental factors and spirituality. Solid and wide-ranging prenatal advice for women of all ages.”

– Kirkus Reviews

Clear, comprehensive, and compassionate, this is one of the most important books in maternal health to appear in recent years.”

– Larry Dossey, MD, author of Reinventing Medicine and The Power of Premonitions

"I cannot think of a more compassionate yet knowledgeable companion to accompany couples on their journey toward parenthood than Victoria Maizes. Her warm, friendly manner and her thoroughly integrative approach to fertility will give women and men the confidence and the practical advice they need to conceive with ease."

– Linda Sparrowe, editor-in-chief, Yoga International Magazine and author of The Woman's Book of Yoga & Health

"A hopeful and encouraging map mothers-to-be can follow to increase the liklihood of achieving optimum health before conception and beyond. This straightforward resource clearly explains the fertility benefits of combining the best of conventional and alternative methods."

– Publishers Weekly

"Whether you’re at the stage of dreaming about starting a family in the future or frantically weighing your hormone treatment options, you need to read Be Fruitful. This friendly but concise guide can steer you toward your own personal well-being sweet spot. [A] thorough and inspiring book [that] manages to be comprehensive without being overwhelming."

– Yoga Journal

“Many women dream of becoming pregnant, but few ever stop to think about the possibility of having trouble with it. While there are no guarantees, it makes sense to do everything possible to boost the chances of baby-making. Victoria Maizes’s Be Fruitful is just the guidebook to prepare you—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Maizes is that all-too-rare medical professional, a family physician trained in Western medicine who values the power of alternative medicine.”

– Alive Magazine

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