We're all aware of modern-day fertility treatments, like artificial insemination and hormones, but are there less advanced ways to trigger ovulation and/or otherwise boost fertility? What methods might a medieval-level society use that actually work in making women more fertile?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I've never heard of a population of which the development was limited by the fertility of women. Can you give an example of a medieval society which suffered of having too few children? Which is to say, what problem are you really trying to solve? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 0:56
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking more of a scenario when a women, especially a wealthy one if the method was expensive, was having trouble conceiving, not a society-wide thing. $\endgroup$
    – Preg-Fan
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ How is this about building a fictional world? Depending on how you read this it's about either our modern understanding of medicinal herbs, or how "medicine" was practiced in the middle ages. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 14:02
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings How is this different from all our other how could I do X in the middle ages questions? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Bellerophon "Could you build a space laser in the middle ages?" is asking about the possibility of a space laser in an alternate middle ages. This question isn't asking about an alternative middle ages but about the middle ages as they were. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 14:39

3 Answers 3


Lots of plants were believed to assist with this and other issues. Some have been found to actually increase the requisite hormones or other things that are needed. Here is a link to some modern ideas, but more primitive outfits may have had others learnt through trial and error.

Fertility Herbs

My own society utilised (still does) several plants for many things which in the absence of scientific study are still pretty convincing in practice. As a personal example my daughter just recovered from dengue fever which is a very painful and sometimes dangerous disease spread by mosquito's. The hospital provided painkillers to alleviate the symptoms which didn't do much, but an infusion made from a native recipe took away all symptoms within a day.

We also have recipes that abort a fetus and others for fertility, but I have no personal experience with them. Most stuff is absolute crap and charlatans abound, and we jail people for witchcraft, but there are families of specialists who have a knowledge of native medicine that goes back hundreds of years and seems to work.


If you want to go the HCG way...

Human chorionic gonadotropin interacts with the LHCG receptor of the ovary and promotes the maintenance of the corpus luteum during the beginning of pregnancy. This allows the corpus luteum to secrete the hormone progesterone during the first trimester. Progesterone enriches the uterus with a thick lining of blood vessels and capillaries so that it can sustain the growing fetus


Naturally, it is produced in the human placenta by the syncytiotrophoblast. Like other gonadotropins, it can be extracted from the urine of pregnant women or produced from cultures of genetically modified cells using recombinant DNA technology.

Just drink it without distillation.

  1. Lots of sex. Of course it increases your odds. But maybe aside from the sperm being around sex changes the situation in other ways?


“It’s a common recommendation that partners trying to have a baby should engage in regular intercourse to increase the woman’s changes of getting pregnant—even during so-called ‘non-fertile’ periods—although it’s unclear how this works,” says Tierney Lorenz, a visiting research scientist at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University. “This research is the first to show that the sexual activity may cause the body to promote types of immunity that support conception.

I am suspicious that the lots of sex might not need to be with the eventual father, or even with a man. But if it is some sort of social mid / body thing you probably would need a partner.

2. Spend the night with the Rude Man.

rude man of cerne

An anatomically correct, club-wielding chalk figure carved into the hillside near a village in Dorset, the "Cerne Abbas Giant" (also known as the "Rude Man of Cerne") has become a figure of local folklore, and legend has it that women who want to get pregnant will find their wishes fulfilled after spending the night sleeping atop the figure. Curiously, figures from the UK's Office of National Statistics show that local women are significantly more fertile than average—they have twice the number of babies as Britons nationwide. http://mentalfloss.com/article/64179/8-unusual-places-people-visit-when-hoping-conceive

L.Dutch don't you own a club like that? In any case, in this category falls supplication for divine intervention of all sorts: fertility gods, goddesses, saints, and so on,

3. Crawl through the magic stone.

Men-an-tol stones

These standing stones in Cornwall, which may date to the Bronze Age, look like they spell out "101." They've given rise to a variety of legends: changeling babies passed through the "O" will revert to human form, children with rickets will be cured, and a woman who passes through the stone seven times on a full moon will become pregnant.


Not exactly the same as the deities - this is more animist. Items have fertility power. There are loads of magic phalluses all over the world that serve this role. Not sure how to categorize statues but there are statues that supposedly have pro-conception power also.

4. Supernatural dad shows up. Genesis 19: 9-14, Genesis 21:2-3

9And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. 10And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. 11Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? 13And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? 14Is any thing too hard for the LORD? 1And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken. 2For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.

Swapping out one or the other partner is a time tested way to get a baby, and in fact one used by the aforementioned Sarah who sent her handmaid to have babies with Abramam when Sarah could not get pregnant. If your intended mother is 99 years old it helps to have the new partner be the LORD.

5. Weight loss.. For medievals, you can't go wrong with Aristotle. And Aristotle noted that being fat tended to impair fertility.


Some have much semen, others little, others again none at all, not through weakness but the contrary, at any rate in some cases. This is because the nutriment is used up to form the body, as with some human beings, who, being in good condition and developing much flesh or getting rather too fat, produce less semen and are less desirous of intercourse. Like this is what happens with those vines which ‘play the goat’, that is, luxuriate wantonly through too much nutrition, for he-goats when fat are less inclined to mount the female; for which reason they thin them before breeding from them, and say that the vines ‘play the goat’, so calling it from the condition of the goats. And fat people, women as well as men, appear to be less fertile than others from the fact that the secretion when in process of concoction turns to fat with those who are too well-nourished.

The view that obesity opposed fertility was later echoed by various medieval physicians. It is actually a pretty good idea. Certainly estrogen excess from adiposity can compromise fertility especially in women.

6. Potions. There are any number of wild potions containing animal elements or vegetable elements thought to promote fertility.


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