The New Year brings the possibility for anything to happen. It provides a fresh start to reaching those goals, and making those dreams come true. While many think ‘getting fit’ or ‘getting rich’ are the only New Year’s resolutions people make, for many couples, conceiving is the only thing on the table.
The process can be easy for some, yet extremely difficult for others. But regardless of where you stand, there are effective and efficient steps all couples need to take to boost their fertility, improve their chances of falling pregnant, and producing a happy and healthy baby.
1. Eat organically and seasonally
Especially during winter we crave carbohydrates and calorie-rich foods that can leave us feeling heavy, bloated and drained.
Instead, focus on eating organically and seasonally as this way you’ll know the produce is far less likely to have been influenced by hormones, pesticides, added preservatives, chemicals and additives that are rich in sugar.
Try and eat food in its cleanest most nutritious state possible, which means buying organic where you can and not over-processing or over-cooking the ingredients, and having a predominantly plant based diet of seasonal and colourful fruit and vegetables (remember, the darker the skin, the better the antioxidant value).
But this doesn’t mean depriving or starving yourself. You can take the recipes we all crave during any season, but create healthier versions that taste just as good.
2. If you still smoke, stop
You absolutely need to stop smoking as this can cause damage the lining of the womb, the eggs and sperm, but also adversely affect the health of your child, not to mention cause all sorts of complications in your pregnancy.
Minimise alcohol or ideally avoid it altogether, though having said that, a glass or two of wine is unlikely to cause any harm.
Cigarette smoke and alcohol can affect your hormone health, but also lead to developmental problems in the baby. They can also lower libido and cause damage to sperm. The liver is the main organ in the body responsible for processing toxins. If the liver is preoccupied or overburdened with processing alcohol or cigarette toxins, then it can’t do one of its other major jobs which is to clean up any substances or hormones made in the body that need to be deactivated, otherwise they themselves start to have harmful side effects on your fertility. It can also lead to excess oestrogen in the body and lowered levels of progesterone, the combination of which is not conducive to fertility.
3. Deal with stress (but not with caffeine)
Stress reduction and keeping caffeine (which is a stress activator) to a minimum or avoiding it altogether is really important.
Though there is no direct association between stress and impaired fertility, there is a wealth of literature showing too much stress activates the sympathetic or fight or flight response in the nervous system, leading to raised levels of the stress hormone cortisol and a permanent state of high alert.
This can then start to create an imbalance in your fertility hormones, which can affect the organs in your body, leading to high blood pressure, problems with sleep and lowered libido.
High stress levels can also lead us to make unhealthy lifestyle choices to help us cope with it, such as eating too much sugar for comfort, drinking alcohol, or smoking.
Meditation, yoga, mindfulness, being outdoors in nature, having a bath, or spending time with close friends can all help.
4. Take a good multivitamin
If you have been on a long term contraceptive – in particular the oral contraceptive pill or copper coil – be aware that they may cause deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals that your body requires for optimum fertility, which is even more reason to eat nutritiously and take a good multi vitamin supplement.
In addition, the oral contraceptive pill can cause imbalances in a range of different hormones that can take some time to regulate and return to their optimum state.
If you are looking towards pregnancy soon, try to consider alternative more natural means of contraception in the meantime and discuss with your doctor, such as natural cycle monitoring, which will also encourage you to understand your own body better and its pattern of behaviour.
Although you need a good multivitamin supplement a few months before you start to try, remember that this is not an alternative to a good diet – the two must go hand in hand.
For men, a supplement rich in antioxidants like vitamin C, E, selenium, zinc and garlic can support healthy sperm.
Women should look towards a vitamin supplement that delivers the required dose of folic acid, iodine and vitamin D and a range of other vitamins and minerals required for conception and a healthy pregnancy.
Omega 3 is also important for both men and women as it influences the development of the baby’s brain and IQ.
5. Have sex often
Have sex often and throughout your cycle – I often have to remind couple about this. Yes, the fertile window is important in terms of optimising chances of fertilisation and when the egg is exposed to the sperm, but the trouble is that people can become too stressed and focused on just this and sex can become a militaristic operation rather than a pleasure.
In fact, recent studies are suggesting that the conventional advice of abstaining for a few days in between is perhaps overcautious – actually sperm performance may improve with regular, even daily intercourse, so that no matter when ovulation occurs, there will be sperm available to fertilise the egg.
So be spontaneous and remember to enjoy sex – orgasms may be helpful in aiding fertilisation too.
6. Lower your toxic load
The average woman carries over 120 toxins each day, whether it comes from the products she uses on herself, to the air she inhales.
Be mindful of the toxic elements influencing our environment. From the water we drink, to the toxins found in cleaning products, to the makeup we put on our skin, to the plastic we use to cover our food in, they all contribute to our toxic load; the total amount of chemicals are bodies are exposed to.
Whether we absorb the toxins we’re exposed to via the gut or the skin, or in some cases inhale around the house, the combined surface area of these organs is massive, and whatever is absorbed can get into our blood stream and end up being harmful to the hormones that control fertility, as well as the eggs and sperm.
There are so many pollutants that we cannot avoid being exposed to when we step outside, but we need to be addressing the environment where we can, include that inside our homes, and what we put into and on to our bodies.
Some recent studies have also shown toxins could influence sperm DNA that can be passed on to offspring and lead to obesity and other health issues in the child.
7. Seek loving rituals
Make having a mug of tea or a warming drink, like the hangover cure, an occasion to look forward to, as you relax in front of the TV or sit in bed reading a book
Herbal teas are rich in polyphenols that your gut bacteria love and green tea has an amino acid called L-theanine that can help to reduce stress and anxiety.
Also, make bath time a ritual before bed time using natural aromatherapy oils and Himalayan or magnesium salts; on a regular basis, these can help your body to detox.
In addition, be mindful of hard water that epidemiological studies are showing may impact a range of health conditions, including reproductive and cardiovascular health. Investing in an effective water softener would be wise.
Also consider investing in some colour therapy to help lift your mood. This could be anything from buying warm coloured mugs to drink from, to cosy throws and glowing lamps that introduce more light into a living space to help lift the atmosphere.
Dr Larisa Corda is an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and Consultant in Reproductive Medicine. Her new website drlarisacorda.com is launching in January and will focus on healthy, clean and natural lifestyle approaches to boost fertility and pregnancy. You can get in contact with her by following her on Twitter at @DrLarisaTV, and on Instagram at @drlarisacorda
This is an edited version of an original article that appeared on Healthista and is republished here with permission.
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