A Natural approach to Fertility Boost
Some statistics before we start…
- Infertility problems affect 1 in 6-7 couples in UK & Ireland
- 20-35% of infertility cases are due to the female & 20-30% due to the male (this means we always have to look at both partners once a difficulty to get pregnant is known).
Sperm, egg, fertility and health of the foetus can be influenced by parents’ age, nutritional status, certain infections & chronic conditions (e.g. thyroid, diabetes, obesity, PCOs, etc), chronic stress, toxic chemicals from air, water, food, cosmetics – e.g. heavy metals, plastics (e.g. BPA, BPS) & dioxins, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, beauty product ingredients, alcohol, smoking; drugs (prescription as oral contraceptive, OTC, recreational), among others.
Many couples with fertility issues seek medical treatment (IVF, etc) as their first option, without first exploring the effectiveness, low cost and safety of natural solutions: nutrition, complementary therapies, herbalism, etc. Let’s look at these in the next chapters.
You are what you eat, the right nutrition increases the chances of conception and a healthy pregnancy, it also lowers the risk of birth defects like spina bifida, a condition in which the spinal code does not develop properly. Female eggs have a 120 day lifecycle so it’s important to ensure that you are eating well and optimising your nutrients for at least 4 months before you want to conceive. For men, sperm have a 90 day lifecycle so we need them to eat well for the 3 months before conceiving. Remember that folate is key for fertility, so not only do you need to eat your leafy greens, but you will most likely need to supplement as well (particularly if you have the MTHFR gene mutation).
The following vitamins and nutrients are linked to improved fertility, include these food items into your diet right away to get the best results.
Folate is a B-complex vitamin that helps create red blood cells during pregnancy, which provides the ultimate conditions for an embryo to take hold. It is important to prevent neural tube defects and midline disorders like spina bifida. The reason we need a 4 month preconception period is that the neural tube closes about Day 21 of the fetus’ life and this is a time that most women don’t even know they are pregnant yet.
Food rich in Folate: Eggs, leafy greens, citrus fruits, broccoli, papaya, bananas, avocado.
Calcium & Vitamin D
99% of the calcium you consume goes to your teeth and bones and it’s important to stock up calcium for the baby’s bones and teeth. When there is a deficiency the fetus can draw calcium from the mother’s bones, which leads to a higher risk of osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become weak and brittle. 1,000 milligrams of calcium intake everyday is important before and during pregnancy. Adequate vitamin D has been shown to improve fertility rates, improve mood and absorb calcium.
Foods rich in Calcium: Milk, yogurt, cheese, almonds, dark leafy greens, figs, chia seeds. Foods rich in Vit. D: eggs, dairy, sardines, salmon, mackerel, liver, fortified foods.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids aids in fertility in both men and women. They improve the sperm morphology and motility in men. In women a continuous intake of omega-3 prolonged the reproductive lifespan and even a short-term intake, improved the egg quality.
Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids: Walnuts, soybeans, salmon, chia seeds, canola oil, sardines, flaxseeds, mackerel.
Deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause infertility, in men it can lead to lower sperm count, DNA damage in sperm cells, premature ejaculation. In women it makes it difficult to conceive, abnormal ovulation, impaired development of egg.
Foods rich in Vitamin B12: Milk, beef liver, salmon, sirloin beef, molluscs, yoghurt, eggs, chicken, tuna.
For more on nutrition tips: including Zinc, vitamin E, CoQ10, Selenium, Iron and other compounds/superfoods that may be beneficial to increase fertility (still further studies need to be done) I recommend watching the following video – is worthwhile watching for it´s quite descriptive and includes most foods I would be advising (to include and to avoid) plus lifestyle tips!
It’s not just what you eat but also what you don’t. There are some food items that you have to reduce or remove from your diet for a healthy pregnancy. Foods to avoid: High-mercury fish, soda, chips, fried food, processed foods, rice & white pasta, low-fat dairy, raw animal products, deli meat, excessive caffeine.
Home and personal hygiene products: check this list of toxic ingredients to avoid (special attention to the ones highlighted as endocrine disruptors).
Plus, check EWGs (https://www.ewg.org/) website for recommended products and brands; download the app if it helps!
For a personalised guide on what to include and avoid (and how), i reccomend talking to specialist (swap uncertainty and fear for support, look for options)
Weight under control: If you are overweight, and trying to conceive, you need to get your weight under control. Being overweight is associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and can create an imbalance in your hormones, which will impair your ability to ovulate. Being underweight also impacts your fertility. Weighing in under the normal BMI classification can interfere with your menstrual cycle, stopping ovulation. Maintaining a healthy weight also helps you to support a pregnancy.
Exercise: One of the most debated subjects revolving around the ability to become pregnant is exercise. While you may feel tremendously fragile at this time, we can assure you exercise won’t harm you. In fact, the right amount of exercise, and the type of exercise you perform, may actually enhance your fertility and improve your quest to conceive.
Keeping active while trying to become pregnant helps you in so many ways. Regular aerobic exercise-those activities that increase your heart rate and get your blood pumping-is essential to a healthy cardiovascular system.
Replace your strenuous exercise with one of these recommended workouts:
Walking is always a safe way to get your exercise. It’s excellent for your cardiovascular system, builds endurance, is low-impact, and a great stress-buster.
Dancing helps you bust a move and improve blood flow. Bicycling for 30 minutes few times a week is a wonderful way to get your workout in. Just make sure you’re safe.
Yoga can be a phenomenal way to limber up (great for delivering a baby!) and relax. A yoga body is strong and sleek, and yoga can definitely help you deal with the stress of infertility. Whether you practice yoga at home, or work out in a studio, don’t push your body too far. Start with this for example: Yoga for fertility
Pilates is another beneficial way to stay healthy and improve your fertility. Pilates is relaxing, while still offering a challenge.
Swimming for exercise is one if the best ways to work out. You can get a thorough cardio workout without putting too much stress on your joints.
Always listen to your body and stay hydrated! I knew something was different in me when I decided to get pregnant – my body didn’t want to run anymore the old 10k! HIIT was becoming more like an obligation, instead of a my so wanted workout routine…walking & pilates became my thing, just naturally. It´s like your body tells you to slow down on order to realign for a bigger purpose.
Mindfulness. It’s common to feel anxious, depressed, isolated, or out of control when you´re struggling to get pregnant; studies have shown that a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR) for Fertility can help decrease your emotional distress. Well, if you can´t join the program you can always try mindfulness at home – check my post and tips on how to meditate and live in a more mindful way.
Herbalism. Herbal allies & tonic herbs for fertility as ginseng, vitex, licorice, red clover and dong quai (have significant amounts of phytoestrogen), Garlic, elderberry, raspberry leaf and green tea to strengthen the immune system and tissues, nettle and dandelion leaf, alfalfa herb and flax seed as nutritious herbs to include in your menus to get more trace minerals into your diets.
ALWAYS, remember to speak with your physician or a specialised herbalist before taking any of the above.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese Medicine used to manage a variety of conditions. When used as a treatment for infertility, proponents of acupuncture say it can help by: boosting blood flow to reproductive organs, balancing hormones and relieving stress. Well, I believe these reported benefits justify if you want to try acupuncture (even if we still don´t have enough scientific research to support these there are plenty of anecdotal reports praising this treatment); my advice as therapist is to look for a licensed and board-certified Acupuncturist (ask for credentials).
Mark your fertile days and give it a go!
Without putting to much pressure on you (or your partner). Take things easy, as much as you can, that´s the best advice I can give you right now. Naturally, you´ll find your way.