6 TIPS TO BOOST FERTILITY NATURALLY
Updated: Oct 20, 2021
A growing body of research highlights just how vital preconception care is on child and maternal health outcomes. Studies have shown that the health of mothers and fathers before pregnancy affects the health of the future pregnancy and baby. Therefore, just as an athlete would train to run a marathon, mums need to be giving themselves the time to prepare their minds and bodies ahead of pregnancy. So, wherever you are on your fertility journey, here are a few things to consider to support your overall health and increase the chances of a natural conception and successful pregnancy.
When it comes to fertility, adequate nutrition is a must! Generally, I feel clients have an understanding of diet, but not so much nutrition. When we talk about nutrition, we are talking about consuming foods and nutrients necessary for health and growth versus diet, which is the foods that people habitually eat. Some of the important things to consider with nutrition for fertility include:
High fibre intake from whole foods
Good quality protein at every meal (prioritising plant proteins such as chickpeas, pulses and beans)
Healthy fats from essential oils found in seeds, nuts and avocados
A diet rich in vegetables and fruits (variety is key here)
Say no to processed sugars and processed foods
Go organic where possible
Limit alcohol and caffeine
6-8 glasses (8oz) daily
A diet factoring in all of the above will naturally balance blood sugar levels. Blood sugar management is essential for fertility because imbalanced blood sugar levels interfere with hormones (as well as many other processes in the body), and hormone imbalances can interfere with fertility. In addition, poorly managed blood sugar balance can make you have energy crashes which also contribute to poor food choices - you can see how it becomes a bit of a vicious cycle!
Exercise comes in many shapes and forms, and what works for one client won’t always work with another. Whatever your vibe, the most important thing is that you move! We have become a sedentary nation compared to the generations before us. This comes hand-in-hand with poor work-life balance and many people finding it difficult to find the time to exercise, ultimately finding time for themselves. Being a mother myself, I can honestly say that getting a good routine preconception will hold you in good stead during your pregnancy and out the other end. It is a lot easier to slip back into your workout routine postpartum when you know what makes you tick!
So, why is exercise so important. Firstly, exercise is essential for blood sugar balance which is necessary for hormone balance, as I mentioned earlier. Secondly, regular movement helps shape a positive mindset which is important when making healthier food choices. Finally, if you need to balance your weight, then obviously exercise is great for that too. So, whether it be walking, running, swimming, cycling or cardio, finding 30 minutes in your day is not only beneficial for your reproductive health but your physical and mental health too.
Stress in small amounts can be beneficial to general health as it can make us perform better. However, consistent chronic stress activates the sympathetic nervous system or our "fight or flight" mode, leading to increased cortisol levels, putting the body into a constant state of panic. The 'fight-or-flight response' is a survival tool. It describes the instinctive physiological responses that all humans and most mammals experience when faced with a threatening situation such as running away from a tiger. The problem is that we are faced with these types of threatening situations daily, whether that be running to catch the bus, missing a work deadline, poor work-life balance, and of course, those more major life events such as losing a loved one. This prolonged release of cortisol can negatively impact many areas of health, such as blood pressure, gastrointestinal health, and hormonal health and fertility.
Stress can interfere with the menstrual cycle by disrupting the communication pathways between your brain and ovaries. As a result, you may experience late or absent periods in moments of high stress. In addition, immune system alterations, hormonal imbalances and restricted blood flow to reproductive organs due to stress can also impact fertility. Then there is the obvious that having sex is the last thing you may be thinking about when you are stressed!
Sadly, stress isn't going anywhere, so finding ways to manage stress and anxiety is essential. Some of the most effective strategies include diet, supplementation, regular exercise, yoga and breathwork. In addition, simply acknowledging you are stressed and seeking help from a friend or family can reduce the impact the stressor is having on the body. Adequate nutrition is vital for stress management, too, as the body has a greater need for specific nutrients when under stress. These include magnesium, B6, zinc, B5, and vitamin C. Taking a good multivitamin with these nutrients will help the body respond to stress.
We live in a world where lack of sleep is rewarded, whether that be in or outside of the workplace. The reality is, we need sleep, it is essential for our wellbeing and for our survival. Although there is still a lot to unravel about the mysteries of sleep, studies demonstrate the complexities of sleep and how it affects pretty much all systems in the body. This includes the regulation of hormones which is required for fertility.
The negative impact of sleep deprivation on fertility has been shown in studies carried out on female shift workers where adverse reproductive health outcomes were observed such as menstrual irregularities, dysmenorrhea, increased time to, and reduced rates for, conception, increased miscarriages and lower birth weights. Poor sleep affects Follicle Stimulating Hormone which is important for both sperm production and egg maturation. A study found that follicle-stimulating hormone levels were 20% higher in long-time sleepers (those getting eight hours of sleep or more) than short-time sleepers (those getting less than eight hours of sleep).
So you can see that sleep quality and quantity matter, and good sleep hygiene is an important consideration when prepping for a baby, as well as throughout pregnancy. When we talk about "sleep hygiene" we are referring to the sleeping habits that surround your bedtime routine. What does healthy sleep hygiene look like?
Create a healthy sleep environment - no screens, ideally no technology in the bedroom.
Turn off your mobile 1 hour before you go to bed.
Get the right room temperature - ideally, this would be between 18-21 degrees Celcius.
Take regular exercise during the day.
Avoid eating late, ideally, you would allow 3 hours between supper and sleep.
What you eat at supper matters! Avoid large meals, processed and refined foods.
Avoid caffeine after 12 pm as it has a half-life of 6 hours.
Maintain a regular sleep/wake routine
Our bodies are being bombarded daily by environmental toxins that can play havoc on our hormonal health. These are often known as Xenoestrogen. Their molecular shape is very like human oestrogen and can therefore mimic its effects in the body, binding to estrogen receptors and disrupting the edocrine system. The most common ones include Bisphenol-A (BPA), Dioxins, Atrazine, Phthalates, Perchlorate, Fire retardants, Lead, Arsenic, Mercury, Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) and Glycol Ethers (EWG, 2013).
These include toxins and pollutants that are in the kitchen utensils we use, the products we put on our bodies, make-up, what we store and cook our food in, cleaning products, candles, home materials, tap water, not to mention prescription medicines, recreational drugs and radiation. They are literally everywhere, and minimising exposure to as many of these is necessary for fertility and long-term health.
Simple swaps include:
Choosing organic food where possible. The environmental working group have their Dirty Dozen resource, which can be really helpful when trying to prioritise the most important vegetables to buy organic. Dairy and meat are a must, and grains, where possible, can have the highest pesticide contamination.
Avoid using tin foil and cling film, replacing them with parchment paper or Beeswax wraps.
Storing food in glass rather than plastics - reusing old glass jars for food storage is a great alternative.
Choosing eco-friendly cleaning products like Ecover or Method.
Choosing beauty and skin products that are free from parabens and other harmful endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Naturisimo is an excellent place to find clean beauty products.
It is worth noting here that smoking and alcohol should be avoided when trying for a baby and throughout pregnancy due to their harmful effects on egg and sperm quality and quantity. Men and women who smoke are more likely to have fertility problems and take longer to conceive than non-smokers.
If you know you will start trying for a baby, I recommend you purchase a good quality prenatal supplement, and the earlier, the better. This is not a food replacement by any means. This is to ensure you are meeting your Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI) of vital nutrients like folate (B9), which reduces the risk of neural defects by 70% if they are taken daily in the months before conception.
Nutrients to consider for women are folate, iodine, vitamin D, zinc, alongside other vitamins and minerals. Men want to boost their antioxidant levels, taking a supplement rich in vitamin C, E, selenium, zinc, and other vitamins and minerals necessary for conception. Both partners want to include omega 3 rich foods or a good quality omega supplement.
About 40 per cent of infertility is due to male factors, 40 per cent due to female factors, and 20 per cent from complications affecting both partners (World Health Organisation, 2013). This shows just how important it is for both partners to be making positive dietary and lifestyle changes ahead of trying for a baby.
If you or your partner are struggling to conceive, or just need help with implementing these changes, book in your free 30-minute consultation to find out how we could work together to support your fertility journey.