Well, after spending the best part of your sexually active years probably trying not to get pregnant, you may be surprised once you start trying for a baby that it doesn't just happen straight away; in fact, for some people it can take months and even years before they successfully conceive. For others, IVF treatment has become their only hope, and in this short blog we will explore some of the common lifestyles factors underlying infertility and key nutritional changes that can help to redress imbalances and promote optimal fertility for both the man and woman.
Firstly, there are many underlying causes of fertility, and I would always suggest seeing your GP if you have been trying for a baby, unsuccessfully, for more than a year. There are a number of tests that your GP can run which will help to determine what the problem might be. Tests for the woman might include a blood test to check levels of estrogen and progesterone, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). Women may also be offered a scan to check the health of the ovaries, fallopian tubes and womb. Men may be offered a sperm analysis which will check sperm count and motility. Both partners will be asked about lifestyle factors, including whether they smoke cigarettes or marijuana, how much alcohol they drink and how much stress they are currently under. You may also be asked about the possibility of having a sexually transmitted disease and will be offered a test if appropriate.
Once you are armed with your test results, you will have a much better idea about where and what the problem might be and can then start looking into options for supporting yourselves. Some of the most common causes for a man and woman having difficulties conceiving can be addressed through diet and lifestyle alone, and these will be discussed here.
Sex hormones are produced in the ovaries and the testes. They are also produced in the adrenal glands. Guess what else is produced in the adrenal glands? That's right, your stress hormones; adrenaline and cortisol. Your body will always prioritise stress hormones over sex hormones because we are programmed to prevent conception when our bodies perceive that we are in danger or in 'flight or fight' mode, i.e. when we are stressed. The precursor for both of these hormones (pregnenolone) will in effect 'steal' progesterone (an important sex hormone for fertility) to create cortisol (stress hormone) instead. This, alongside other key metabolic changes off-set by stress can cause disruption to hormones and significantly decrease chances of conception.
It is therefore really important to address stress in your life if you have been trying to conceive. Unfortunately, not being able to get pregnant causes stress all by itself, so it's really important to consider all sources of stress and try to reduce it where you can. This includes stress caused by high intensity exercise, work stress, friends and relationships and all external and internal pressures. Try meditation, yoga, swapping heavy exercise for light walking and/or swimming, practice saying 'no' to things and really focus on nourishing your mind. Sleep is really important too so practice good 'sleep hygiene' and stop to think about work/life balance during this time of your life.
In order for you to be able to conceive, your hormones need to be in balance. Unfortunately diet and lifestyle can play havoc with your hormones and lead to imbalances that can be responsible for many underlying reasons for infertility. Achieving hormone balance is crucial and the first step towards this is ensuring that hormones are being produced optimally and that waste hormones are being removed efficiently.
Waste and excess hormones are excreted by the liver so the health of the liver is vital for good hormone health. Before even starting for a baby (or if you have already been trying without success), we recommend a 'cleanse' to bring your body into optimum health before actively trying for a baby. A 'cleanse' would work to detoxify the body, bring hormones back into balance and prepare the uterus for a healthy embryo. A fertility cleanse involves the use of specific herbs and should be done under the supervision of a qualified Nutritional Therapist, however, key nutritional factors to consider both before and during pregnancy are as follows:
Choose organic wherever possible:
Avoid refined sugars and processed foods:
Essential Fatty Acids:
Chemical exposure to xenoestrogens:
You are probably taking a pre-conception multi vitamin if you are trying to get pregnant, but remember that food is just as important to ensure your body is getting all of the key nutrients required:
So, lots of things to consider and to try to incorporate into your daily routines and nutrient intakes. As always, we highly recommend seeing a qualified and experienced Nutritional Therapist to guide you through your own concerns and to put a personalised plan in place for successful fertility and right the way through pregnancy, birth and beyond.
We recommend a tailored one-to-one Nutritional Therapy Consultation, to tailor a treatment programme to your exact needs.
Jackie Coldwell is co-Director of Therapy Organics, and leads the Nutrtional Therapy Team.See more Articles by Jackie
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