Whether you’re looking to improve your chances of getting pregnant naturally, or need some help with treatment you may be having for fertility, here are my top tips for boosting your chances of conceiving:
Eating and exercise
Eat well with a focus on eating organically and seasonally. This way you’ll know the produce is far less likely to have been influenced by hormones, pesticides, added preservatives, chemicals and additives. Have a majority plant based diet and be strict about what you’re putting inside of yourself. Your diet influences not just your health, but the health of your baby through the process of epigenetics. What you put into your body is already having an impact on another human’s health and wellbeing!
Exercise will help boost the circulation to your reproductive organs and will also help you to maintain a healthy body and mind. Exercise can also help to reduce stress, but too much or being over vigorous can do the opposite, so be mindful and aim for what is realistic and achievable for you. Keeping your weight within the normal range is vital for fertility and helps to reduce the chance of miscarriage.
Stress and sleep
Reducing stress and keeping caffeine (which is a stress activator) to a minimum or avoiding it altogether is really important. Infertility can be the most stressful situation you ever face in life. Though there is not as yet proven association between stress and infertility, there is a wealth of literature to point to the problem of too much stress and activation of the sympathetic or fight or flight response, leading to raised cortisol levels and a permanent state of high alert. This can then start to create an imbalance in your fertility hormones and also lead to problems with sleep and lowered libido. This in turn can make us resort to unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as eating too much sugar, drinking alcohol, or smoking – all can reduce the chance of getting pregnant.
Meditation, yoga, mindfulness, being outdoors in nature, having a bath, spending time with close friends, or a hobby can all help reduce stress, as can acupuncture, reflexology, hypnotherapy and reiki.
Sleeping well. Ensure your bedroom becomes a sanctuary that is conducive to sleep. It’s important to get enough rest to support your physical, mental and emotional health. This means clearing out the clutter, not using any electrical devices such as TVs and mobile phones before bed time, and ensuring the room is dark enough to allow you to get the crucial 7-8 hours sleep a night that most of us need to be able to function well.
Sleep not only helps to combat stress, and improve libido. It’s vital to processing unnecessary and harmful substances in the body that are made each day, and helps with weight loss and boosting immunity.
Obsessing about the fertile window
Have sex often and throughout your cycle. Most people become too obsessed with the fertile window and sex can become a militaristic operation rather than a pleasure! As long as you’re having sex several times a week, there will be sperm available to fertilise the egg, as sperm can survive in the reproductive tract for several days. Recent studies are suggest that the conventional advice of abstaining for a few days in between is perhaps overcautious and that sperm quality may actually improve with more regular sex.
Get yourself on a good multivitamin supplement a few months before you start to try, but remember that this is not an alternative to a good diet.
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 folate, 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.
You absolutely need to stop smoking (even e-cigarettes, though the evidence for this is not yet uncovered) as this can cause damage to the lining of the womb, the eggs and sperm. Smoking will also adversely affect the health of your child, and cause all sorts of complications in your pregnancy. You also need to minimise alcohol or ideally avoid it altogether.
Be mindful of the toxic elements influencing our environment, from the water we drink, to the toxins found in cleaning products, to the make up we put on our skin, to the plastic we use to cover our food in. The toxins we absorb can end up being harmful to our hormones that control fertility, as well as the eggs and sperm.
There are so many pollutants we cannot avoid being exposed to when we step outside, so we need to focus on the environment we create inside our homes, and our bodies. Always try and use products in their most natural state, especially as recent studies show toxins influencing sperm DNA which can be passed on to offspring, linking to obesity and other health issues in the child.
Dr Larisa Corda is an obstetrician and gynaecologist and is one of the UK’s leading Fertility experts.