As a naturopath, I see a lot of women and their partners looking for a quick and easy way to enhance and better their chances for fertility. Unfortunately, the bad news is there’s no ‘quick fix’. But the good news? There are a number of ways to increase your chances of falling pregnant.
It’s important to understand that every single aspect of the body is connected, and oftentimes in the most unexpected of ways. From our diets and the stress we feel at work, to the environment we live our day to day lives in, every part of our lifestyle has a fundamental effect on our wellbeing.
But with so much confusing or conflicting information in the health industry today, how can you be sure you’re doing the right thing, especially when it comes to preparing your body for pregnancy?
Let me show you five ways you can enhance your fertility and overall wellbeing by making a few simple changes to your diet and lifestyle:
#1 Follow an anti-inflammatory diet
Fresh, whole, unprocessed and chemical free foods are essential to maintaining your overall health, these whole foods are also considered anti-inflammatory by providing you with the vitamins and minerals you need to keep your body in balance. And when it comes to reproductive health, there are certain nutrients that can have a much more beneficial impact on your fertility than others:
Studies have shown that iron supplementation and dietary iron can reduce the risk of ovulatory infertility.
Iron is also vital for healthy oxygen carrying capacity of red blood cells and aids in energy production.
Source: Red meat, sesame seeds, molasses and quinoa
Zinc deficiency has been shown to affect egg viability, and is a critical component in male sperm quality and motility. This amazing vitamin also plays a role in oocyte division, fertilisation, DNA regulation and embryo development.
Source: Eggs, nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables, legumes.
Essential Fatty Acids
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a particular component of omega 3 essential fatty acids that’s vital for both brain and eye development in your baby. In fact, a mother is the sole source of DHA for her unborn child, so if she’s deficient, her baby will be too. It has also been shown that supplementation of essential fatty acids leading up to and during pregnancy are associated with a 58% decrease in preterm birth, as well as reducing the risk of postnatal depression for the mother.
Source: Oily fish including salmon and mackerel.
Getting enough fresh greens has never been more important, as they work to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, support healthy progesterone levels, and reduce the risk of irregular ovulation in the lead up to pregnancy.
Source: Leafy green vegetables, eggs, asparagus, and legumes
#2 Ditch the plastic
We’re all aware that plastic has a detrimental effect on our environment, but not many people know just how big of an impact it can have on your fertility. Chemicals in plastic have been shown to mimic or block sex hormones including oestrogen, causing changes in overall hormone balance, decreased egg and sperm quality, increased risk of miscarriage and even early onset menopause.
While plastic is almost unavoidable in today’s society, I suggest you avoid drinking out of plastic or storing and reheating food in plastic when trying for a baby, as both release their nasty chemicals into what you’re ingesting.
#3 Reduce stress
In a perfect world, our nervous system would be constantly in balance between its two halves – the sympathetic (SNS), and the parasympathetic nervous systems (PNS). Your PNS controls your “rest and digest” functions, including reproduction. The SNS, which controls your “fight or flight” response, was once only necessary to avoid predators but now comes out swinging every time we receive an email or approach a deadline.
When we’re stressed, our SNS is dominant and our PNS reduces its function, including the reproductive system. Why? Because your body believes that it’s quite literally too ‘dangerous’ to reproduce.
I’m not saying you have to be zen all day, every day. But if you find an activity that helps you destress or you take some time to slow down, you can allow your body to naturally ebb and flow between the two nervous systems, to ensure the internal balance you need to prepare yourself for reproduction.
#4 Know your cycle
While all women spend the better part of their life riding the crimson wave, many choose not to listen to their body and truly hear what it’s trying to tell them throughout the menstrual cycle. I recommend trying one of the many apps and tools now available that allow you to monitor key fertility indicators, such as ovulation and basal body temperature, to keep a much closer eye on your fertile window.
#5 Naturopathic medicine
Preconception care is as individual a journey as pregnancy and motherhood, which means that any nutritional or herbal hormonal support will be dependent on your individual needs. However, they can act as powerful supplements, and amongst them are a few common herbs that can support balancing hormones in the lead up to pregnancy:
Supports the healthy balance of oestrogen and progesterone where there is an imbalance.
Strengthens the endocrine system, improves female libido, and supports regular ovulation in women with anovulation or irregular periods
Its important to note, herbs should always be used only under the guidance of a qualified naturopath or herbalist as per your needs prior to pregnancy. It goes without saying that if your even considering trying for a baby you should choose a good quality prenatal multivitamin and prenatal DHA to ensure your covering your basis.
By taking a holistic approach to the improvement of your nutrition and lifestyle in the lead up to conception, you truly have the opportunity to take your fertility, birth outcome, and infant health into your own hands. I believe it should be a conscious part of every woman’s journey towards growing her family and looking after her overall health and wellbeing.