Preparing for parenthood

Tracy Tredoux offers some tips for good nutrition and lifestyle choices to help increase your chances of falling pregnant

If you are currently trying to fall pregnant, you may already be aware that one out of seven couples today has trouble conceiving. However, it is important to know that, for most couples, infertility is usually a temporary condition, caused by excessive toxin accumulation and/or nutritional deficiencies. IVF should never be a first option for treating infertility. Natural infertility treatments are not only generally more effective, safer, less invasive and cheaper, but often offer better health outcomes in the long run for both mother and baby. More and more research is identifying modifiable risk factors that may impact fertility. Here are some top tips for helping to optimise your chances of conceiving.

Try this!

Regular exercise can have a profound effect on reducing sugar cravings, balancing hormones, managing PCOS and otherwise improving fertility.

Stress
Most people are unaware of the extent to which chronic, ongoing stress adversely impacts health, including fertility health. The reason is quite simple. Stress is the body’s survival response, often referred to as ‘fight or flight’ mode. The hormones involved with this response – cortisol and adrenalin – take precedence over all other hormones. Pregnenolone is the precursor to the stress hormones and to the sex hormones. If your body is making stress hormones all day every day, there will not be enough pregnenolone to make the hormones necessary to fall pregnant. This is often the reason couples succeed in conceiving after a relaxing holiday during which hormonal balance is restored. Stress affects both male and female fertility. Stress management is as important as healthy diet and regular exercise. Simple breathing techniques, which can be done anytime, anywhere, have a profound effect on the stress response. Meditation, even 10 minutes a day, can make a difference. Meditation apps such as Headspace, Calm and Buddify, can help you get started.

Did you know?

Acupuncture is becoming more and more popular to treat infertility. Studies are showing that acupuncture offers an opportunity to promote natural fertility. In fact, an article in The Guardian newspaper, as long ago as February 2008, stated that a review of the evidence concluded acupuncture can increase the chances of getting pregnant for women undergoing fertility treatment by 65 per cent.

Nutrition
Good nutrition is essential. Focus on whole, natural, organic, unprocessed foods that are high in nutritional value. When you are not getting enough nutrients from your food, your body has in-built mechanisms to prevent you from falling pregnant.

  • Healthy fats: The number one macronutrient for boosting fertility is fat. If you don’t have enough healthy fat, your body goes into self-preservation mode and you are much less likely to fall pregnant. Fat is also one of the primary elements of our sex hormones. Foods to include in your diet that are rich in healthy fats include butter, cheese, full-fat yogurt, eggs, ghee, coconut oil, olive oil and fatty fish. When trying to fall pregnant be aware of the high levels of mercury in a lot of fish. Choose small fish like sardines and anchovies and be aware that farmed salmon has become one of the most toxic foods on the planet.
  • Sugar, refined carbs and trans fats: One of the leading causes of infertility is PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). This is caused by insulin resistance, which is caused by eating too many refined carbs, sugar and trans-fats. Insulin resistance causes the conversion of oestrogen to testosterone, thereby shutting down ovulation. Simply cutting trans-fats and high-sugar foods from your diet can go a long way to reversing these issues. Foods high in trans-fats include fried fast foods, processed foods, margarine, biscuits, crackers, doughnuts, cakes, pies and frozen pizza.

From a nutritional standpoint, a high-fat, low-sugar diet with more plant-based protein than animal protein is recommended in order to maximise your fertility.

Supplements
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is a good source of important vitamins and minerals. The right nutrients benefit both men and women by increasing sperm count and decreasing infertility risk. Studies have shown that nutrients such as L-carnitine, vitamins C and E, zinc, N-acetylcysteine and coenzyme Q10 could increase male fertility four-fold. Vitamin D, fish oils, selenium and B vitamins (B12 and folic acid) are other beneficial nutrients which reduce infertility.

Gut health
More and more research is linking poor gut health and imbalanced gut microbes to various health issues, such as obesity, PCOS and hormonal imbalances. Try to include foods that are helpful to the gut, such as the fermented foods kimchi and kefir, high fibre foods and probiotics to help improve these issues.

Did you know?

Sperm evaluation tests are showing that more and more men are sub-fertile. This is often due to stress at work, overconsumption of alcohol, eating junk food on the go, lack of sleep and radiation exposure from laptops resting on laps.

Whether you are struggling to conceive or are planning a pregnancy in the future, making these diet and lifestyle changes will go a long way to improving not only your fertility health, but your overall long-term health and that of your baby. There is no time like the present to start.

Environmental toxin exposure
Environmental chemicals can lead to hormonal imbalances which may contribute to infertility. If you are drinking bottled water, make sure you choose glass or clear, hard, plastic containers. Soft plastics release toxic chemicals including bisphenol A and phythalates which have been linked to hormonal disorders and infertility.

‘Fertility zone’ for weight
Body fat affects reproduction. Women with too little body fat can stop menstruating altogether or struggle to maintain a pregnancy. Women with too much body fat can struggle to conceive for several reasons, some of which affect ovulation. Keeping your BMI as close to the 20–25 range as possible will increase your chances of conceiving.

Drinking water
Water is crucial for a healthy reproductive system. Water helps to create plump egg follicles and a strong blood supply to the womb lining. If you are dehydrated, your cervical fluid will be sluggish, making it harder for the sperm to find the egg. Aim to drink three litres of water a day when trying to conceive.

Tracy Tredoux is a nutritional therapist, based in London. When not consulting with clients, she posts health and nutrition-related articles and recipes on her website at tracytredoux.com

To find out more, follow her on Facebook: /TracyTredouxNutrition/ and Twitter: @tracytredoux

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