It doesn’t mean you can’t fall pregnant (that is something different – sterility), it just means that you have not been able to in the past 12 months or more.
If you are having trouble conceiving you are not alone. One in six couples experience infertility and while causes vary, many people do not know just how much impact diet and lifestyle changes can have on improving fertility.
It is becoming increasingly evident that not only women but equally men are being affected by our modern lifestyle and environment when it comes to fertility. Endocrine disrupting chemicals and toxins, nutrient-poor food, gut health, hormonal imbalance, infections and dietary choices are all hurdles we might face when aiming to have a baby.
While factors affecting fertility are different for everyone and you should be thoroughly investigated by your health professionals, there are some factors that within our immediate control that you can start changing right away.
Clean up your diet
Yes, you know who you are. Too many Uber Eats bags, empty wine bottles, ice cream tubs and takeaway coffee cups in your recycle bin. Limp vegetables are beginning to grow mould in your veggie bin despite your best intentions to cook them. And that super cool water bottle you bought hasn’t had much of a workout.
It’s time to get re-inspired and get back in the kitchen. You might have to find a way to make more time to look at recipes, do the shopping and cook some healthy meals. Or maybe you’ll need to invest in a meal prep service that does some of the work for you.
Whatever you do be sure to include plenty of whole foods such as veggies, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, eggs, legumes, fish and lean meats, along with small amounts of dairy, olive oil and coconut oil.
Nutrition matters for both of you. To ensure you are meeting your reproductive requirements, both partners should be on a good quality multivitamin containing at least 400mcg of folate. Ideally, you should look into getting a personalised multivitamin prescription – ask your naturopath.
You’ll find it easier to clean up your diet and avoid the excess alcohol and caffeine if you can reduce your stress. Chronic or severe stress disrupts hormones and can cause delays in ovulation. Some things that can have a big impact on reducing stress include:
- prioritising more time to do things you enjoy
- lightening your workload
- talking about your feelings/worries
- mindfulness meditation
- herbal and nutritional medicines
Get adequate exercise
Ideally, aim for 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 5 times weekly but anyway you can find to move your body will help. It might mean taking the stairs or trying to increase the number of steps you do each day, taking a dance class or playing with the dog. Conversely too much or too high-intensity exercise can send stress signals to the body and dysregulate hormones.
Take an honest look at your weight
Part of your exercise goal could be weight loss. If your not sure if you need to lose weight have your body composition assessed or check your body mass index (BMI) using an online calculator and see if yours falls between 18.5-25. Some women need their BMI to be at least 20 to have regular periods so consider this.
Excess body fat dysregulates hormones in both men and women making it harder to conceive but if your BMI is far above 25 then don’t despair, even 5-10% weight loss can improve your fertility. You can also aim at increasing your muscle mass via resistance exercise (weights/bands etc.) to improve your hormonal balance.
Quit the smokes and recreational drugs
Yes, even if you aren’t pregnant yet, or you are not the one that will carry the baby. These can have severe impacts on fertility by compromising sperm and egg quality, leading to delays conceiving and can even severely compromise the health of your baby if you do conceive.
If you have an addiction, stopping might not be so straight-forward but your desire to bring new life into the world may be just the catalyst you need to get the right help. See thefirststop.com or quit.org.au for more info.
Have your medications reviewed
Some medications can impact fertility so see your doctor for a frank discussion about the continued need for your medications or suitable alternatives if needed.
Avoid toxic exposure
Our modern lifestyle puts us in contact with many different chemicals daily, in our food, products we use and the air we breathe. Many of these are known to be endocrine disruptors, which means they can mess with hormones balance and fertility. A great place to start reducing these is to take a close look at the food you’re eating and products you’re using, whilst limiting plastics in the home. I’ll be talking more thoroughly about chemicals in future blogs.
Taking on all of these changes at once can be very challenging. If you feel overwhelmed try tackling one change at a time. Be gentle on yourself – remember you are learning a new way of living, like learning a new skill it takes practice, and with continued practising, it will become second-nature.
Natural Fertility Teacher (TTNFE)
Author of The PCOS Solution
Specialing in Natural Fertility
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