Be Gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
1. EAT YOURSELF PREGNANT
When it comes to conception, nutrition is the cornerstone. All of your body’s systems work together to make reproduction happen. So the food you put in helps with good hormonal balance, blood sugar balance, healthy eggs and sperm. In particular for fertility you need proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
Equally what depletes you of nutrients vital for fertility are stress, poor diet, processed foods, alcohol and cigarettes.
That said, I believe moderation is the key, not extremes. And I believe that what you eat has to be healthy fun and easy to sustain.
SO WHAT SHOULD YOU AND YOUR PARTNER BE EATING?
- Healthy fats – a good balance of healthy fats from nuts, seeds and oily fish or supplements is vital for healthy reproductive organs
- Antioxidants – fruit and vegetables are a good source of these DNA-protective compounds. Make sure you get at least your five a day!
- Calcium, iron and folate – found in green leafy vegetables, red meat, these vitamins and minerals are particularly important for reproductive health.
- Vitamin D – obtained mainly from exposure to sunshine. It is estimated that 1 in 5 people in the UK are deficient in Vitamin D which is another very important vitamin for reproduction
- Iodine – found in dairy products eggs, vegetables, seafood and brewer’s yeast – is also important.
WHAT SHOULD YOU STAY AWAY FROM?
- Avoid trans-fats (look out for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, too) as these can interfere with ovulation; so processed oils, foods and microwave meals are a no-no.
- Be careful with low-fat options, too, as these always contain high levels of trans fats and sugars. This applies to dairy as well: in one study, ovulation was 38% better in those who consumed full-fat milk, while the women who ate two or more low-fat dairy products a day were twice as likely to have problems conceiving.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates, like sugary cakes, white bread and pasta, as well as artificial sweeteners.
- The microwave! Try to avoid using it and cook foods at low temperatures when possible (bake, steam).
ANYTHING ELSE TO THINK ABOUT?
- Chew your food well, think about eating smaller meals later in the day and reduce portion sizes. All of these steps will make it easier for your body to digest food, helping improve the health of your gut, reduce any inflammation and boost your fertility.
- Make sure you’re drinking enough water and reduce your caffeine intake – make it a treat rather than a habit.
- Eat the best quality (organic, closest to their source) products you can afford.
- Consider a Vitamin B complex supplement.
2. GET CYCLE SAVVY
Research shows that only 13% of women know their own fertile times. In general, there are five to six fertile days per month, which includes the four or five days before ovulation and the day of ovulation itself. But although medical science has come a long way, ovulation is still notoriously difficult to pinpoint.
This is perhaps no surprise, given that the only proven way for a women to know that ovulation has occurred is by getting pregnant.
There are three things you need to know to be cycle savvy.
- The fertile window and when it occurs in your cycle
- Your secretions and when they are happening (these are a good sign of fertility)
- When to have sex
The latter sounds obvious, but I see so many couples who are missing that window.
The good news is that whilst ovulation is tricky to measure exactly, it’s possible to take a fairly accurate guess based on averages. Every woman is unique, but the fluctuations which accompany ovulation are roughly the same – even if they happen at slightly different times for different people. I’m going to show you how to chart your cycle and spot your fertile signs so that you can optimise your chances of conception.
CALCULATING YOUR CYCLE
Ideally, you need to chart your periods for six months (nine if you have just come off the pill) to fully understand your cycle.
- Work out the length of your cycle – from the first day of the period to the last day before the start of your next period. It’s more important that your cycles follow a pattern than they are a certain length. Any variation of cycle length within seven days is considered normal.
- Most women ovulate 14 days before the END of their cycle and in general, you need at least 10 days after ovulation for a fertilised egg to implant.
- This fertile window is generally earlier in shorter cycles and later in longer cycles.
If your cycle is 25 days long, and assuming you ovulate around 14 days before your next cycle, ovulation occurs typically around day 11. By this, I mean 11 days after your period started, as day 1 is the first day of your period. For a much longer cycle of 42 days, ovulation occurs around day 28.
If your cycle varies in length, then you can calculate that your six fertile days occur between the shortest cycle minus 20 days and the longest minus 10. Let me give you an illustration. If over the last six months, your cycles have been 28, 26, 31, 25, 32 and 31 days, the shortest cycle if 25 days and the longest cycle is 32 days.
So taking 20 from 25 gives you the earliest possible fertile day as Day 5. Then subtracting 10 from 32 gives you Day 22 as your latest possible fertile day, so you would be potentially fertile between Day 5 and Day 22.
YOUR FERTILE INDICATORS
Once you understand how your cycle works, you can begin looking for other signs of ovulation to pinpoint when ovulation is occurring more closely.
I would plot your temperature using a Basal thermometer for the first couple of months to get a better understanding of your cycle but after this don’t bother! BUT charting temperature makes you more obsessive and temperatures vary anyway, e.g. if you have had a late night, alcohol and even just have a mild cold. Charting temperature over a few months can help you in your overall quest to understand YOUR body and when ovulation happens for YOU, but don’t let this take over your life.
So, using a digital thermometer, chart your basal body temperature every day first thing on waking. Note down your temperature every day beginning on Day 1 of your cycle. On the morning after you have ovulated, a surge in progesterone will cause a small temperature rise, which will then fall again on subsequent days. Also, note that the temperature rise occurs after ovulation, which is too late for conception. Another reason to see temperature.
~ VAGINAL SECRETIONS
Most women don’t monitor their cervical secretions, but once you know what to look for, it’s quite simple to spot the differences. At your body’s least fertile times, secretions are either absent or cloudy and less stretchy in consistency. Around ovulation, however, the body produces a slippery stretchy clear secretion which is noticeably different.
Your vaginal secretions will change to become similar to raw egg white. This nourishes the sperm and helps keep it alive longer as it enters the womb. Little ladders are even formed to enable the sperm to climb up.
Don’t get obsessed about sticky, stretchy – just notice them. Your secretions are your fertility. For the best results, try using several of these indicators at once.
3. HAVE REGULAR SEX
To some, regular sex is once a week once a month or only at weekends!!! I’m often amazed at the lack of sex that happens in order for some couples to get pregnant. But like I always say, everyone is different. Having sex three to four times a week is ideal and especially have sex on the days you notice any raw egg-white like secretions. The reason why is don’t focus on the egg or ovulation as so many women do. Focus on the sperm: it last 3 to 5 days.
Do the maths – if you are having sex at least 3 times a week through the month and the sperm last that long you are ensuring a constant supply. This will ensure a healthy amount of active sperm is always present to fertilise the egg which is what you need as ovulation can be hard to pinpoint. And it’s not true that men need to save up their sperm – actually, sperm needs to be constantly refreshed for potency.
4. ASK YOURSELF WHY AM I NOT FALLING PREGNANT?
One of the questions I ask EVERY women – and I get more from this question than anything else is – why do you think you’re not getting pregnant? So ask yourself the same question now and really listen to the answer.
You may, unknowingly, be getting in your own way; your mind-set could be negatively impacting your chances of getting pregnant. It’s hard to deal with the uncertainty of when or if it’s going to happen. Mind blocks can be really significant. The couples I see are often totally run down and exhausted with all the other things going on in their lives, such as moving house, building extensions working long hours. Of course you are stressed if you throw struggling to conceive into the mix too.
Finding ways to relax throughout your monthly cycle is very important for your fertility and for your partner, too. It really can make all the difference (and I’m saying this even though I know the one thing no woman trying to conceive wants to hear is ‘Try and relax!’)
First of all, make sure you’ve got a good work-life balance and you’re getting enough sleep – we should never underestimate its restorative powers. Practising meditation can also help still the mind. Mindfulness (or paying more attention to the present moment without judgement) can be particularly useful and can be applied to any activity, even brushing your teeth! Breathing exercises, spending time with loved ones and in nature are also all proven stress-busting methods that help the mind too. But of course this is one of the many reasons how regular Reflexology and Reiki sessions can help.
So many couples when they start trying for a baby are confused about what they need to take. In an ideal world, we would derive all the nutrients we need from the food that we eat but this is increasingly difficult to attain. The Western population shows an increasing trend towards deficiencies in iron, folic acid, vitamin D and other essential nutrients. That is why I believe that supplements should form an essential part of any fertility plan.
As a baseline, I recommend that you and your partner supplement with a quality multivitamin and mineral formula, which studies show can increase your chances of conceiving.
I also recommend daily supplements of omega 3 fats (EPA and DHA), anti-oxidants, folic acid and a high quality probiotic and Vitamin D. Vitamin D supports the immune system, improves blood-sugar balance and libido and some studies have shown that vitamin D increases the chances of success with IVF. For men, higher levels of vitamin D mean better sperm mobility.
Everyone’s body is unique, so you may find it helpful to see a nutritionist who can guide you according to your own needs with regard to your diet and the supplements you add to it.
I would recommend Hayley West of Halo Nutrition. https://www.halo-nutrition.com
6. EXERCISE IN MODERATION
As you might expect, regular exercise keeps your whole body healthy, reduces stress, as well as the risk of ovulation disorders. But be careful not to overdo it. Too much high-intensity exercise can have the opposite effect and lower your fertility. Studies by the University of Toronto and several others have found that exercising for longer than 90 minutes more than four times a week can lower your fertility as it causes your body to produce too many harmful free radicals.
However, a balanced exercise routine of around 30-60 minutes 2-3 times a week was found to be ideal for maintaining reproductive health.
7. LIFESTYLE RULES
One of the common scenarios I see when it comes to lifestyle is the divides it can cause between a couple. Let’s face it, when a woman decides to have a baby she knows everything in a short period of time and often her man lags behind. Pressure starts to build on the home front and sex front. It is important that you both compromise and don’t go forget your relationship that to.
KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR – AND YOUR PARTNER’S – WEIGHT
Both being under or overweight negatively affects your fertility. In terms of conception, you are actually more fertile if you are slightly overweight than slightly underweight. But the ideal should always be to get within a healthy weight range for your body type and height. As a rough guide, a BMI of less than 18.5 is underweight, 18.5 to 24.9 is normal, 25-29.9 is overweight and over 30 is considered obese. BMI can be useful, but the distribution of fat in your body is also important. For example, a large amount of body fat will produce too much oestrogen which, in turn, will cause irregular cycles. Weight also affects hormonal balance in men.
Fat is a source of oestrogen in both sexes, which in men will affect sperm production as it alters testosterone levels.
8. CUT OUT SMOKING AND DRINKING
Smoking and drinking both adversely affect conception. And if you’re not yet ready to give up smoking, you should seriously think about whether you’re ready for parenthood. Even small amounts of alcohol can affect a woman’s reproductive cycle and lessen chances of conceiving. However, since the average duration of trying for a baby is a year, couples are usually advised to keep their drinking within reasonable limits, rather than go teetotal.
A woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have but regardless of how many eggs you have left you still have a lot of control over their quality by following the guidelines above.
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