It’s Spring – the time when the world comes alive and promptly reproduces (part 1 of 2)
It’s Spring – the time when the world comes alive and promptly reproduces. I’ve noticed this trend in practice too, the time of year when I see an increase in the number of patients with baby lust – the desire to conceive and optimize fertility. For those couples experiencing challenges with conceiving, this time of year can be cruel.
Defined as failure to conceive after 12 months of frequent intercourse without contraception in women under 35, or failure to conceive after 6 months without contraception in women age 35 and older (1). Causes of infertility can be numerous. Whether it due to pelvic or structural factors, ovulatory or hormonal factors, and/or male factors – it is important to take a thorough and multi-faceted case approach. Here are some helpful tips for optimizing fertility:
Optimal timing and frequency of intercourse are crucial. Cycling monitoring may involve monitoring changes in basal body temperature (upon waking), cervical mucous, or using test strips to look for the LH surge (a sign that ovulation has occurred). In doing so, you will be able to detect variations or irregularities in your cycle, that may be making it more challenging to conceive. It is important to speak to your primary care provider when variations or irregularities in one’s menstrual cycle are noted so that appropriate blood work can be ordered.
Tips for increasing your chances of getting pregnant include:
o Daily intercourse for 3 consecutive days at mid-cycle – or more specifically, 2 consecutive days around the LH surge. Normal sperm retains its fertilizing ability for up to 72 hours, so it is ideal to have sperm in the area when the egg arrives (2).
DIET & LIFESTYLE FACTORS:
o Maintaining a healthy body weight is crucial for conception. Women who are overweight (BMI >25) experience a decrease in insulin sensitivity due to excess abdominal fat, which can lead to dysfunctional ovulation and imbalances in blood sugar levels. At the same time, women who are underweight (BMI <18) often experience infrequent or lack of ovulation.
o The consumption of a whole food, fertility-friendly diet (3) which includes:
o Caution with your consumption of soy-based foods and drinks as they can lengthen the follicular phase of the cycle (1st half) and delay ovulation. Soy is also one of the most heavily sprayed crops and may contain high levels of pesticides.
o Ground flaxseed can help to lengthen the luteal phase of the cycle (2nd half) and may promote ovulation.
o Fats are essential for maintaining healthy hormone levels and decreasing inflammation. It is important to choose mono/poly-unsaturated fats like: nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil, while avoiding trans/saturated fats at all costs.
o Choose slow carbs over no carbs. Whole grains like: quinoa, oats, spelt, kamut, and rye, contain essential B vitamins and minerals. Avoid refined white sugars at all costs. In some instances avoiding gluten may help improve fertility rates.
o Increase fruit and vegetable consumption
o Consume adequate lean protein sources to help supply the building blocks for healthy hormone synthesis and energy production. Consider: chicken, fish (low mercury sources), beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, Greek yogurt.
o Stay hydrated.
o Moderate exercise is likely indicated for most individuals trying to conceive.
o Stress management is key. Stress hormones like cortisol have been shown to have an inhibitory effect on the reproductive system, while also lowering antioxidant levels in couples trying to conceive. Whether it by through yoga, meditation, or counseling, it is important to reach out and get the support that you need.
o Circle+Bloom is a great resource offering free fertility relaxation soundtracks. Check it out at www.circlebloom.com
o Floss daily.
o Avoiding toxic exposure of heavy metals, pesticides, and estrogen-like substances (i.e. plastics) can promote fertility in both men and women. In the body, these chemicals can interact with our hormones, and thereby affect sperm parameters and egg viability.
Hudson, Tori. Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. McGraw-Hill: New York, New York. 2008.
Uraz, Z., Youssef, V., and Cooley, K. Infertility – A Cross Sectional Audit of Naturopathic Assessment Strategies at a Teaching Clinic: Research Summary and Clinical Guidelines. Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. 2013.
Watson, Lisa. Fertility Diet. www.integrativehealthinstitute.ca