How Putting Yourself & Your Health First – Boosts Your Fertility

Healthy Pregnant Lady

We’re all familiar with the adage of healthy-body healthy-mind, but for our purposes, this adage should be extended to include: healthy-pregnancy healthy-baby.

Around 15% of couples experience fertility issues which means that approximately 3.5 million people across the country struggle to conceive. For women wishing to start a family, the below is a short guide on how to increase your chances of natural conception or increase your IVF chances. 

By simply “adjusting your diet and making a few lifestyle changes can boost your fertility by up to 69%”. This may sound simple, but if these changes were so easy we would already be living the ultimately balanced life. You may choose to start a family for a variety of reasons which may include because you wish to put the needs of your baby first. But parenthood is a marathon, in order to eventually put your baby’s needs first – you need to start with putting your own self-care first. This doesn’t have to mean moving the earth but it does mean trying to live the healthiest lifestyle you can afford with the time and resources you can access.

Start now - put your health first

Start now by trying to develop healthy habits. Every body is different: some may prefer gradually introducing life upgrades one at a time; whereas others may prefer an “all or nothing approach”. Whether you’re looking to get pregnant in the near future or are already in the process of trying, it’s not too late to reevaluate your lifestyle choices. Choosing healthy lifestyle habits or even eradicating your bad habits can significantly improve your health and these changes can boost your fertility.

Healthy Body

Your Body Clock

Women are born with a finite number of eggs. Throughout a woman’s life-cycle, the rate at which we lose eggs fluctuates dramatically. In the womb, girls may have 5-6 million eggs but by the time we are born only 80% remain which is typically 2-3 million eggs. 

From day one, the number of eggs we have reduces on a daily basis. Women lose over 1,000 eggs each month until there are none.  By age 14, most women have started to ovulate (have periods) and by age 21, women’s chances of procreation are at our best. However as we reach late 20s to early 30s, the rate at which we lose eggs rapidly speeds up – reducing our chances of having children. By mid 30s, not only are we losing eggs more rapidly, but the quality of the remaining eggs is also diminishing. As we become older having a healthy pregnancy becomes more difficult and the likelihood to miscarry becomes easier. 

Choosing when to start a family is important: if this is earlier in life, this will likely be easier than when you are older. Either way, information is power – so keep reading.

Smoke Signals

Smoking appears to be the most significant factor to impact your fertility and the health of your unborn child. Smoking damages cilia in the fallopian tube making the journey for your eggs to travel to the uterus more difficult, ultimately stifling the fertilisation process. Due to these blockages in fallopian tubes, smokers are at greater risk of ectopic pregnancies and are 3 times more likely than non-smokers to experience delays in becoming pregnant. Passive smoke is also harmful so beware of smoke in all forms – as smokers have fewer eggs in their ovarian reserve than non-smokers. So when thinking ahead as to whether you would like to start a family or donate eggs, this is a lifestyle choice to be mindful of.

Cut-out Caffeine

Most of us love a cup of tea or coffee in the morning, at lunch and then perhaps in the evening too – but too much caffeine is not good for a mother trying to conceive. Our bodies naturally produce cortisol (a stress hormone) which helps to regulate our blood pressure; immune system; and regulates our insulin release. Drinking too much caffeine, triggers a stress response which forces our bodies to produce more cortisol in the bloodstream than we need, which means that less cortisol is produced naturally to regulate our bodies. This imbalance may lead to a: suppressed immune function; high blood pressure and blood sugar imbalance – which cause a negative impact on our overall health and fertility. 

When contemplating motherhood – try to quit caffeine cold turkey. If this is not possible, please try to switch to less caffeinated beverages such as green tea or decaf which contains less caffeine – anything containing less than 300 mg caffeine per day is best.

Avoid Alcohol

It is highly recommended that for those trying to conceive – alcohol is avoided. Not only can drinking alcohol greatly impede your chances of conception but it may also produce birth defects and developmental delay in your unborn child. 

Studies show that women over 30, who have 7 or more drinks each week, have a higher infertility rate and will take longer to become pregnant when compared to non-drinkers. While it is clear that drinking alcohol has a negative impact, it is still uncertain how much alcohol causes this damage.  Both the Department of Health and The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists state that there is no ‘safe’ limit. 

Therefore to increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy, zero alcohol is recommended when you are: trying to conceive; throughout your pregnancy; and during breast-feeding (if you choose to do so).

Recreational Drugs and Over The Counter Medication

Similar to smoking, taking recreational drugs can also damage your fallopian tube which may interfere with ovulation and may cause developmental problems for your child.

Even when taking over the counter medications, be mindful. Anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen can interfere with ovulation and taking aspirin may interfere with implantation. Remember to consult your doctor before taking any medication when trying to become pregnant.

Unknown Toxins

Exposure to toxins is not merely a concern for those who work in chemical industries but for all those exposed to simple household items, even air pollution can impact your fertility. Solvents and cleaning products contain chemicals which are connected to various health issues including impaired fertility. Exposure to epoxies and resins can increase the risk of fertility problems including miscarriage. For those trying to conceive, it is recommended that you monitor your environmental factors and to switch to green solutions wherever possible.

Weight & Diet - Everything in Moderation

Studies show that having optimal body mass index assists conception. Being underweight or overweight may impede your ability to become pregnant, as this may mean that an egg is not released regularly each month or not released at all – so it may take longer to become pregnant or reduce your chances of becoming pregnant at all. 

Overweight women have the added risk of developing problems: during pregnancy; miscarrying; and may experience complications during delivery.  Depending on your BMI, losing weight or gaining weight even by 5-10% has shown to improve fertility – as this can regulate your menstrual cycle, increasing your chance of getting pregnant.

We are by no means advising any crash diets: gaining or losing weight should be done so incrementally in a healthy way. Exercise is key, as exercise can help to alleviate both anxiety and tension and can help make antioxidants more available in the body, which may improve the quality of your eggs. Strive for what is a healthy body weight for you and use programmes that involve both exercise and dietary advice, as this leads to more pregnancies than weight loss advice alone.

Healthy Mind

A Good Night’s Sleep

Our bodies need adequate sleep to function. Our brains need sleep to help cognitive processes such as our ability to make decisions and assist our memories. Sleep also helps our bodies to regulate themselves – poor sleep is linked to having high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Not having enough sleep can also impact fertility. Sleep is essential for regulating our hormone levels which includes leptin, a hormone that regulates our ovulation.

Aim to improve your sleep health: make a plan to sleep 6-8 hours at the same time each day. Also, if possible, an hour before bed try to remove looking at TV screens, laptops and phones – to let your brain wind down so you can have a restful night’s sleep.

Stress & Rest

For some of us, the process of making a baby may not always be fun and instead may become stressful if you are struggling to conceive. It is only natural that you may feel low, upset, anxious and stressed. However, when stressed, your hormones levels change which can negatively impact your fertility and we need our hormones to stay regular.

In this high-tech working-from-home work, it is easy to feel obligated to be immediately responsive and it often feels that we should be chained to our desks. Many of you will work long hours and the suggestion to work-less may be unrealistic. But please remember –  it is ok to give yourself permission to take some time for yourself and mental health. 

When you feel yourself becoming stressed, take a minute for you:  breathe, meditate, take a walk, listen to your favourite song – anything which helps you to feel calm. Stress, anxiety and depression can produce hormones like prolactin and cortisol which may interfere with your ovulation, affecting your egg production.

If you struggle with your anxiety or feelings, try talking to someone – whether this means talking to friends or family or even seeking some counselling to boost your mood. This will reduce your anxiety levels to optimise your chances of becoming pregnant. 

Change your life

Like I said, changing your lifestyle is not easy – but it is important to remind yourself why you are doing this: this is your life and you are choosing to put your health and your baby’s health first. By making adjustments to your lifestyle you can massively boost your fertility, your quality of life and the likelihood of having a healthy & happy child. So for now, do yourself a favour and put yourself & your health first.

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