Couples who have been trying to conceive can easily grow impatient when their plans don’t go exactly, or as easily, as planned. But before concluding that they may have certain fertility problems or that they need fertility drugs or treatments, it is good to first take a closer look into the way they are leading their lives.
A study by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has found that women have a reduced risk of infertility due to ovulatory disorders if they adopt a combination of healthy lifestyle and dietary measures. The study, published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, was based on 17,544 women who were tracked for eight years as they attempted to get pregnant or became pregnant. According to Dr Chavarro, the team leader, ‘as women started following more of these recommendations, their risk of infertility dropped substantially for every one of the dietary and lifestyle strategies undertaken’. Senior author on the paper, and chair of the HSPH Department of Nutrition, Walter Willett, said that ‘the key message of this paper is that making the right dietary choices and including the right amount of physical activity in your daily life may make a large difference in your probability of becoming fertile if you are experiencing problems with ovulation’. Infertility affects one in six couples, according to US studies, with ovulatory problems identified in 18 to 30 per cent of cases.
There are some steps you can take to maximize your fertility and chances of conception, and have a healthier pregnancy. Simple lifestyle changes like eating healthier and quitting smoking can make a difference, as can regular exercise.
What you can do:
Following are some tips on how to maximize your chances of conception and your health before and during pregnancy.
Being overweight or underweight can affect the chances of ovulating normally in a woman. It has been found that women who have 17% to 21% of their total body weight as fat provide the ideal condition for ovulation. Have less or more body fat may hinder your menstrual cycle, make conception difficult. Women that are underweight may want to consider putting on some weight if they find that menstruation tends to be sporadic. Additionally, being underweight may indicate that you will have a hard time producing the extra amount of energy required for pregnancy. Maintaining a healthy weight before conception is therefore advisable.
Overweight women with ovulation and menstrual cycle problems may want to lose some weight if they are having troubles conceiving. However, overweight women do not necessarily need to lose a significant amount of weight in order to help their conception rates. Even slightly reducing your weight can increase your chances of conceiving many folds. An Australian study found that, as soon as a group of obese women lost almost 20 pounds, their bodies began to spontaneously ovulate again.
A healthy diet is essential to your health — and your baby’s. Be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (at least five servings per day), eat low-fat dairy foods, and drink plenty of fluids for optimal health.
A recent study also suggests that woman’s diet around the time of conception can influence the gender of her baby. The study, completed by the Universities of Exeter and Oxford, appears in the Royal Society journal Biological Sciences and alleges that a woman who eats a high-calorie diet — and regular breakfasts — might have greater odds of having a boy. Participating in the study were 740 first-time pregnant women in the UK, who provided records of their eating habits before and just after becoming pregnant. Researchers found that 56% of women with the highest caloric intake around the time of becoming pregnant had boys, compared to just 45% among women with the lowest caloric intake.
Consider Going Organic
Organic fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products do not contain pesticides or synthetic growth hormones that many conventional foods may contain. What’s more, studies have shown that organically grown fruits and vegetables are actually more nutrient-rich than their conventional counterparts. Pregnant women, or women who are planning to become pregnant, may wish to switch to organic foods for better nutrition.
A healthy lifestyle also includes exercise. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine reports that regular exercise (five times a week for at least 45 minutes), as well as a healthy diet, boost fertility by keeping body weight at a normal level and relieving stress and anxiety. In addition, women who are overweight or obese have been shown to have increased perinatal mortality risk when they become pregnant. Exercise regularly for your health and the health of your baby to be.
A new study by the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group reports that women can decrease their chances of contracting gestational diabetes by not gaining weight. Women in the study who gained about 5-22 pounds each year prior to the five years before getting pregnant were 2.5 times more likely to develop gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is marked by glucose intolerance that is first experienced during pregnancy, and can require daily insulin injections. It is also associated with fetal complications. The condition usually resolves after childbirth.
It has been known for a long time that smoking has a negative effect on conception but many fail to realise just how drastically smoking effects both male and female fertility. In men who smoke, sperm counts average 17% lower than those who do not smoke and it can also affect the health of the sperms.
Women who smoke not only increase the time it takes them to conceive as well as raise their the risk of spontaneous miscarriage, they also jeopardize the health of their baby yet to be born. Female smokers are also at a greater risk for delivering premature or low birth weight babies and developing pelvic inflammatory disease.
Studies have shown that smokers are 30% less fertile and require a much higher dose of fertility drugs if they opt for fertility treatments than non-smokers. Passive smoking, too, is equally dangerous to women and their pregnancy
The effects of reducing or totally stopping smoking can produce noticeable results in days.
Alcohol, Caffeine and Drugs
Regularly drinking alcohol can reduce fertility levels by up to 50%. It can also decrease sperm count while increasing the production of abnormal sperm. Similarly, drugs like marijuana and cocaine have been found to cause disruptions in a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Another chemical to avoid in order to improve your chances of conception is caffeine, which can be found in tea, coffee, chocolate and soft drinks. Caffeine reduces the fertility level of both men and women. Some studies have also shown a link between consuming large amounts of caffeine and delayed conception. What’s more, studies have also shown women who consume more than 300 mg (three 5 oz cups of coffee) a day may also be at an increased risk for miscarriage.
Stress can have a big effect on fertility. In women under stress, the reproductive hormone prolactin is over-produced and this can interfere with ovulation. The hypothalamus stops secreting gonadotrophin hormone, which in turn will affect the release of both the luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone. As these hormones stimulate ovulation – fertility is affected.
Know Your Cycle
It is essential to understand your monthly (or not so monthly, in some cases) cycle in order to maximize your chances of conception. Keep track of the days you menstruate and the length of your cycle for a few months, and use an ovulation calendar to track your ovulation to time your intercourse for conception.
So, there you have it – a range of natural ways to increase your fertility. Each of these lifestyle changes won’t guarantee that you will get pregnant, but following these changes may shift the odds and help you get the baby a little easier. Good Luck!!