If you are trying for a family it can be frustrating if pregnancy just don’t seem to be happening as soon as you want it to. The NHS position varies in different parts of the country, but you may have a 3 year wait for treatment so knowing how to help yourself could be critical.
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Getting yourself in the best, healthiest, position to start at family can also affect what treatment you are offered so it is worth knowing how best to improve your fertility naturally first.
Factors Affecting Both Sexes
Some things will be more effective for fertility if both partners tackle them at the same time.
The key factor for both sexes is stress as it affects all hormones in your body and can reduce your chances of successful conception.
- Smoking has a poor effect on your overall health and reduces fertility and can affect both sperm and the menstrual cycle.
- Alcohol has two counts against it: it can increase weight, see below, and reduce sex drive, libido and performance.
- Being overweight reduces sperm quality in men and the ability to easily conceive in women.
What can help?
- Basic lifestyle changes can make all the difference so eat healthily, exercise and lose weight if needed and give up or reduce smoking and drinking to maximize your chances of successful conception.
- Fertility foods include citrus fruit, wholewheat, fennel, and celery as part of a balanced wholefood diet.
- Reduce sugar and any artificial sweeteners or additives as they affect overall health.
Factors Affecting Men
Unfortunately the fertility of the current generation of men is considerably lower than that of their grandfathers, or great grandfathers, and a large part of that is due to dietary and environmental concerns.
Diet is crucial in improving male fertility as research at Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center in Boston found. Men with a diet high in saturated and monounsaturated fats such as found in bacon, sausages, ham, cheese, butter, and olive oil had up to a 46% decreased sperm concentration, quality and mobility.
- Heavy drinking can be harmful to sperm as if done on a regular basis the result can be lowered sperm counts and testosterone levels. Good news is that the harmful effects are reversed once you cut down on alcohol.
- Temperature of the body can also affect fertility so keeping testicles just below normal body temperature is ideal. Using a laptop, tight underwear and sitting for long periods either at a desk or in a car have been linked to raised testicle temperature. This may affect sperm’s ability to mature, leading to poorer sperm quality and a temporary drop in sperm production.
What can help?
- Start with your diet and increase more of the healthier fats such as omega 3 and omega 6 found in fish, whole grains, fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables. This produces healthier and more active sperm, and polyunsaturated fat in particular is associated with improved sperm motility and morphology – that is the size and shape of the sperm and indicates a man’s fertility potential.
- Antioxidants are especially important so make sure you get more than the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
- Reduce alcohol and tobacco, particularly if both partners smoke and drink.
- Stop using your laptop on your lap and put it on a desk or use something as a barrier to keep the heat down.
- If your job involves sitting for long periods make sure you get up and move around as frequently as you can.
Factors Affecting Women
It is a common fallacy that to get pregnant women just need to stop using contraception, but today this is far from true.
- The four most common causes difficulty in becoming pregnant are: damage to fallopian tubes, endometriosis, cervical causes or ovulation disorders as no ovulation means no conception.
- An increasing number of young women suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) where they seem to be menstruating normally, but are in fact not ovulating. This means no egg is released for fertilisation.
- The older a woman is, particularly in the mid-thirties, can mean producing insufficient progesterone in the second half of their cycle. This can be enough so that a fertilized egg or embryo fails to survive.
- Certain drugs such as some antidepressants like SSRI’s (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) can raise a woman’s serum prolactin level as that can then interfere with normal ovulation. Using any drugs, even cannabis, can affect the menstrual cycle by affecting the centers of the brain that control the release of female hormones.
- If on the Pill, it can take up to two years for hormones to naturally re-establish themselves and return your menstrual cycle to normal.
What can help?
- It is essential for women to identify any symptoms of PCOS or hormone imbalance and deal with them appropriately.
- Good progesterone levels are vital for fertility, conception and to help prevent miscarriage so look at supplementing your own hormones with a natural, bioidentical, form.
- Tackle your diet with good supplies of vitamins A and C and the amino acid cysteine found in dairy foods, onions, garlic and eggs as all these are necessary for the production of the sex hormones. Vitamins B6 and B12 have also shown that they have significantly improved fertility when supplemented in the diet.