So, conceiving this year is one of your New Year resolutions? It is certainly an achievable goal but if your biological clock is ticking, you may need some little help. Read on…
Fertility studies suggest the downhill journey begins at age 27, yet we know today many women are not ready for children at this age as they are still preoccupied with their career, social life or looking for a partner with worthy genes. Well, if you are a woman of over 30 and want a baby, be warned, it’s time to ditch the career, bag a man and get pregnant before it’s too late. But don’t panic, if you want a baby and are not ready or there is no partner in sight and the clock is ticking, you can boost your baby power and possibly prolong your fertility to your early forties. Here are useful tips.
1. Watch what you eat
Putting the right foods into your body is one of the best ways to boost your potential baby power. To a large extent, your fertility depends on what you eat and you need to fuel it with all the required nutrients. The ultimate fertility diet is to eat each day from the main food groups, ensuring they are fresh and grown without chemicals. Organically grown foods have higher mineral content and eliminate unwanted pesticides and hormones that can affect fertility.
Vegetables should make up at least 40 per cent of your total food intake. You also need a portion of protein each day from rich sources such as meat, fish and nuts. Studies show strong links between low birth weight, infant mortality and congenital defects and low protein intakes. You need your protein well before conception, since adequate protein is vital for both the quantity and quality of eggs produced. Essential fatty acids, found in seeds, oils and fish are also vital to fertility because the body needs them to balance hormones and regulate fluidity of cell membranes, allowing cells to function efficiently.
Limit your intake of junk foods, saturated fats and foods containing additives. Also keep away from refined products as these have been stripped of essential nutrients during manufacturing. For example, 80 per cent of zinc, the most important mineral for fertility, is removed from wheat during the milling process to ensure a loaf of bread has a longer shelf life.
2. Take supplements
Most gynaecologists routinely recommend supplements of iron, folic acid and calcium for women wanting to become pregnant but there are many other supplements you may wish to consider to boost your fertility. Research shows that taking a folic acid supplement every day before you are pregnant helps in the formation of the foetal spine, reducing the incidence of conditions such a spina bifida.
Also consider taking a 300mg omega-3 supplement from fish oil. Studies of women having trouble conceiving show that taking B6 supplements boosts their fertility. You can take up to 50mg a day. The same goes for antioxidant vitamins E and C, as these are known to combat age-related ovulation decline.
3. Get the right body-fat balance
If you are either too thin or too fat, your fertility may be affected. To menstruate and ovulate normally, a woman needs around 25 per cent of her body weight to be fat. If fat levels fall too low, the body does not produce enough oestrogen. If they are too high, your hormonal balance may be disrupted.
Yo-yo dieting is detrimental to fertility. If a woman’s weight fluctuates so much that she is losing or gaining fat most of the time, her brain will turn off her reproductive ability. To reproduce, the body needs to maintain a steady supply of stored energy to give the hypothalamus part of the brain the right signals. To get your body-fat balance right, first find your body mass index (BMI), which will act as an indictor. To do this, take your body weight in kilogrammes and divide by your height in metres squared (multiplied by itself).
A BMI in the range of 20 to 25 is associated with normal fertility. The minimum for maintenance of normal ovulatory cycles is 18, while on the higher side, a BMI of 25 to 27 is associated with a slight reduction in fertility, and over 27 significantly reduces fertility.
4. Address your emotions
Research shows there is a mind-body connection and experts agree that our emotions, feelings and thoughts can have a physiological effect. Some even go further to say that ingrained attitudes towards babies, pregnancy and childhood can lower fertility. If fear of conception is deeply ingrained, your emotional response may take a while to catch up with your mental attitude. You will therefore need to address the patterns of behaviour and beliefs you may have learned in the past as they could affect your ability to conceive.
5 Quit smoking
Smoking by either partner can delay conception. Research shows fertility is reduced even if a woman only smokes two to three cigarettes a day. Experts believe this is because cigarette smoke leaves traces of nicotine in the fluid surrounding a woman’s eggs, making fertilisation and healthy embryo less likely. Smoking also affects your nutritional levels, leaching, among other essential nutrients, vitamin C and zinc from your body. Heavy smokers are also likely to cut the length of the fertile window.
6. Stop binge drinking
Though there is no conclusive evidence, experts believe that alcohol does affect a woman’s fertility. Alcohol has effects on many of the body’s major organs, including the liver, the nervous system, the brain and the heart. It also affects the body’s metabolism of essential fatty acids and your nutritional status. It has toxic effect on the gut mucosa and decreases absorption of all B-complex vitamins, which are needed for the formation of sex hormones. You should quit drinking at least four months before trying to conceive.
7. Avoid stress
As well as lowering libido, studies suggest stress can affect the physiological processes necessary for fertilisation. It can alter the chemicals in the uterine and vaginal secretions, which normally facilitate the movement of incoming sperm and release the enzymes necessary for the sperm to penetrate the egg. When a person is stressed, the blood supply to the abdominal organs is reduced, so you won’t get the nutrients you need to the reproductive system. Stress also affects the adrenal glands, which play a vital part in balancing your hormones, delaying ovulation or affecting your cycle. Exercise, massage, meditation and other alternative therapies help you to distress.
8. Detox your environment
It is not just your diet that might benefit from a detox regime – your environment could too. Studies suggest that environmental pollutants from pesticides, heavy metals and chemicals have harmful effect on the ova. Toxic metals can be ingested from all sorts of sources. To minimise this, avoid exercising near busy roads, avoid using aluminum cookware, avoid aluminum-containing antiperspirants, toothpastes and antacids and also cut down on fish consumption as fish can carry heavy metals from polluted waters. Cut down your chemical pollution by choosing less toxic alternatives to items such as household cleaning products.
9. Try acupuncture
Some researchers believe acupuncture could help women conceive. Acupuncture is used to stimulate ‘meridians’ involving the spleen, stomach and colon, for better blood perfusion and more energy in the uterus. Apart from anything else, acupuncture is excellent for regulating periods as it harmonises the body and helps it to regulate your cycle.
10. Go herbal
Herbs, homeopathy and flower remedies are believed by many naturalists to balance hormones and the menstrual cycle. Having a regular cycle is the most important indicator for fertility, since irregularities may indicate an underlying problem. Herbs thought to boost a woman’s reproductive system through their ‘tonic’ action on the ovaries include False Unicorn Root, Chaste Tree, Wild Yam, Dong Quai, Black Cohosh and Squaw Vine. Check their availability in health stores. Homeopathic remedies include Sepia, Cimicifuga, Lachesis, Platina and Calcium Carbonica. Talk to a homoeopathist to recommend the best ones and other herbal essences that are good for balancing the menstrual cycle.
Published in February 2015