The saying “falling pregnant” often makes us feel that becoming pregnant is something easy and simple. My husband is somewhat accident prone, and for him falling comes naturally, he seems to be one of those all too common people that can trip even on flat ground! For just over one in four of us though(McChesney), the process of falling pregnant is not as easy at it sounds.
The causes of infertility are many and varied, and affect both females and males. Sometimes the man’s sperm count is too low; sometimes there is a hormonal imbalance in one or both partners; sometimes lifestyle factors such as diet, alcohol or smoking are at fault; and sometimes there may be no obvious reason at all. Infertility is defined as an inability to conceive after 12 months of unprotected intercourse(McChesney). For some this may be a temporary infertility while for others, a permanent problem that may require surgical intervention to correct.
Healthy parents make healthy babies. In this article, we look at some of the Naturopathic guidelines that can help to promote a healthy, happy pregnancy and increase your chances of conception.
Are you too stressed to conceive?
It’s an interesting phenomenon that when couples stop trying to become pregnant they invariably conceive. I’m sure everyone knows of friends that have been trying and trying to become pregnant with no success, then after giving up, suddenly they conceive. One French study on IVF, confirms exactly this. This study suggested that almost 11% of the “success rate” of IVF came from patients conceiving naturally after giving up (Wikipedia contributors).
We’ve spoken about the bodies physiological reactions to stress previously. During the first stage of our stress reaction the body shuts down non-vital systems to conserve energy to face the stressor. Our reproductive system is one of the systems that are shut down. We often think of stressors as big things, but it’s not just the big things. The constant exposure to small stressors such as the stress of not being able to conceive and the resulting stress in the relationship can all be enough to keep the reproductive system out of commission.
Now, we can’t make our stress go away, but we can support the body to prevent stress having such as catastrophic effect on reproductive function.
I know we talk regularly about the benefits of omega 3 essential fatty acids and this is no exception. Omega 3 essential fatty acids have been shown to reduce the levels of cortisol and epinephrine in people affected by mental stress (Delarue). Increased levels of epinephrine prolong the fight or flight stage of the stress reaction prolonging shutdown of the reproduction system.
Secondly, when stressed it is important to stay away from stimulants including coffee and tea. Research showed that consuming caffeine increased the levels of epinephrine (adrenaline) by up to 32% (Lane).
Do you need to detox before conceiving?
We’ve spoken a lot about the toxic effects of mercury on the central nervous system and brain, but did you know that mercury can impact your ability to conceive as well? When researchers in Hong Kong compared blood mercury levels between fertile and infertile women they found that elevated blood levels of mercury were almost 10 times more common in infertile women (Choy).
Other heavy metals and environmental toxins are not exempt from this. A US comparison of fluoride concentration in drinking water and fertility rate showed that higher levels of fluoride were associated with a lower fertility rate (Freni). If you needed another reason to stop drinking unfiltered tap water this may be a good one?
A properly structured detoxification program can improve our bodies ability to eliminate these toxins and increase your chances of conceiving.
At the same time choosing a diet high in whole foods and consuming as much biodynamic or organic food as possible can decrease our exposure to toxins used in agriculture and farming.
Is hormonal havoc preventing conception?
Hormonal balance can be a significant factor in increasing fertility, and it’s not just important for women either. There are many environmental and dietary factors that can impact male hormones, particularly testosterone levels, leading to reduced sperm production and motility.
To ensure optimum hormonal balance try to eat a diet that is hormone friendly, this is a diet that is well balanced at both the macro and micro nutrient level. Some key pointers include:
- Include sufficient quantities of good fats from avocados, olives and olive oil, organic eggs, coconut and seeds. The major hormones related to fertility (progesterone, testosterone and oestrogen) are all derived from cholesterol (Erasmus). A diet that includes an adequate intake of these good fats will improve the production of these vital hormones;
- Avoid simple carbohydrates such as refined pastas, sugars, bread, biscuits and pastries. All these foods increase insulin production which if indulged in regularly can lead to an increase in adipose tissue and oestrogen dominance (Drago);
- If choosing to eat soy products use those that have been fermented such as miso, natto and tempeh. The consumption of soy and hormone health, particularly fertility is a controversial topic that I would prefer not to cover in this article. For more information have a look at the “Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favourite Health Food.”
A number of herbs have proven beneficial in helping to balance hormone levels.
For the guys, these include tribulus, horny goat weed and damiana which have been shown to increase virility, fertility and sperm production. They work together to rejuvenate the reproductive system, and increase libido. For women a combination of shatavari, dong quai and rehmannia can support ovarian function, healthy fertility and libido in women. This combination of herbs improves hormonal balance, regulates the menstrual cycle and nourishes the reproductive system as a whole.
Want More Information?
If you are having difficulty in conceiving call us today on07 3800 1993 or email to email@example.com to arrange a customised lifestyle and dietary program to maximise your chances.
- Choy, C. M., et al. Relationship between semen parameters and mercury concentrations in blood and in seminal fluid from subfertile males in Hong Kong [letter]. . 78(2):426-428, 2002.
- Drago, F., et al. Aromatization of Testosterone by Adipose Tissue and Sexual Behavior of Castrated Male Rats. . 27 (1982):765-770.
- Delarue, J., et al. Fish oil prevents the adrenal activation elicited by mental stress in healthy men. . 29(3):289-295, 2003.
- Erasmus, U. Fats that Heal Fat that Kill (2nd Edition): Cholesterol. Alive Books. Burnaby BC, Canada. 1993:62-73.
- Freni, S. C., et al. Exposure to high fluoride concentrations in drinking water is associated with decreased birth rates. . 42(1):109-121, 1994.
- Lane, J. D., et al. “Caffeine affects cardiovascular and neuroendocrine activation at work and home.” 64(4) (2002):595-603.
- McChesney, P. “Demographics of Infertility.” 12.3 (2010):14-15
- Schweiger, U., et al. Macronutrient intake, plasma large neutral amino acids and mood during weight-reducing diets. . 67(1-2):77-86, 1986.
- Wikipedia contributors. “In vitro fertilisation.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 Oct. 2010. Web. 27 Oct. 2010.