Whether or not a couple is having difficulty trying to conceive, taking time to properly prepare for pregnancy is essential to ensure that the health of mom and baby is optimized. There are many factors that can play a role in infertility. Addressing these through natural methods can have a huge impact on ability to conceive and maintain a pregnancy. Starting 3-4 months before attempting a pregnancy, both partners should work to optimize their health through diet and lifestyle changes.
1. Eat a Clean Diet
Reducing sugar intake and removing food sensitivities can help to lower inflammation and optimize gut health to improve absorption of important nutrients. Adequate nutrient status can influence the health of both the egg and sperm, and thus the health of the baby born to those parents.
General Diet Guidelines:
2. Address Stress
Chronic stress can create fertility struggles. Our bodies react to stress by triggering the release of cortisol, the “fight-or-flight” hormone, which activates the sympathetic nervous system. Chronic elevated cortisol levels can lead to a hormonal imbalance that can effect hormones such as progesterone, estrogen, testosterone and the thyroid hormones
Stress management techniques are key, especially for couples undergoing fertility treatment. Find what works for you personally. Some techniques include:
3. Understand Your Monthly Cycle
Cycle length and peak fertile days can vary from person to person. Charting your monthly cycles can provide valuable information about your cycle, ovulation and your peak fertile days to try to conceive. This involves tracking basal body temperature daily on waking, observing changes in cervical mucous and monitoring with home ovulation kits. Positive signs of ovulation/fertility are a temperature spike and changes in cervical fluid to become more slippery, like seminal fluid or egg white.
4. DETOX and Reduce Toxin Exposure
A gentle detox prior to attempting pregnancy can help to clear unwanted toxin buildup and optimize the function of the channels of elimination: the colon, kidneys, lung, skin and liver function. These channels can be overwhelmed due to toxin exposure, stress and a poor diet.
The environment in which a child is conceived strongly influences the health outcomes of both the pregnancy and the offspring. Smoking, alcohol use, caffeine consumption and use of recreational drugs have all been associated with reduced fertility.
Ways to reduce toxin exposure:
Regular acupuncture treatments for fertility optimization have been shown to increase rates of conception and live births in women undergoing in vitro fertilization. Acupuncture can also improve the thickness of the uterine lining, stimulate ovulation, and reduce stress. Acupuncture is also beneficial for many conditions that affect fertility such as PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, ovarian reserve and sperm and can also help to reduce side effect of fertility drugs.
A basic supplement regime for couples planning to attempt pregnancy includes a high quality multivitamin/mineral and omega 3 (fish oil). Prenatal vitamins provide key nutrients for mom and baby such as iron, calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin D and zinc. Taking prenatal vitamins can increase pregnancy rates, improve birth outcomes and result in better postpartum nutrient status. Additional supplements can be used to target individual causes infertility.
Many factors can affect fertility and lead to a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility”. Working with a naturopathic doctor to assess overall health and common causes of infertility can be beneficial if you are having trouble conceiving.