When some people think of fertility, they may assume that it is a fixed entity. That you’re either naturally fertile or you’re not.
This logic is understandable when some women seem to get pregnant in the blink of an eye, while others may struggle and try to conceive for longer periods of time. The good news is that fertility can be modified and there are some natural strategies that can enhance and optimize your chances to conceive (and conceive more quickly), along with increasing the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy and baby.
As a RN and Certified Women’s Health Coach specializing in hormones and fertility, I work with a lot of clients to help them prepare for conception. Here are a few strategies that you can include as a part of your routine that can help to increase fertility.
Ideally, preconception strategies should start AT LEAST 3 months before you’d like to conceive.
This coincides with how long it takes for an immature egg to go through the maturation process before it is released during ovulation. During this 3 month time period, diet and other lifestyle habits have a direct impact on the health of the egg.
Bump Up the HEALTHY fats
Your hormones are actually made from fat, so we need to consume these healthy fats for optimal hormone production. These good fats also help to improve egg quality, help us to absorb key nutrients, decrease inflammation, and stabilize our blood sugar, all key factors in fertility.
So what exactly are “healthy fats”?
They include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, along with medium chained triglycerides. Examples include:
- wild caught salmon
- olive oil
- chia seeds
- coconut oil
By adding these healthy fats into your diet, you can improve your hormonal balance and fertility.
When discussing fertility and conceiving quickly, reducing stress is probably one of the strategies most people are familiar with and accustomed to hearing. Most of us know that stressing out can negatively impact our ability to get pregnant, but here’s why.
When we experience stress, our stress hormone cortisol kicks into high gear. When this occurs over longer periods of time (one bad day here or there doesn’t count), excess cortisol causes our body to stop making progesterone. We NEED progesterone for pregnancy. It’s actually in the name itself, “pro-gestation”.
Without enough progesterone this will disrupt ovulation and hormonal balance, making it very difficult to conceive. Unfortunately, stress can be a part of life and is often hard to completely avoid. Finding healthy ways to cope with stress will help a great deal. Exercise, acupuncture, massage, prayer, meditation, and even counseling can be beneficial.
Improve Gut Health
When most people think of gut health AKA digestive health, they don’t necessarily associate it with fertility.
However, your gut plays a very important role in the whole process. Your digestive system is responsible for absorbing all of the key nutrients that your body needs for a healthy pregnancy and baby. Poor gut health can make it difficult to fully absorb these nutrients properly. We also need a healthy ratio of good vs bad bacteria in our digestive system for optimal hormonal balance.
Lastly, 70% of our immune system is located in the gut, and it is often where a lot of inflammation begins. Eating probiotic rich foods (like kimchi, sauerkraut, and sugar free greek yogurt), cutting back on sugar and white carbs, eating plenty of fiber, and avoiding foods that cause you digestive distress is a good start to help with the health of your gut.
Load Up on Antioxidants
Antioxidants are substances that can help to prevent free radical damage to our cells. Think of free radicals as the “waste products” of chemical reactions that occur in the body. Over time, this waste can build up and be harmful.
Substances that generate free radicals can be found in food, medicine, water, and even the air we breathe. Pesticides, alcohol, and tobacco can also lead to free radical damage.
Your eggs (and your guy’s sperm) can be susceptible to this free radical damage. By consuming a good amount of antioxidants, this offers a level of protection to your cells. Good sources of antioxidants are
- green leafy vegetables
- dark chocolate
- green tea
Take a Quality Prenatal Vitamin
Taking a prenatal vitamin in the months leading up to conception helps to provide your body with an adequate supply of the vitamins and minerals needed to sustain a healthy pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins contain folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, B6, B12, and iron, to name a few. These nutrients are critical for a healthy pregnancy.
Folate from food alone is not enough, so taking a prenatal with 800mcg/day is ideal. Folate can increase pregnancy success and prevent neural tube defects in a baby.
One study has shown that taking a multivitamin supplement (such as a prenatal) may also decrease the risk of ovulatory infertility.
Minimize Exposure to Chemicals and Toxins
This day in age we are exposed to so many harmful chemicals via our air, food, water, personal care products, and cleaning supplies. These chemicals can lead to reduced fertility because they can cause hormonal imbalance and also contribute to poorer quality eggs and sperm.
When the quality of eggs and sperm is reduced, this can lead to problems with conception and/or sustaining a healthy pregnancy. It’s next to impossible to eliminate ALL chemical exposure, however we want to minimize it as much as possible. Some strategies to do this include:
- Eating organic as often as possible to avoid pesticides and excess hormones found in food.
- Use natural and chemical free cleaning and personal care products.
- Store food in glassware to avoid chemicals found in plastic containers.
- Drink from glass or stainless steel water bottles instead of plastic.
- Drink filtered water as often as you can.
- Use an air purifier in your home.
Pursue Your Fertility Today
When you’re ready to have baby, most women would like to do everything that they can to conceive quickly and promote a healthy pregnancy. Although there are some things that are completely out of our control, the good news is that there are several strategies you can implement to increase fertility and promote a hospitable internal environment for a growing baby. Ideally, beginning these strategies as early as possible will allow your body the time it needs to reap the benefits and prepare for your little bundle of joy.
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Brooke is a Registered Nurse, Certified Women’s Health Coach, Hormone Health Specialist, and the creator of Healthier Existence. Healthier Existence was created to be a one stop shop for women’s health, with a focus on hormonal, reproductive health, and fertility. Healthier Existence helps women with the unique challenges that they face, with a holistic & lifestyle approach.