Whether you are trying to conceive or avoiding conception please read. I say this because I believe optimizing fertility is synonymous with improving your health. With that said, optimizing one’s fertility IS beneficial and important for everyone. The lifestyle you have right now can affect your fertility in the future. As a provider working with people of reproductive age, I’m passionate about the health of parents prior to conception as it will influence the health of their unborn babies.
So first, what does this fertility word mean? If you look at Wikipedia, it says fertility is the natural capability to produce offspring. Simple right? Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Most people would probably agree that a healthy individual of child bearing age is designed to be able to reproduce. However, if there are problems with this, we need to look deeper into what is amiss. Usually when our reproductive system isn’t working the way it’s designed to, it can be a sign of some level of ill wellbeing. I have worked with men and women who had been trying unsuccessfully to have a child whom have gone on to having beautiful healthy babies once their health was in balance. (This is ruling out any anatomical or structural malformations).
First, I need to address the widespread use of birth control. I know this topic all too well because I was put on the pill at an early age since I had very painful and debilitating cycles that kept me home from school. Little did I know then that this wasn’t normal and hindsight I would have looked at what was causing such horrible symptoms instead of just artificially suppressing my entire reproductive system. When women take artificial hormones in birth control, we are tricking the body into stopping ovulation (the release of an egg). When we think of fertility – releasing an egg is absolutely 100% necessary for conception. When women quit taking the pill, think of how a woman’s body must figure out how to start making its own hormones and get back to its natural rhythmic state to start releasing eggs again during her monthly cycle. For some women, this doesn’t take long but for others it may take much longer. For women coming off the pill I always recommend support with diet and supplementation to help the body detox and eliminate artificial hormones that may have accumulated in her body.
Optimizing your fertility is synonymous with improving your health.
Other things I look for in individuals besides hormonal imbalances include correcting any nutritional deficiencies, eliminating food sensitivities, and eliminating chemicals and toxins from the body. One very important and possibly overlooked area to add is how I help coach individuals on tracking their cycle through the fertility awareness method (FAM) to optimize chances of conception. Too many women have unnecessary stress and disappointment when trying to conceive because they are trying on the wrong days of the month! When you track your cycles through FAM, you can get a lot of information regarding your body and can find what day you are ovulating. This is important because once you ovulate – that egg is viable for approximately 24 hours, so you have a short window that you want to maximize.
As you can see there is a lot to this subject and I don’t want to make things complicated. Let’s review as this is generally a great place to start on your fertility journey. First if you haven’t done so, get off birth control. Allow your body to have real cycles with real hormones your body makes on its own, so you can begin to ovulate again. Also, I recommend you track your cycles using the Fertility Awareness Method. If your cycles include lots of pain, mood swings, heavy bleeding, etc. then there’s a chance your hormones are out of balance (Don’t hesitate to reach out to me and we can discuss further).
Next, eat a nutrient dense diet. I cannot stress this enough. I see too many individuals with major deficiencies and you need your nutrient stores built up – remember you are going to be building a little human being! How can you build a strong house without a good solid foundation? I am extremely passionate about this and I think I need to write a separate post on it. This leads me to Pre-Natal supplements – not all pre-natals are created equal. I find it is my duty to tell you that you should avoid any with folic acid in it. This is the synthetic form of folate. If you are an individual who has a genetic variation of their MTHFR gene then you will not have efficient enzyme activity to process folic acid completely. Long story short – avoid synthetic vitamins and take the most biologically active forms so your body can process them more efficiently. (For more information on MTHFR – visit Dr. Benjamin Lynch’s website: www.MTHFR.net)
Along with correcting nutrient deficiencies, I recommend reducing your exposure to toxins. This means cleaning up the foods you eat, the water you drink, the air you breathe, and the things you put on your skin (deodorant, cosmetics, etc.). Ladies, have you ever thought about your feminine hygiene products? If you haven’t already done so switch to organic tampons and pads to reduce exposure to toxins that you so easily absorb. Even better look for a menstrual cup! It sounds intimidating at first, yes but do your research and you’ll see lots of women love them and it reduces your toxin exposure as well as your environmental footprint. A few other things I don’t want to miss mentioning is the importance of a healthy nervous system and reducing your stress. See a Chiropractor to check your spine and reduce any interference you may have in your nervous system to reduce the physical stress. This will also make sure that the nerves and signals to your reproductive system are working optimally. We live such busy lives and we need to remember to find ways to relax whether doing yoga, take a walk, meditate, or whatever it is that you do to re-energize, slow down and be present in the moment.
The topic on fertility alone can be a very emotional one. I realize it sounds like fertility is all on the woman’s shoulders but that is NOT the case. The male partner should be taking these steps too and getting their health to maximum potential. I think of other cultures who prepare their people of reproductive age for conception. Couples prepare themselves physically and spiritually for anticipation of inviting a child into their family. According to the Tibetan Art of Parenting, “The environment at conception is important.” I think we have lost that and I hope I can bring awareness to it and help couples prepare as much as they can. An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure; please don’t wait to make changes. If you’re planning on having a family now or even if it’s down the road – it’s never too early to make these changes.
In good health,