Preparing for pregnancy is more than just getting jiggy and taking folic acid.
Fertility is not just about whether your reproductive organs are in working order or not. Nor is it simply a matter of hormone balance.
Fertility – that’s female and male fertility – is a holistic matter.
If you check out the dictionary definition that means:
characterised by the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.
In medicine, it refers to treating individuals as individuals and as a whole people with mental, emotional and social factors. It’s far removed from treating the symptoms of “disease”. And viewing people as the sum of some organs and body systems.
Fertility is complex. And beautiful.
Each woman’s and couple’s journey is different.
I think everyone deserves to be treated as special and fertility-fuelling approaches tailored for them, their situation and needs.
I believe in an integrated approach. And a holistic one.
You Are Unique and Special
No two couples are the same. Fact. Even if you have been given the same diagnosis as others or the same “label” like older prospective parent, you are not the same.
Everyone’s body chemistry and responses are totally unique.
And where your path to parenthood looks similar to others on paper, you’ll have different circumstances, experiences, preferences.
I totally get the ttc sisterhood and the need for community. We don’t always want to tell our stories to our friends, families or co-workers and the need for support and understanding is very real.
Please be aware in those communities of following general advice or advice passed on from the sisterhood. It may not be relevant for you. Or even accurate. Use the sisterhood wisely and contribute to it wisely.
Similarly, one size does not fit all.
I think that whoever you choose to support you – whether conventional medicine or natural practitioners (ideally both) – should treat you with the sensitivity and respect you deserve.
An Integrated Approach
And I do firmly believe in an integrated approach.
By that I simply mean, considering all your options. Looking at a range of approaches. Choosing the best ways for you to maximise your fertility and chances of conceiving. That often means bringing together different methods and different practitioners all working together to help you reach your goal. Working for you and in your interests. Lead by you.
Certainly, I’ve seen that when couples are struggling to conceive, doctors send them straight off to IVF clinics. But that’s only one approach.
In my experience, some couples conceive naturally even having been managed along an IVF path before … unsuccessfully.
Of course, IVF and other assisted means are the best options for some couples.
I’m saying they are not the only option for all who struggle. And even where IVF is your best option, preparing your body and mind for that increases chances of success. Let’s not forget that success rates are still pretty low.
All The Bases
I suggest covering all the bases. And that means tackling all the factors that affect fertility in a structured way.
Yes, let’s have a plan. Rather than be shepherded by someone else’s.
Your body. Your mind. Your fertility. Your journey. You should feel as in control as you possibly can for your own emotional health.
To me a sound plan covers these areas: –
1. Food and nutrition
Eat a varied, nutritious and balanced diet.
There are some fabulous fertility fuelling foods like berries, leafy greens, oily fish, nuts and seeds, beans and peas and lentils.
It’s not enough to carry on eating as you were (for most anyway) and supplement with Folic Acid to help prevent birth defects.
For starters, Folic Acid is the processed and synthetic version of the B vitamin. It’s not easily absorbed by everyone. It’s better to choose a high-quality supplement with methylfolate.
Add the fertility friendly foods above, plus citrus fruits, avocado, carrots and squashes to get more folate in your life.
2. Lifestyle choices
Ditch the smoking, the alcohol, the caffeine and the street drugs. Women and men.
They are harmful to fertility and also in pregnancy.
Being overweight and underweight influences fertility too. It’s much better to stay within the healthy BMI range.
Getting regular, gentle exercise is also beneficial for body and mind.
3. Detoxing your world of fertility-harming chemicals and toxins
The modern world is full of environmental hazards. They impact health, hormone balance and fertility.
They are in the soil, the air, the water. Even in our homes and workplaces. And added to our food.
It’s important – I think – to understand the risks and make fertility friendly choices.
4. Taking care of general health
When facing difficulty falling pregnant or maintaining pregnancy it’s natural to look at reproductive health – sex hormone levels, genitourinary infections, reproductive organ function. And yes, please check all of that out.
But our bodies are complex machines. Even our hormone system is a complicated orchestra of chemical triggers, messages and signals: one out of whack can cause a knock-on impact on fertility.
So, the root of a fertility issue may lie in another gland, another hormone imbalance.
It could relate to a challenge with general health and wellness, like allergies. Poor digestion. And much more.
Perhaps it’s something to do with a previous medical concern.
It may even lie in an emotional issue.
Or be related to side-effects from over-the-counter and prescribed medications.
5. Knowing the natural signs of fertility and the fertile window in your cycle
Many women track their cycle. Especially if they are not falling pregnant as quickly as they hoped.
I totally get wanting to find the fertile window (the days you can actually fall pregnant in a cycle where ovulation happens) and time sex.
But be aware those fancy apps and monitors aren’t always accurate.
A study last year from researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York analysed more than 50 popular websites and smartphone apps that aim to predict a woman’s fertile window.
Researchers found that the fertile windows predicted by cycle-tracking apps and websites varied hugely. Some included days after ovulation, when the chances of becoming pregnant are almost nil.
It’s good to know how to track properly.
6. Rest, relaxation and handling stress
Lack of sleep can affect fertility. It increases stress hormones causing imbalances. It can also contribute to weight gain, tiredness and mood swings.
Stress can have a huge impact on fertility. And not just on emotional and mental health. Stress changes body chemistry. It changes hormone balance. It is also very common in those struggling to fall pregnant and so it becomes a vicious cycle.
Breaking out of that often requires some “talking type” therapies and supporting the physical symptoms caused by emotional stress.
7. When to ask for tests, what to ask for and what the results might show
If you’re over 35 and been having regular, unprotected sex for at least 6 months, it’s time to consider tests.
If you’re under 35 and been trying a year, it’s also time to talk tests.
Tests – to my mind – are a positive. The results provide information. One source of information. They are not the be-all-and-end-all.
The results themselves do not determine whether you will become pregnant naturally or via IVF.
I believe test results are vital clues and that can help couples decide the next course of action.
These seven areas of focus are what I cover in my free mini preconception care course 7 Steps to Boost Fertility.
These are aspects of health, hormones and fertility not always covered by conventional doctors.
That’s why I love the integrated approach: it’s the best of the best, for me.
Take 4 Months
And that’s why I encourage couples to take 4 months. 4 months to prepare for pregnancy, addressing all of these mental, emotional and physical aspects of health and fertility. 4 months to make the best egg and the most vibrant sperm possible.
It’s 4 months to maximise your health to maximise your natural fertility.
To prepare for pregnancy. Or to try to get pregnant quicker. Even to support conventional fertility treatments.
I call this preconception care.
Our fertility is fragile and beautiful and complex. It deserves the holistic approach to protect, nurture and boost it.
That’s using the best of complementary therapies and conventional medicine, I believe.
If you’d like to protect, nurture and boost your fertility naturally, sign up for my free mini online course 7 Steps to Boost Fertility (http://bit.ly/7stepstoboostfertility)
It has all the basics of preconception care covered.
Love, Kathy x
Kathy Payne is a Booster of Fertility, Balancer of Hormones and Soother of Modern Life Madness, naturally. She is a women’s health coach online and in Norwich UK, offering bespoke programmes for women and couples, as well as online classes and courses.