One of my mantras is act pregnant to get pregnant.
That’s because the same risk factors in pregnancy are risk factors for fertility too. My preconception care programmes show couples what to eat, which supplement programmes are right for them and how their lifestyles need to change to fuel fertility, based on testing.
Yes, lifestyle. I’m saying that our lifestyle choices can harm our health and fertility. At least 3-4 months before starting to try for a baby, it’s better for us AND the health of future children, to clean up our act.
Egg and sperm are products of prospective parent’s diet and lifestyle. It turns out we are really what we eat …and how we live.
And our children’s health is influenced by our health pre-conception and during pregnancy.
It takes about 3 months for follicles to develop before one is released as an egg. It takes about 3 months for sperm cells to mature too.
So, let’s look at how our social lives affect fertility and what can we do about it, without becoming a total bore.
It’s all a matter of choice. And taking some control over the path to parenthood.
Junk Food, Processed Food and Takeaways
Junk food, processed food and takeaway food can be a weekend ritual for some. A way of life for others. Or maybe the very occasional “treat” or fall-back for convenience. Sometimes they’re “party” food or “movie night” food.
They have no place in a fertility-friendly diet.
Generally, they are cheap, low quality and not organic.
They have little nutritional value. And we need foods packed with fertility firing nutrition when we’re planning a baby naturally or via IVF.
Refined foods can produce spikes in blood sugar and cause hormone havoc.
And these foods often contain, or are cooked in, trans fats (hydrogenated fats) which have been linked in some studies to ovulation issues in women.
Best avoided. Or eaten only very, very occasionally.
Eat real food!
In our home we enjoy pizza, curries and burgers occasionally. We make our own healthier versions from high quality, mostly organic ingredients and we find suitable alternatives. For example, experiment with pizza bases made from non-wheat flours or even veggies …. don’t knock home-made cauliflower pizza base until you tried it!
And with a little smart, it’s possible to choose a healthier meal from most menus … hold the sauce, take the dressing on the side, remove the worst ingredients, choose a mix of starters and sides instead of a gut busting main…
Many people enjoy a night out in a bar, maybe wine with dinner or to raise a glass …or three at a party, right?
It’s just not that fertility friendly.
Booze is diuretic meaning it makes us pee more…flushing valuable fertility friendly nutrients like zinc and folate down the toilet.
Alcohol is toxic to egg, sperm and a developing baby.
Women who drink heavily can stop ovulating, can stop having periods and can take longer to fall pregnant.
As with most aspects of health, you can find contradictory studies with differing conclusions.
Many countries advocate giving up alcohol totally. Others say there is a safe limit.
I think it’s fair to say that not drinking or limiting alcohol intake is a great idea as part of preconception care, when you’re trying to become pregnant and in pregnancy. For your fertility and your child’s development and health.
Guys, you too. Alcohol can cause abnormalities in sperm and reduce sperm making hormones.
It’s much better to give up the demon drink as part of preconception care.
If there’s just too much peer pressure or you want to avoid any awkward questions, give it up and get sponsorship for the charity of your choice. Your friends, family, neighbours and co-workers will applaud you.
Choose filtered water, diluted fresh juices and healthy soft drinks like kombucha (fermented tea) instead.
If you must choose alcohol, the very occasional glass of red wine or champagne are probably your best choices
Coffee (and Tea)
Are you a lady who likes to a latte with her friends?
Caffeine (also found in tea, chocolate, some soft drinks and many over-the-counter drugs) impacts female fertility and increases risks of miscarriage and stillbirth.
Sperm health issues are also associated with caffeine intake.
Different studies draw different conclusions, so I advise playing it safe and giving up caffeine as part of preconception care.
Watch out for decaffeinated coffee or tea too. It’s often chemically processed so not an ideal choice for baby-making. You can find naturally decaffeinated brands.
Find fruit and herbal teas that you like. Choose rooibos tea (it has no caffeine). Try coffee tasting drinks made from barley and chicory found in Health Stores. There are some really tasty ones.
Blood sugar levels have a big impact on fertility. Fact!
So are you eating cake with your latte? Maybe your hobby is baking sweet treats at home like a Domestic Goddess or God and then scoffing them too? Perhaps you just eat a lot of sugary and processed foods? Then, you’re at greater risk of high blood sugar, haywire hormones (high insulin and risk of insulin resistance and even diabetes) and a rollercoaster of energy.
Balancing our blood sugar is important for general health, hormone health, ovulation and fertility.
Too much insulin can be a factor in some conditions that affect fertility, like PCOS, diabetes and obesity.
Insulin issues can also lead to higher levels of adrenaline (a stress hormone) which can cause high blood pressure and heart disease as well as interfering with the reproductive hormone, progesterone: progesterone is essential for maintaining pregnancy.
Quit or reduce sugar. Try small amounts of natural sweeteners raw honey or quality maple syrup instead. Or you could choose processed sweeteners stevia or xylitol in moderation only.
Choose unrefined carbs like brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, oats, veggies. For other fertility-fuelling reasons, it’s best not to choose wheat or wheat based foods as part of a preconception care diet.
To balance blood sugar and eat for maximum health, eat quality protein, healthy fats and fibre at every meal and snack.
If you’re a smoker – even a social one – quit.
Smoking is linked to reproductive health issues for men and women.
It’s thought that smoking harms egg quality in women, effectively ageing eggs. It also interferes with female hormone levels, which can lead to irregular cycles and early menopause. Smoking raises miscarriage risk.
It robs us of vital nutrients needed to support fertility too and increases toxic metals especially cadmium.
Women who smoke during pregnancy are passing on all those nasty chemicals via the placenta.
Smoking affects erectile function and sperm quality and quantity.
Just quit smoking. Please. Women and men.
And vaping is not a viable alternative. It’s a relatively new thing. But some early studies show it’s just as dangerous as smoking.
Quit. There is plenty of help to quit through conventional health practitioners and private therapists.
- Street drugs affect reproductive health in men and women
- Even if you see yourself as a social drug user, the advice is still to give up
- Cocaine can lower sperm count, lower testosterone and reduce sperm quality. Marijuana can lower the hormones needed for sperm production
- Cocaine is linked to infertility, miscarriage and birth defects when taken by women. Marijuana can cause irregular cycles and reduce ovulation in women
These are just examples. Of course, babies born to mothers taking drugs can be addicted when born. Stop taking recreational drugs at least 3-4 months before trying to conceive.
Many people exercise in their spare time. It’s good for us, right?
This may seem surprising but exercise with caution when trying to fall pregnant. Too much exercise can cause low body fat percentage in women, which can lead to non-ovulatory and irregular cycles.
So, exercise, but gently and regularly. That’s 30 -60 minutes of moderate activity most days. And mix it up for stamina, strength and flexibility.
For guys, just be wary of any exercise that causes your testicles to overheat like cycling for long periods. Overheating your testicles is not great for baby-making.
Personally, I think it’s possible to change our social choices when we ‘re trying to get pregnant and still have fun times and enjoy life. It doesn’t all have to be about abstaining from everything but the baby-dance and eating kale. Honestly.
It does require some planning for success, some mutual support and sometimes support from experts. But it can be done.
And it doesn’t always have to be obvious to everyone you’re changing habits to boost your fertility and for a healthy pregnancy and baby.
It’s well worth it in pursuit of your goal of natural conception or IVF success.
Love, Kathy x
Kathy Payne is a Booster of Fertility and Harmoniser of Hormones using food, supplements, lifestyle choices and natural therapies with women and couples worldwide via Skype. She has lots of free resources on her website www.kathypayne.co.uk and has a free Facebook Group for fertility support called Footsteps to Fertility.