Are you looking to grow your tribe?
Preparing for conception is an important first step!
Making the decision to start or expand your family is an exciting time.
In today’s society, women are generally having childen later in life compared to previous generations. Even though women are often more fertile in their 20’s the average age of women giving birth is now between 30-35.
For most couples, the chances of falling pregnant are around 15-25% in any given month.
While some people may consider that to be quite low, there are a number of factors which can increase your odds!
While you don’t need to be a top athlete, it’s a good idea to make sure your mind and body are in peak condition, at least a few months before endeavouring to conceive.
While women are born with their full complement of eggs, being in good health the month prior to conception can increase nutrients in the ovary, which support the egg being released.
With men, it takes about 3 months for sperm to develop, so being in good health a few months prior to conception is recommended.
Looking at your lifestyle and physical health can be a great place to start, as well as being aware of who/what is available to assist you in this journey, e.g., naturopath, nutritionist, exercise options.
With a small window of opportunity to conceive each month, it is also essential for ladies to understand their menstrual cycle, including those all-important days when pregnancy is possible (this is known as the fertility window).
A Good First Step
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!
Eating a larger breakfast compared to lunch or dinner, can be beneficial for many people, especially ladies with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). More calories at breakfast can reduce insulin and testosterone levels, which if too high, can contribute to infertility. Consuming lower carbohydrate foods may also assist ladies with PCOS.
Eating foods that are lower in glycemic index (GI) releases energy more consistently throughout your body, regulating blood glucose levels and decreasing the release of insulin. An over-production of insulin can contribute to a lack of egg maturation and ovulation.
Bring on the fibre!
Fibre can assist your body to remove an excess of hormones and balance blood glucose levels. The amount of fibre that is beneficial will vary from person to person, so always good to talk with your health care professional about what would be best for you.
Eating foods rich in antioxidants such as folate and zinc, can be beneficial for both women and men in their reproductive efforts. While there is limited evidence about the amount of antioxidants to consume to be beneficial for fertility, antioxidant rich foods have numerous health benefits, so great to consume daily in any instance.
Who said fats are all bad?
Eating healthy fats such as unsaturated fats, as part of a balanced diet, can boost fertility and improve health generally. Limiting trans fats is recommended as they can increase infertility for both men and women. Eating high fat dairy products can also increase fertility.
Varying the sources of protein you consume can be delicious and beneficial for your health. By adding vegetable proteins in place of some animal proteins you can increase your fertility.
The micronutrients in multivitamins can play an important role in fertility. For women planning a pregnancy, consuming a multivitamin that includes folate is beneficial. Talking with your health care provider can also be a good idea to discuss your options.
If you are deficient in iron, increasing your levels by consuming foods rich in iron or taking a supplement, can decrease chances of infertility. Your health care provider can work with you to check this out. It’s also important to note that iron from plant-based foods is absorbed better by the body when consumed with food/drink high in vitamin C.
Coffee can be a great addition to your day and some people enjoy the occasional energy drink. There is varying evidence about the impacts of caffeine on fertility and the general recommendation is to reduce caffeine intake to 1-2 cups per day.
The evidence about consuming alcohol whilst trying to conceive is mixed. Current recommendations are to avoid excessive alcohol consumption and discuss this with your healthcare provider to ensure your overall health.
Relax, you can do it!
While a certain degree of stress is apparent in most people’s lives, high levels of stress over a period of time can decrease your chances of conceiving. This is most likely due to hormonal changes in the body caused by stress. Seeking support with reducing stress and anxiety levels can be beneficial, as well as spending time doing things you enjoy.
Exercise can be a great way to improve your health and increase fertility. Moderate physical activity several times a week has a positive impact on fertility for women and men.
Weight a minute!
Being underweight or overweight can increase the chances of infertility. The amount of fat stored in a woman’s body influences ovulation, menstrual cycle and egg development. Working with your health care provider/team to maintain a healthy weight range for your body can increase your fertility and improve overall health.
Natural Support Options
Ladies, do you know what days you are most fertile?
Ovulation tracking can be a good way to determine your fertility window, the most optimal time to fall pregnant.
Ovulation usually occurs about 14 days before your next period, which is approximately halfway through your menstrual cycle. Keep in mind that this can vary between women.
There are some subtle, natural signs your body displays which can indicate that you are about to ovulate, such as changes in body temperature and mucous changes. Becoming familiar with these variations over time, can help you predict your fertility window.
Body temperature changes
Your body temperature may increase slightly just after ovulation. Some ladies find it helpful to track their temperature each morning before they get out of bed and record this on a chart/spreadsheet or phone app. Over a period of months, you will see a pattern in your temperature which can help work out your fertility window. The time you are most fertile is 2-3 days before the rise in temperature.
Your mucous/vaginal secretions change during your menstrual cycle. Around the time of ovulation, your mucous is usually clear, stretchy and slippery, similar to egg whites.
After ovulation, mucous tends to be cloudy and thick or disappear entirely. At this point, your chances of becoming pregnant reduce.
There are several other signs that may indicate you are about to ovulate. These include abdominal cramping, breast tenderness or increased sexual drive. While these may be factors to consider, they are not the most reliable methods on their own.
Some women choose to purchase an ovulation predictor kit, which tests your urine for signs of ovulation. These are generally available from a chemist or supermarket.
There are a number of services that can provide a more holistic and individualised approach to assist you with your fertility and conception.
Some of these include:
Medical Support Options
In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
For some women/couples, looking at IVF to assist with conception may be a valuable option to consider. After some initial discussions and tests, an IVF specialist can work with you to determine the best way forward for your fertility journey. They may suggest several options including assisted ovulation tracking, ovulation induction, artificial insemination or IVF treatment.
Assisted ovulation tracking
If you have been tracking your ovulation and not falling pregnant, there may be some benefit in having blood tests and ultrasounds to provide a more individualised approach to your menstrual cycle.
This involves taking medication, such as Clomiphene Citrate or Follicle stimulating hormone, which can encourage eggs to develop in the ovaries and be released. And as a result, increase your chances of conceiving.
Also known as Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), involves inserting your partners/donors prepared semen into the uterus around the time of ovulation. This is less invasive that other fertility treatments.
This is a process where women are given medication to stimulate the ovaries to produce more eggs. Women then undergo egg collection with a light general anaesthetic or local anaesthetic with sedation. The eggs are then fertilised with the sperm in a specialised laboratory. The fertilised egg (embryo) is grown in a protected environment for several days before being transferred into the uterus.
If several eggs are fertilised, the remaining embryos can be frozen and stored for later use. This is known as Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET).
There may also be other treatment/surgery options available depending on your individual situation.
Information for this page has been sourced from: