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How to create better health to maximise fertility

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

Long before conception occurs, the lifestyle choices, nutrition and emotional health of those intending to become parents will affect fertility. Around 1 in 7 couples have difficulty conceiving. Some experts say that if you aren’t pregnant within cycles then there is an indication that something isn’t quite right.

It takes around three months for sperm to mature and around a month for a women’s egg, so optimising nutrition, being mindful of certain lifestyle choices and taking care of your emotional health prior to conception, can not only improve your chances of becoming pregnant but it will also have long lasting, positive effects during pregnancy and on the health of your baby. Before you begin your journey, or even if you are already there, here are some points to reflect on.

How are you and your partner doing emotionally?

One of the biggest barriers to fertility, and health in general, is stress. When you are chronically stressed, anxious or overly emotional, this can have a negative effect on reproductive hormones in both men and women. In stress situations, our body produces cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. These hormones can inhibit the release of GnRH in females, which is needed for the stimulation of oestrogen and progesterone, two predominant female sex hormones that play a key role in ovulation and conception.

In females, stress can also have an effect on FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone), which helps control the menstrual cycle and stimulate the maturation of eggs in the ovaries. In males, cortisol can inhibit Luteinising Hormone production, which is needed to make testosterone, important for producing sperm. It can also have an effect on the way sperm is formed and moves.

What is your diet like? Could you be lacking essential nutrients?

Such is the modern diet, that consuming foods high in refined sugar and refined carbohydrates (bread, pastries, pizza, cakes, pasta, biscuits etc) is actually very easy, though this can be pretty harmful when trying to conceive. These foods can promote inflammation in the body and block the absorption of essential nutrients. The sugar in these foods can spike insulin levels, affecting the production of essential reproductive hormones and damage egg and sperm quality.

Glucose, which is the simplest molecule of sugar and the compound that is stored in our body, can actually inhibit the transportation of vitamin C into our cells. This is because these nutrients use the same ‘transporter’ to get into cells. However, the body will prioritise energy production, so the movement of glucose into the cell will take precedence. This is a problem because Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and needed to help reduce oxidative stress in the body. The sperm and egg are very susceptible to oxidative stress so to reduce the risk of damage, we need to ensure we are providing the body with the essential nutrients it needs.

Research shows that preconception nutrition and lifestyle factors for both men and women matter. For those wanting to get pregnant, adjustments should me made around 4 months before trying. Here are 5 top tips

· Optimise your diet for preconception and pregnancy. All nutrients are important as they all work in synergy but zinc is essential for pregnancy and the future health of your baby. It helps women to more effectively use the hormones oestrogen and progesterone to achieve conception. Even a mild deficiency in males can drastically reduce sperm count and affect how long the sperm can live in the vaginal tract.

· Introduce walnuts, flax seed, chia seeds and hemp seeds into the diet as well as oily fish such a salmon and mackerel. Two fats from the omega 3 fatty acid family are critical for the developing brain. Research shows that they are necessary for normal structure and function of the brain and deficiencies could lead to reduce visual, motor and cognitive function and mental health conditions.

· Implement a fitness regime that works for you. Moderate exercise can help boost fertility and improve your emotional wellbeing.

· Reduce your stress levels through self-care and relaxation techniques. Speak to a health coach as they can help you find ways to manage stress situations, introduce methods to help calm the nervous system and help you support the body nutritionally during high stress or anxiety times.

· Consider your environment. What hidden toxins could be entering the body? Pesticides found on fruit and vegetables have been linked to reduced sperm concentration, mortility (how sperm moves) and morphology (the size and shape of sperm). Make sure you at least wash your produce to get rid of any excess residue and where you can, look into organic options during this time. You can also minimise your exposure to household chemicals by using more natural and unfragranced cleaning products.

Becoming a parent is a wonderful and exciting thing. Sometimes the journey to conception and through pregnancy can be challenging and it can be hard for some couples not to have control over when this might happen. However making necessary dietary and lifestyle changes can be empowering for both individuals and couples.


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