By Emily Wade Adams, CNC, Natal-Nutrition.com
Infertility can be a frustrating and painful challenge. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy, natural ways you can increase your odds of conceiving.
The first step is to see your doctor. Many cases of infertility are caused by unknown factors, but both partners should be evaluated for potential medical issues to rule out known issues like pelvic inflammatory disease, low sperm count, endometriosis or other health problems. Identifying a problem can make it easier to tackle.
Hormone imbalance can also contribute to conditions that reduce fertility. Sex, stress and thyroid hormones (the endocrine system) are interrelated. If one set of these hormones are ‘off,’ it’s not uncommon for the other hormones to follow suit. Ask yourself: have you been stressed lately, or have you grown accustomed to a consistently high level of stress? Try to reduce stress through healthy eating, sleep, light exercise and relaxation techniques. It’s likely that your doctor will test Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) levels as part of your medical evaluation – if she doesn’t, ask.
Melatonin, a hormone secreted at night, regulates the endocrine system. Perhaps this is why women’s cycles used to align with the phases of the moon. Sleep in complete darkness to support melatonin production – this can further balance your hormones and may improve ovulation.
Women can also track their cycles to identify their most fertile days. Fertility Awareness is a great way to do this – I highly recommend the book The Garden of Fertility by Katie Singer. FA helps women understand their cycles and optimize the best time for conception.
Proper nutrition is crucial for creating the right environment within your body. Infertility is associated with nutritional deficiencies, so it’s important to consume a broad range of vitamins and minerals through your diet. You may also consider taking a multivitamin. Both overweight and underweight women have increased rates of infertility (Hudson, 2008). Sweeteners and simple carbohydrates can raise cortisol levels and decrease sex hormones (Singer, 2004). The most simple way to ensure a healthy weight, optimal nutrient status, and reproductive health is to eat a balanced diet full of a variety of vegetables, eliminate processed foods and refined carbohydrates, and avoid toxins by choosing organic meats, dairy and produce, and low-mercury fish.
Toxins can also prevent a fertile environment. Both partners should eliminate nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol – they have all been linked to decreased fertility (Hudson, 2008). Even just one cup of coffee a day can decrease your chance of conceiving by 50% (Singer, 2004)! That said, one study showed that caffeine can increase sperm motility, so an occasional cup may be OK for men if sperm motility is an issue. Marijuana appears to have the opposite effect, decreasing fertility in both men and women.
Taking control of your health is a powerful step towards overcoming infertility. With simple changes, you can increase your chances of conceiving. If you want further assistance or need help putting these concepts into practice, seek out a holistic nutritionist or wellness coach who specializes in fertility.
Hudson, T. (2008). Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Infertility. McGraw Hill: New York.
Singer, K. (2004). The Garden of Fertility. Avery: New York.