Infertility was once considered a “woman’s problem”, but obstacles to achieving pregnancy, conceiving, and all the challenges that arise around reproduction are shared by both sexes. Forty percent of infertility cases are due to male causes like poor sperm production and low sperm count, whereas another forty percent are caused by female problems like blocked fallopian tubes and endometriosis. The final 20 percent is due to unknown causes, otherwise known as idiopathic infertility. Although fertility specialists and science have developed medical approaches to treating infertility, these treatments are expensive and do not always guarantee a pregnancy. If the causes of your infertility are unknown, try making a few lifestyle and dietary changes. These natural approaches have been proven to increase the likelihood of conceiving, whether used on their own or as a secondary treatment to assisted reproduction technologies.
Fertility and proper nutrition
The sooner you start eating right, the sooner you’ll conceive. Most women treated advice on nutrition and fertility as an old wives’ tale until Harvard University’s groundbreaking Nurses’ Health Study lent credibility to this statement. After examining the eating habits of over 18,000 female nurses who were trying to conceive, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health confirmed that women who received iron, folic acid, and other nutrients from fruits, vegetables and meats were more likely to get pregnant. Conversely, women who regularly ate donuts, refined carbohydrates, and sweets had a more difficult time conceiving.
Although researchers were unable to determine exactly how food affects fertility in women, the working theory has to do with insulin’s impact on ovarian function. Women with normal insulin levels are much more likely to have normal menstrual cycles and ovulation, whereas women with diabetes or insulin resistance are more likely to experience anovulation, meaning that ovulation does not occur.
Certain nutritional guidelines seem to have a universal positive effect on fertility. Refined carbohydrates, which can boost insulin levels and blood sugar levels too quickly, should be avoided because the insulin surge upsets the delicate hormonal balance required for optimum fertility. On the other hand, eating whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, and other low-glycemic foods improves ovulation by regulating insulin and blood sugar levels. Trans-fats from junk food should also be avoided because they increase insensitivities to insulin.
Eat organic when possible
The high prices of organic food make it impractical to eat organic all the time, but it is important to do so as much as you can when you want to boost your fertility. Conventional crop farming makes use of chemical pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides which can aggravate fertility problems in men and women. One of the dangers posed by conventionally raised crop and cattle has to do with the xenoestrogens or “foreign estrogens” used to protect them from pests or encourage them to grow. Xenoestrogens are often the culprit behind unexplained infertility because they upset the delicate hormonal balance required for conception. They also imitate the actions of natural estrogen and cause conditions like endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and luteal phase defects. The harmful effects of xenoestrogens don’t only affect the mother; studies show that this chemical can even cause miscarriages and birth defects in the baby. In men, xenoestrogens can cause andropause, low sperm count, and low testosterone levels.
Boost your nutritional intake with vitamins
Food alone may not be enough for you to obtain the nutrients you need for optimum fertility. Keep your bases covered by taking a quality multivitamin or pre-natal vitamin every day. Pre-natal vitamins contain all the nutrients you and a healthy baby will need, but they are also more expensive. If you do choose to get a regular multivitamin, make sure it contains the following nutrients.
- At least 400 mcg of folic acid. The Nurses’ Health Study discovered that folic acid makes a woman 40% less likely to suffer from problems producing and releasing mature eggs. However, there’s another reason why you should stock up on folic acid: it protects babies from neural tube defects like spina bifida.
- No more than 770 mcg of vitamin A. Unless the vitamin A is in a form called beta-carotene, make sure it does not exceed the daily recommended allowance. Certain types of vitamin A are known to cause birth defects. However, the vitamin A found in fruits and vegetables are safe.
- 2.6 mcg of vitamin B12. Some studies suggest that a lack of vitamin B12 can also contribute to neural tube defects. Since vitamin B12 can only be obtained from meat and animal-based food, vegetarians should look for a multivitamin with the recommended daily allowance of this nutrient.
Exercise in moderation
Exercise can boost fertility by helping maintain a healthy weight, lowering your blood sugar levels, and reducing stress. However, it’s important to exercise in moderation because there is such a thing as being too fit. A study in the Obstetrics and Gynecology journal found out that women who work out more than four hours a week are 40% less likely to conceive. When intense physical activity or calorie burning occurs, the body interprets this as danger and suppresses reproductive hormones. Walking 30 minutes a day is enough to stay fit, healthy, and fertile.