Improving your Fertility Naturally
by Dr. Audrey Schenewerk
Nine months of pregnancy can be challenging for some and for others the greatest challenge is becoming pregnant at all. Fertility is becoming more of a concern, and many factors can contribute to your ability to become pregnant. Women and men can each contribute 40% to the overall cause of infertility, while the remaining 20% of infertility has unknown origin or is multifaceted. Common causes of infertility include:
- Women: irregular menstrual cycles or amenorrhea, anatomical abnormalities, hypothyroidism, or poor egg quality
- Men: poor sperm movement, quality, or low sperm count
There are many things to consider when planning a pregnancy. Most important is identifying if and when the woman is ovulating. This is the time when an egg is released from the ovary and descends through the fallopian tube towards the uterus. Ovulation is the only time when sperm may fertilize an egg. There are several different ways to track ovulation. Your licensed healthcare provider can help you decide which is best for you.
For Women— soon your body will provide all the resources needed to support the life and development of another human. However, optimizing your health prior to conception can greatly impact the quality of your pregnancy, both your own health and the health of your growing baby.
Three or four months before conception is the optimal time to begin preconception care. It is best that both the male and female partner begin to make diet and lifestyle changes. This window of time is ideal for healthy maturation of egg and sperm. What can be done to optimize health?
- Eat a diet low in processed foods and sugar, high in whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, grass-fed beef, wild fish and game, healthy fats, and whole grains
- Decrease exposure to toxins, including drinking filtered water, eating organic foods, removing sources of heavy metals from your life, avoiding BPA and parabens, smoking cessation, physician directed medication adjustment, minimize alcohol and caffeine
- Initiate a sustainable exercise program that includes at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly, and 300 minutes if either partner need to lose weight, including strength, cardio and stretching routines
- Establish stress reduction practices such as meditation, yoga, counseling, tai chi, mindfulness practices, mindbody interventions, acupuncture, massage
- Consider supplementation for both female and males including multi-vitamin or pre-natal, Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidant support
These recommendations will significantly benefit anyone preparing for natural pregnancy as well as those utilizing conventional fertility treatments including intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilization. If you need additional support with conception seeking the help of a licensed health professional is beneficial. As naturopathic physicians we treat the whole person, supporting both the female and male’s body in performing the natural function of conception. We help regulate the menstrual cycle and enhance sperm motility and seek to remove other obstacles to optimize conception. Additional support may include:
- Determining the cause of infertility
- Regulating hormones and menstrual cycles
- Specific nutrient and botanicals for sperm health including zinc and selenium
- Treating hypothyroidism
- Providing anti-oxidant support
- Decreasing inflammation
- Optimizing the microbiome with probiotics and gut healing
- Detoxification support
Individualized recommendations can be found by consulting with a health care provider educated in prenatal health and nutrition. Everything you do to improve your health prior to conception ultimately improves the health of your fetus and then newborn, giving them a great start in life.