3 Life Tweaks to Improve Your Fertility

Before heading to the fertility clinic, try these fixes

When trying to get pregnant, it’s natural for a couple to want to do everything in your power to make conception happen quickly. After a month or so, if this doesn't occur, people will often search for ways to boost their fertility in a manner that is safe, natural, and healthy.

While some turn to alternative therapies like acupuncture and fertility supplements, others benefit from a few simple lifestyle tweaks. These are designed to improve your overall health while reducing the anxiety that can significantly impact your ability to conceive. Here are the three lifestyle fixes you should consider:

1
Lose Weight

Overweight woman on bathroom scales
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Numerous studies have shown that losing just five to 10 percent of your body weight can significantly improve ovulation if you are overweight or obese.

How much you ask? Well, according to a study from the Assisted Reproduction Unit at the University of Aberdeen, for every unit decrease in your body mass index (BMI), your odds of conceiving go by a surprisingly five percent.

Clearly, you need to do so in a healthy manner, avoiding crash diets or other methods of rapid weight loss. At the same time, you shouldn't focus solely on the number of pounds you lose but rather the lifestyle changes that you can reasonable sustain to keep the weight off. This includes regular exercise and a reduction in smoking and alcohol intake for both you and your partner.

Not only will these things improve your chance of getting pregnant, they can keep you healthier as you prepare the arrival of your newborn.

2
Manage Stress

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Studies have long established the link between stress and infertility. What we know today is that high levels of stress trigger the release of the stress hormone known as cortisol. Continual exposure to cortisol increases the production of insulin which, in turn, alters the balance of female sex hormones, including those needed for ovulation.

One study from the Ohio State Univerity College of Medicine confirmed that high levels of stress, as measured by another stress enzyme known as alpha amylase, resulted in a twofold increase in infertility.

Some of the more effective ways to manage stress include meditation, exercise, yoga, and counseling.

3
Change the Balance of Your Diet

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There is growing evidence that many of the food we eat can impact our chances of becoming pregnant. This seems especially true in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

With this population of women, it is known that nutritional deficits are linked to hormonal aberrations that can contribute to everything from irregular periods (oligomenorrhea) to the loss of menstrual function (amenorrhea). Furthermore, it has been established that energy balance is a more important factor to ovulation to women with PCOS than BMI.

A 2009 study from James Cook University School of Medicine in Australia has shown that an informed approach to exercise and diet can enhance a woman's hormonal function and improved ovulation. Among their recommendations:

  • Fats should be restricted to under 30 percent of total calories with a low proportion of saturated fat.
  • Calorie intake should be distributed between several meals per day with low intake from snacks and drinks.
  • High intake of low GI carbohydrate should be avoided as this contributes to weight gain while stimulating hunger and carb craving.

Women with PCOS can boost their fertility by eating more whole grains, vegetable proteins (lentils, beans, nuts, seeds), fruits, and vegetables. It's important, meanwhile, to avoid processed foods such as bagels, white rice, crackers, and low-fiber cereals which can cause insulin to spike.

Even in women who don't have PCOS, increasing vegetable proteins while decreasing animal proteins was associated with a more than 50 percent reduction in the risk of ovulatory infertility, according to a 2008 study from Harvard School of Public Health Department of Nutrition.

Sources:

Chavarro, J.; Rich-Edwards, J.; Rosner, B. et al. "Protein intake and ovulatory infertility." Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008; 198(2):210.e1–210.e7. DOI: 10.1016/j.ajog.2007.06.057

Farshchi, H.; Rane, A.; Love, A. et al. "Diet and nutrition in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): Pointers for nutritional management ." J Obst Gyn.2009; 27(8) :762-773; DOI: 10.1080/01443610701667338.

Lynch, C.; Sundaram, R.; Maisog, J. et al. "Preconception stress increases the risk of infertility: results from a couple-based prospective cohort study—the LIFE study." Hum Reprod. 2014; 29(5):1067-1075. DOI: 10.1093/humrep/deu032.

Pandey, S.; Pandey, S.; Maheshwari, M. et al. "The impact of female obesity on the outcome of fertility treatment." J Hum Reprod Sci. 2010;3(2): 62-67. DOI: 10.4103/0974-1208.69332.

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