Five health changes you should make to support fertility
While it can feel like it’s all down to the luck of the draw when it comes to conceiving a baby, there are myriad changes to the way you live your life that can help you on your journey to pregnancy success.
“Eating the rainbow is a game-changer at helping you get all the nutrients you and your future baby need to thrive. Aim for variety; 30 different plants over the course of a week will supports intake of antioxidants, helping to offset free radicals which can harm both egg and sperm quality,” says Charlotte Grand, author of nutrition and lifestyle cookbook The Fertility Kitchen: The Essential Guide To Supporting Your Fertility.
You should also ensure you get plenty of good quality shut eye, to support melatonin production. “As well as regulating sleep, melatonin may influence fertility. Melatonin receptors are found on ovarian cells and the fluid in ovarian follicles contains high concentrations of melatonin and these levels rise with follicular growth. It may therefore play an important role in ovulation, as well as protecting egg cells from free radical damage,” explains Charlotte.
Of course, the focus isn’t all on the hopeful future mother’s health and lifestyle, we hasten to add. “Two people make a baby – everything you’re doing, your partner needs to be doing too,” says Natasha Evans, a registered nutritional therapist specialising in gut health and fertility.
One thing that is particularly important for the men folk is to make sure they’re getting enough selenium, found in Brazil nuts, fish, red meat and poultry or with a good pre-conception supplement such as Proceive®. Selenium contributes to normal spermatogenesis, or in simple terms, the production of sperm.
Here are 5 health and lifestyle changes to help your baby-making journey…
1) Keep calm in challenging times
“Your body is looking for a safe time to have a baby. If you’re always in fight-or-flight, this tells your body that it’s not the right time. Remember, you are the priority right now,” says Natasha Evans. ”Stress suppresses sex hormone production and shuts down the digestive system – so even if you’re eating the perfect diet, you might not be absorbing nutrients properly.”
So what can we do about this? “Evaluate the source of stress in your life. Is there anything you can change? Should you move to a new role or new job? Can you ask for more help? Can you stop watching the news? Secondly, improve your resilience to stress. What works for you can be highly individual. I recommend making a self-care menu of things that relax you so you can tap into that and choose 1 or 2 things whenever you’re feeling stressed. It can be harder to think of things to do when you’re in the moment,” says Natasha.
2) Ditch plastic
“A growing body of evidence links certain chemicals to fertility issues,” says Charlotte Grand. She says that endocrine disruptors – chemicals such as bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates, both found in plastic – appear to be the worst offenders in relation to fertility. “These chemicals imitate our hormones and are found in human tissue in much higher concentrations than the hormones our bodies make. They can overstimulate, block or disrupt our hormones’ natural actions. The top priority when aiming to minimise your exposure to endocrine disruptors is to reduce plastics. This is an easy way to quickly reduce your exposure to bisphenols and phthalates. Heat, acid, UV light and contact with liquids are key factors that promote leaching of these chemicals from plastic.”
Charlotte’s top tips for reducing these toxins are:
- Don’t heat food in plastic containers – use ceramic or glass.
- Avoid washing plastic containers in hot water or the dishwasher and replace plastic items that have been in contact with heat .
- Use a glass or stainless-steel bottle/cup for water and hot drinks on the go.
- Say no to paper receipts – ask for digital – or wash your hands after handling.
- Replace plastic wrap (and aluminium foil) with beeswax wrap or vegan food wrap.
- Replace baking paper and greaseproof paper with plastic-free parchment.
- Avoid canned foods (these are lined with bisphenols), ready meals, takeaways and other foods sold in plastic containers and bottles.
- Store food in glass containers.
3) Take a pre-conception supplement
Everyone’s journey to having a baby is individual and, while around a third of couples will get pregnant in the first month of trying, for others, it’s a longer journey, and one in 7 will have a fertility issue. Whatever your own story, we need all the necessary vitamins, minerals and amino acids – and, of course, your partner does, too. The Proceive® conception range has the most comprehensive formulations of all these nutrients you can find, plus all their products have the recommended 400mg of folic acid. In fact, they’re one of the few supplements that provide this in what’s called L-Methylfolate form, which means it increases absorption of this important B vitamin.
Developed by fertility, nutrition and medical experts using clinical science behind the addition of every ingredient, Proceive® has a whole conception range, including Proceive® Women and Proceive® Men, for women under 35 and men under 40 (they also come in a dual pack, which is nice and handy). They also offer Proceive® Max products for both men and women, who are over those ages, and are also for couples who have been trying for a baby for over a year. Oh, and their products contain no nasties (such as fillers, binders, or preservatives), so you are just getting the active nutrition which is important when TTC! We love that they are gluten free and suitable for vegetarians.
4) Check your vitamin D levels
“Vitamin D plays an important role in fertility. Research has found that nearly half of women with PCOS are deficient in vitamin D.” says Charlotte. “Because vitamin D is so vital to fertility and pregnancy, it’s important to have your levels checked before conception. You can arrange a 25-OH vitamin D blood test via your doctor or an online blood-testing service.”
The main way of getting our vit D is, of course, through the glories of sunny weather. “But many people aren’t getting enough sun throughout the year and those living in northern climates don’t make any in the winter, even when it’s sunny. Food only contains small amounts of vitamin D and it’s only found naturally in animal foods, such as oily fish, pastured egg yolks, liver and full fat dairy products. This means that the most consistent and reliable way to make sure that you’re getting enough vitamin D is through supplements.”
5) Eat oily fish 2-3 times a week
Omega 3 is important for every cell in the body, including sperm and egg cells. Our bodies cannot make Omega 3 fatty acids, we have to consume them, and oily fish is one of the best ways. Oily fish is also rich in other important fertility nutrients, including vitamin B12, choline, iodine, iron, selenium and zinc. “Choose fish species with high levels of DHA and low levels of heavy metals (such as mercury) and contaminants,” advises Charlotte. “Good choices include Atlantic mackerel, herring, rainbow trout, sardines and wild Alaskan or sockeye salmon.” If you don’t eat fish, supplementation is especially important.
Proceive® is a multi-award winning range of scientifically formulated fertility and pregnancy supplements for men and women. Offering the most comprehensive formulas available Proceive® was developed by fertility experts to support the nutritional needs of the body when trying for a baby and throughout pregnancy.
Proceive® is available from Boots and Holland & Barrett, find out more at Proceive.com