When I wanted to start to try to conceive I had already had a number of health and gynaecological issues that left me in a place where I was told I wouldn’t be able to conceive on my own and would need a donor egg.
As a naturopath and a woman my first reaction was to be angry, and then my second reaction was I decided that I would prove everyone wrong. With many changes to my lifestyle and diet and yes, taking the right supplements, I learnt how to lay the foundations for fertility. I now have 2 amazing children. After this experience, I decided to specialise in women’s health as a fertility naturopath to help other women know all their options, and look deeper into their health and what may be the drivers of their conception problems.
Infertility is something that is on the rise in our society for a multitude of reasons, such as having babies later in life, lifestyle, diet, pollution exposure, stress, and even from the plastics that we use.
Merge Health asked me to share 5 of the key points I think all women should know if wanting to fall pregnant:
Although apps make tracking periods so much easier, they more often than not get your ovulation window wrong. I see so many clients that are simply trying to conceive at the wrong times of the month, and, once they learn to track their ovulation cycle properly, they have no trouble falling pregnant.
Every woman is different, and even if you may have a perfect 28-day cycle, you may not ovulate on day 14. Many factors can influence your ovulation window, so the best way to really know is tracking your mucus production, which is a signal that ovulation is happening. Learning how to track correctly and planning according to your fertile mucus cycle (which can change month to month in some women) is the most effective way.
Preconception care is of course about making the best baby that you can make, but it’s also a way to help you conceive faster and have a healthy pregnancy. Being low in certain nutrients can mean the difference between conceiving and not. Did you know that adequate zinc levels have been linked with better egg quality, sperm quality and better fertilisation rates? Or that not getting enough choline and Vitamin A is linked with poor ovulation, egg quality and infertility? Vitamin D also has a huge role to play in effective ovulation, and if you’re living in Melbourne you are more than likely deficient in vitamin D.
Getting preconception care blood work can take the guesswork out of what you’re low in or where you need to get some health support. Checking things like vitamin D levels, folate levels, B12, iron, homocysteine and thyroid function are all important factors for conceiving.
Most of us have very busy lives and stress is a part of everyday life, so much so we often disregard the amount that we put up with. Unfortunately, it is undeniably linked with lower rates of conceiving.
Studies have shown that stress does negatively affect conception rates and also, if pregnant, the health of the baby. The most important thing I can suggest for conceiving and for a healthy pregnancy is getting your stress levels under control. So much easier said than done, right?
Investing time into relaxing pastimes or making an effort to meditate, laugh, exercise or spend time with people that you love is the best thing you can do to help. Herbs and certain nutrients can also be a help to reduce stress hormones and may be necessary in unavoidable stress situations.
Something I see a lot in clinic is chronic thrush or undiagnosed vaginosis and infertility. Thrush and other bacteria/flora overgrowths and PH imbalances can change the health of the vaginal microbiome and prevent sperm from surviving.
In fact, the microbiome of the uterus, vagina, cervix and the whole reproductive cavity can determine whether or not you conceive, and if you will carry that child to full term. Luckily this is something that we can influence – to help the flora to be a healthier and more welcoming environment for sperm – after all, sperm may need up to 72 hours inside to reach the egg. Lifestyle and diet changes can make a huge difference to the vaginal microbiome, and by making this a healthier environment it will help conception and, more importantly, the health of your child.
If you are thinking about trying to fall pregnant, are actively trying or going through IVF and need help, get in contact with me at Merge Health.
By Samantha Van Dort, Fertility Naturopath.