Trying to conceive can be an exciting yet daunting time for many couples. With so much information and advice out there, it’s hard to know where to start when trying to get pregnant. In this blog post, we will discuss ten things couples should consider when they are trying to become parents…
101: THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO KNOW
- The egg and the sperm take roughly 3 months from immature egg/sperm cell to ovulation/ ejaculation
- EVERYTHING that you do and don’t do (including alcohol/ taking or not taking supplements/acupuncture etc) in three months impacts the health and DNA of the Egg and sperm, its potential to create an embryo and pregnancy and the health of your future child. No pressure 😉
- In a woman, it takes approximately 100 days for the egg to develop toward ovulation, and in a man, it takes approximately 116 days for sperm production to be completed.
- So if we want to positively impact our fertility, then we need to proactively utilize around 120 days (or 4 months) before we conceive. Now realistically, not all of us have 4 months to spare, but the good news is, whatever we start doing now, will positively impact our health and the health of our baby.
- The sperm and the egg both contribute equally to the creation of a healthy embryo.
So what can both partners who are physically involved in conception do to positively impact their own fertility and the health of their baby?
1. Check for nutritional deficiencies and take good quality Supplements:
Given that deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals can negatively impact our fertility, if you are actively trying to conceive, then we always suggest seeing a health practitioner such as a GP, or a naturopath who can run some blood tests to check if there is anything that your body may require more of. They will be checking for levels of things like folic acid and other B Vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and minerals such as zinc, iron, and iodine. Now the reason we suggest getting a test and not just going out and purchasing all of the above, is that there may be some levels that are deficient and others that may not require supplementing. So seeing an accredited practitioner is important. If you see your GP many of these nutritional statuses may be covered in Prenatal screening, as well as other investigations. However, for more comprehensive testing Nutritionist, Naturopath, or Integrative Doctor is recommended.
Taking certain supplements such as prenatal vitamins can increase your chances of conceiving due to their high levels of important vitamins and minerals like folate iron, calcium, and vitamin D3 which are necessary for optimal health. Additionally, antioxidant supplements like CoQ10 have been linked with improved fertility outcomes as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Ask your practitioner for a recommendation or prescription as off-the-shelf supplements are usually lower quality and lower dose, so often not as beneficial & often not in therapeutic ranges.
Eating a balanced diet full of nutritious foods is essential when preparing your body for conception. A Mediterranean diet is the best for fertility so this means complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables. Eating fewer processed foods and limiting sugar intake is also important!
Eat clean and eat whole.
We know that Optimal nutrition provides an optimal ovarian environment for the sperm and eggs during the critical maturation process. And so when we’re looking for optimal nutrition, we really need to be eating clean, eating whole and eating organic. Here are some tips to help you with this:
a) pick whole, fiber rich foods that are unprocessed and free from pesticides, hormones, preservatives and additives. This is because pesticides can affect the delicate balance of reproductive hormones and they can also affect male sperm production. If you can’t eat organic, then make sure you soak your non-peeled fruit and vegetables in warm water with a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda or vinegar for around 10-20 minutes before eating or cooking. What this will do is make sure the pesticides are removed. Just make sure you rinse them before eating.
b) In TCM, we believe in eating a wide variety of tasty fresh foods in season, including healthy protein – whether meat or vegetable-sourced. Include natural foods from all colors of the rainbow in your daily diet.
C) Reduce the amount of dairy and sugar in your diet. If you have no problem digesting dairy, then you’re good to have it – but we suggest full-fat rather than low-fat or fat-free, because they are highly processed. In Chinese medicine, we believe that too much dairy and too much sugar cause dampness in the body and weaken the digestive system, so we always suggest reducing the intake of both of these. If you are partial to dairy or you have a sweet tooth, try choosing healthier, non-dairy, natural sugar options where possible.
3. Reduce alcohol & caffeine
For many of us, coffee and alcohol are two pleasurable indulgences we love having in our lives. Unfortunately, high caffeine intake is associated with infertility and increased miscarriage rates, and even moderate coffee drinking (1-3 cups per day) can reduce our fertility. Alcohol use has also been associated with lower IVF success rates.
So, if you’re undergoing IVF, we recommend that both men and women abstain from alcohol consumption at least one month before egg collection to maximize the effectiveness and success of the IVF procedure. But THREE months PRIOR to TTC is KEY! The closer the sperm or egg gets to maturation the MORE impact alcohol, caffeine and of course smoking will have on the quality of the egg/ sperm.
Reducing caffeine intake to 1-2 coffees per week, or 1 tea per day can make a big difference to your chances of success. Another suggestion is to dilute your coffee by half – so if you really want to have that coffee, go half strength and stick to one. We suggest reducing alcohol to a 1 unit per week if you are trying to conceive. If you love your wine for example, then have that one glass per week (or two half glasses per week) and savor it slowly.
Some suggestions might be to replace the coffee or the alcoholic drink with a healthier option – like a chai tea, or a herbal tea – or when it comes to alcohol – an alcohol-free version. What this does is it allows us to still receive the sense of connection and pleasure but without the toxicity.
If you have a hot constitution (for example if you tend to run more hot than cold, feel thirsty a lot, and feel heat or get sweaty at night) then avoiding coffee and alcohol altogether whilst you’re trying to conceive is preferable from a TCM perspective. Because both alcohol and caffeine are a stimulant, they create heat in the body and dry the bodily fluids, which is not helpful for fertility. Coffee is also a diuretic, which means we can be left dehydrated after drinking caffeine.
4. Timing Intercourse (If that’s how you are trying to conceive)
3 days prior to ovulation is your most fertile time to try to conceive and tracking natural fertility signs is THE MOST reliable way to track ovulation? Additionally using an ovulation predictor kit can also provide accurate readings about when fertile days occur so consider investing in one if needed! When it comes to timing intercourse correctly while trying to get pregnant, knowing your ovulation window is key; you want to try BEFORE you ovulate for three or four days prior- bear the timing in mind when planning any romantic getaways! If you are not sure when you ovulate, check out our blog that explains all about Help! When do I ovulate? .
5. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine for Fertility:
Chinese medicine has been traditionally used to support female and male reproductive health for centuries. Recent studies have shown Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) treatment showed a 1.74 times higher probability of achieving clinical pregnancy compared to WM therapy alone.
The CHM group had a significantly higher mean pregnancy rate of 60%.and acupuncture was also shown to improve fertility. check out the blog on CHM. Learn more about CHM and fertility here and read our blog about Female Fertility and IVF acupuncture and Male fertility. What can improve my sperm here? In short, the research suggests that those who undergo regular acupuncture treatments while trying to conceive have higher success rates than those who don’t!
6. Ensure you get at least 7-8 hours of good quality sleep per night.
The quality and quantity of your sleep influence the sex hormones in your body. If you are a woman or a man all sex hormones (or Reproductive hormones) are produced at night so when you sleep you inevitably work on your reproductive health!
Sleep influences sperm production, ovulation, immune factors, weight gain, mood, stress levels and your stamina. Lack of sleep negatively affects ovulation, which can cause menstrual irregularities and delay conception. In men, it can cause a slump in sperm production.
Testosterone production in men occurs during the night, so a good night’s sleep is really important for optimal testosterone levels.
About 8-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep is what is recommended as ideal by sleep scientists, but according to the National Sleep Foundation, seventy percent of adults in the developed world don’t get enough sleep.
Sleep is integral not only to our reproductive health but also our quality of life, and our overall health. Ideally, men and women trying to conceive should avoid shift work or skimping on sleep. Good sleep hygiene and getting enough hours is really important.
7 . Double Check Medications:
Certain medications or even herbal remedies taken while trying for a baby can impact fertility levels negatively–so be sure you consult with a healthcare provider beforehand to check if any potential risks exist! For example a very commonly used medication for allergies -Antihistamines has been able to impact fertility.
It’s also important that you understand how medications interact with one another (especially anything hormone-related!) since these combinations could affect ovulation cycles which would ultimately determine conception probabilities too!
8. Reduce the toxicity in your environment
Chemicals in the environment, like pesticides, insecticides, household cleaners, and industry by-products have been shown to reduce egg viability, deplete follicle numbers, damage sperm, and reduce Fertility and IVF success rates.
So how do we go about reducing toxicity in our environment without it feeling like an insurmountable task? The obvious ones are to avoid exposure to chemicals where possible, but we can also start with our own household and personal products. The great news is that there is a really better selection of clean household and personal products now than there ever used to be in the big supermarkets, like Woolworths and Coles. If changing all your regular products feels like a big step change for you, then use up what you currently have and buy new products as you go along. Test out new
ranges, new shampoos, new soaps, etc, and see what you like. All these little changes in your household and on your skin can make a huge difference to the toxicity levels in your body.
Consider Your Job Environment Furthermore being exposed daily to chemicals at work might also impair sperm and egg quality leading ultimately to infertility and or failed pregnancies. Speak to your Acupuncture Pregnancy Clinic practice to find out more and see if you are at risk.
9. Support Your Mental Health and Seek Support
Work Schedule: Long working hours or stressful career paths can often lead people down paths of infertility – as both physical and emotional well-being become compromised over time due to increased external pressures etc.
De-Stress: Stress not only affects mental health but physical health too – including reproductive health! If you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious during your conception journey then taking up activities such as yoga or mindfulness meditation can help reduce stress levels allowing your body time to relax before conception occurs.
Emotional support: Embarking on the journey towards parenthood isn’t easy –so don’t forget about seeking emotional support either from friends/family members or even professional counselors if needed!. Having someone outside our own family circle who understands us completely without judgment can be invaluable, especially during difficult times- do bear this in mind whenever necessary please!
10 . See a Specialist & Research Treatments & Procedures if Needed
If you have been trying to conceive for over 6 months it is advisable to see a specialist to undergo further comprehensive testing to make sure there are no barriers to conception. Depending on numerous factors ranging from medical history through environmental exposures etc., some couples may require additional treatments such as IUI/IVF etc–which makes it essential that they research thoroughly into procedures beforehand (including associated costs etc!). Being informed here can save folks lots of money & heartache further down the line – so never hesitate asking your health care and or medical practitioners questions whenever uncertain! The old “what are the benefits versus risk “ is a really good place to start and find out some data on proposed treatments.
Is this helpful? This is only the tip of the iceberg of all the help you can get from one of our highly trained fertility acupuncturists. We have been helping people like you since 2008. We are here to help you take control of reproductive health! Find us at one of our 6 locations across Australia including Sydney East, west and CBD, Central Coast NSW, East Melbourne, and Mornington Peninsula Victoria.