Fertility and Conception

Planning a pregnancy can be both nervous and exciting. Assessing the health of mum and dad before will help to optimise chances of conception and health throughout the pregnancy. Unfortunately conceiving and giving birth can sometimes be a challenge and with no clear causative factor,  optimising wellness can help increase chances.
The world Health Organisation (WHO) define infertility as a failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months of unprotected sex. Infertility occurs in around 5-10% of couples, and approximately 3.5 million people will have trouble conceiving. 80% of people will conceive within the first year, and the remaining 20% within the second year. 

Low fertility can be caused by a number of different factors. Female reproductive causes include: PCOS, Endometriosis, anovulation, fibroids, or blocked fallopian tubes. Male infertility causes include low sperm count and reduced motility or quality. Interruption to other hormone controlling in both men and women include: 

1. Stress and adrenal function - cortisol and our sex hormones are synthesised from pregnenolone the 'mother hormone' therefore excess cortisol has the ability to deplete production of steroid hormones. Supporting the adrenals and adopting stress relieving techniques can help support hormone production.

2. Low thyroid function - sub clinical hypothyroidism has been associated with low fertility so should be investigated and supported. 

3. Poor gut health - The liver and the gut are responsible for the metabolism and elimination of oestrogen. If the gut is not working efficiently, oestrogen can be reabsorbed back into the body particularly in the case of constipation. The liver is responsible for detoxifying waste and the excretion of hormones, therefore poor liver & gut function can lead to a higher ratio of oestrogen to progesterone. This is known as oestrogen dominance that has been shown to negatively impact fertility and increase hormone related conditions such as PMS and endometriosis. 

4. Weight - It is well researched that weight can play a role in fertility. Significant weight-loss can disrupt the menstrual cycle while excess weight-gain can affect the hormones that regulate ovulation and pregnancy. Research shows that women of a healthy weight have higher chances of fertility.

5. Age
- Over the age of 35 fertility begins to reduce, although this is not a modifiable factor, it is worth investigating and optimising health.  

6. Oxidative stress - smoking, alcohol, environmental toxins, drugs, poor sleep can all cause the body to produce toxic byproducts. 

Dietary recommendations

FOCUS should be on supporting healthy hormone production and mitochondrial function required for DNA replication and cell formation. 

Choose a diet rich: 
1. Organic produce ( check out the clean 15 & dirty dozen) 
2. Cruciferous vegetables that support phase 2 detoxification pathways. 
3. Fibre rich food to support gut health. 
4. Antioxidants - Zinc, Vitamin E, Flavonoids, Polyphenols - these help to reduce free radicals. 
5. Gut health - Probiotic food: kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut/ pre-biotic food: asparagus, chicory, onions, leeks, apples.

Avoid: 
1. Trans fatty acid
2. High glycemic carbohydrates. 
3. Alcohol
4. Processed foods

Specific nutrients
Essential Fatty Acids - needed for cell membrane health & hormone production - Found in small oily fish and algae.
Vitamin A - Antioxidant that regenerates Vitamin C, Vitamin E, CoQ10, & glutathione. Caution is needed with supplementation during pregnancy. 
Vitamin C - Regenerates Glutathione. Needed for growth & repair of ovarian follicle & development of the corpus lutem. Found in broccoli, green/red pepper, spinach, cabbage, sweet potatoes.
Vitamin E - Fat soluble antioxidant needed for ovarian health. Found in nuts & vegetable oils.
Selenium - Supports thyroid function and is a powerful antioxidant. Found in meat, eggs, brazil nuts. 
Zinc - Co-factor for enzymes needed for DNA production and the transport of reproductive hormones and enables fertilisation and development of oocyte.. Found in meat, beans, legumes, seeds & chickpeas.
B vitamins - Needed for cellular replication, DNA & hormone synthesis. Found in meat, eggs, legumes, seeds, nuts & dark leafy greens. 
Vitamin D - Important for healthy bone function of developing foetus, modulates immunity (autoimmunity has been linked to poor fertility and miscarriage)
Iron - Formation of red blood cells in mother and developing foetus and is also involved in energy production within the mitochondria


Lifestyle factors 

Lifestyle can play a major role on fertility. Stress can negatively impact fertility and therefore
adopting stress relieving techniques can be beneficial.  Regularly including yoga, mediation, deep breathing, mindfulness, moderate exercise and massage can help to calm the nervous system.

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