Your menstrual cycles often reflect your health in general. By following some simple lifestyle tips, including proper diet, sleep, stress reduction and exercise, you can boost your fertility naturally and balance your hormones, increasing your chances of conception and healthy pregnancy.
A Harvard study on 17,544 women, showed that women who followed a combination of five or more lifestyle factors (consumed less trans-fat and sugar, consumed more vegetable protein instead of animal protein, and high-fat dairy instead of low-fat dairy, ate more fiber and iron, took more multivitamins, had a lower BMI, exercised for longer periods of time) experienced more than an 80% lower risk of infertility due to ovulatory disorders compared to women who engaged in none of the lifestyle changes.
These tips are of particular interest to women who:
- Do not ovulate
- Have short luteal phases
- Have irregular cycles
- Have limited or no cervical fluid
- Are stopping birth control pill
- Had at least one miscarriage
- Are overweight or obese
- Suffer from hormonal disorders, such as PCOS
- Are failing to get pregnant after 6 months
- Are over 30, using ART but still interested in being in their best shape for a healthy pregnancy
A healthy diet is most beneficial when begun 3-6 months prior to trying to conceive. Specific nutrients are essential for the health of both eggs and sperm, for treating hormonal disorders and for preventing birth defects. Following a fertility diet is one of the things we can control when it comes to getting pregnant, regardless of age, social status, time, and location. Therefore, you should eat like you might get pregnant every day!
Choose healthy fats– like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and no trans fats. Add nuts, seeds, salmon, and sardines in your diet.
Opt for organic vegetables and fruits. According to a 2014 meta-analysis paper covering over 340 studies, organic crops have higher concentrations in antioxidants (phenolic acids, flavonols, anthocyanins, etc) and lower concentrations of harmful pesticides.
Consume organic, whole fat dairy. In cases of PCOS and endometriosis, or lactose intolerance, try almond or hemp milk.
Choose organic, grass-fed meat and free-range chicken. These products are high in protein and low in added hormones and antibiotics which can disrupt healthy estrogen levels.
Limit red meat consumption. According to a 2004 study on 504 women, women who consumed more beef, ham and other red meat had an increased risk of endometriosis.
Increase cold-water fish consumption. Alaskan salmon, halibut and cod are rich in essential fatty acids (omega 3), protein, vitamin A and help to regulate healthy menstrual cycles. Avoid tuna, swordfish, and sea-bass due to high levels of mercury and avoid farm-raised salmon as it contains antibiotics and food dyes.
Eat more fiber. Fiber can control blood sugar and insulin levels which helps to reduce fertility issues such as PCOS. Fiber also decreases immunological issues (autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s and Grave’s disease) and promotes a healthy hormonal balance. Examples of fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, dark leafy greens, and beans.
Consume whole grains. Whole grains are rich in fiber, important vitamins, and essential nutrients. Choose whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, quinoa, and brown rice instead of white bread and rice.
Stay hydrated. Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of clean, purified or filtered water daily. Try to be moderate with coffee and tea consumption.
Avoid soy products such as soy milk, soy burgers, soy meats, and soy cheeses. Soy foods have been shown to contain estrogen-mimicking properties.
Avoid sugar. Bottled fruit juices and soda drinks are high in artificial sugar which increases your blood sugar levels and lowers your immune defense. Opt for healthy alternatives, such as stevia, honey, and maple syrup.
Add these important nutrients in your diet:
- Vitamin D helps the body to create sex hormones that affect ovulation and hormonal balance. Vitamin D can be found in eggs, fatty fish, dairy, and cod liver oil. A 2018 study showed that vitamin D deficiency can cause irregular menstrual cycles, while according to a 2015 study, low vitamin D levels can lower semen’s ability to achieve pregnancy.
- Vitamin E can be found in sunflower seeds, almonds, olives, spinach, papaya, dark leafy greens. Vitamin E and selenium were found to increase sperm motility, percent of live sperm, and percent of normal spermatozoa. Vitamin E is also an important antioxidant.
- Vitamin C improves hormone levels and increases fertility in women with luteal phase defect, according to a 2003 study. Vitamin C can also lower the chance of birth defects based on a retrospective study published in the British Medical Journal. Moreover, vitamin C can improve sperm quality and motility and protect sperm from DNA damage, thus decreasing the risk of miscarriage and chromosomal problems. Vitamin C also appears to keep sperm from clumping together, making them more motile. Red peppers, broccoli, cranberries, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, and citrus fruits are great sources for this vitamin.
- Lipoic acid is a very important antioxidant that increases fertility in both men and women. According to a study published in Fertility and Sterility, lipoic acid improved IVF results in 101 aging women. Further, 600mg of Alpha-lipoic Acid (ALA) increased the total sperm count, sperm concentration, and motility, according to a 2015 randomized clinical trial. Its food sources include potatoes, spinach, and red meat.
- Vitamin B6 may be used as a hormone regulator. It also helps control blood sugar levels, reduces PMS, and may be useful in relieving symptoms of morning sickness. Foods rich in vitamin B6 include tuna, bananas, turkey, liver, salmon, cod, spinach, bell peppers, and turnip greens, collard greens, garlic, cauliflower, mustard greens, celery, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, and chard.
- Vitamin B12 can improve sperm quality and production while strengthening the endometrial lining in egg fertilization, decreasing the chances of miscarriage. According to a 2001 study, vitamin B12 deficiency may lead to irregular ovulation and even defective implantation. It can be found in clams, oysters, mussels, liver, caviar (fish eggs), fish, crab, lobster, beef, lamb, cheese, eggs.
- Folic Acid/Folate is one of the most known pregnancy vitamins. This vitamin can prevent many birth defects, such as spina bifida, congenital heart defects, cleft lips, limb defects, and urinary tract anomalies. Folic acid deficiency can also increase the risk of preterm labor, fetal growth retardation, placental abruption, preeclampsia and low birth weight. Foods rich in folate include liver, lentils, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, asparagus, spinach, black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, and collard greens.
- Iron can be found in lentils, spinach, sesame seeds, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds (raw), venison, garbanzo beans, navy beans, molasses, and beef. Women who take iron supplements had a significantly lower risk of ovulatory infertility, according to a 2006 study of 438 infertile women.
- Selenium is an antioxidant that helps to protect the egg and sperm from free radical damage. It can be found in Brazil nuts, liver, snapper, cod, halibut, tuna, salmon, sardines, shrimp, crimini mushrooms, and turkey.
- Zinc controls estrogen and progesterone levels and helps support a healthy reproductive system. Low levels of zinc have been directly linked to miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy while increasing zinc has been shown to boost sperm levels, improving the form, function, and quality of male sperm, and decreasing male infertility. Zinc can be found in calf liver, oysters, beef, lamb, venison, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, turkey, green peas, and shrimp.
- Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) can balance hormones in the body, increase optimal cervical mucous, promote ovulation and overall improve the quality of the uterus by increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs. Based on a 2018 Cochrane review including more than 19k women, increased EFA consumption can reduce the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. Food sources include flax seeds, walnuts, salmon, sardines, halibut, shrimp, snapper, scallops, and chia seeds.
- CoQ10 is necessary for every cell in the body for energy production and is a strong antioxidant. CoQ10 can restore mitochondrial function and improve fertility in women over 35, according to a 2015 study. Moreover, in a study on 228 men with unexplained infertility, CoQ10 increased sperm density, motility, and sperm morphology. Although it can be found in seafood and organ meats, it is difficult to obtain through diet and therefore CoQ10 (Ubiquinol) supplements are advised.
|Ideal Foods for Fertility Boost! Eggs (vitamin D, B12, protein)Walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds, Chia seeds (omega 3)Pumpkin & sesame seeds (Zinc, Iron)Sunflower seeds & almonds (Vitamin E)Grass-fed meat (Omega 3, Iron, B12, Protein)Spinach, Swiss chard, kale & collards (Iron, Folic acid, B6, Vitamin E)Raw prunes, pomegranates, raisins, blueberries & strawberries (Vitamin C, Flavonoids, Variety of antioxidants)Colorful veggies (Vitamins C, B6, A)Cold-water fish and ShellFish (Vitamin D, Omega 3, Zinc, Selenium, B12, CoQ10)Liver (Vitamin D, Zinc, Selenium, Iron, Folic Acid, B12, CoQ10)Lentils, garbanzo, pinto beans (Iron, Folic Acid)Raw or cultured dairy (Vitamin D, B12, Zinc)|
Most essential nutrients can be found in food sources. However, there are some nutrients that are hard to obtain through diet or higher levels are needed to increase fertility and deal with hormone imbalance and potential birth defects. These include:
- Ubiquinol supplements are the best way to obtain CoQ10, which improves eggs and sperm health.
- Folic acid. 400mg of folic acid is essential to prevent spinal cord defects to the baby. Ideally, you start with folic acid supplements prior to your pregnancy.
- Multivitamins including iron, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B complex, zinc, and selenium will boost your general health and fertility
There are also other supplements that help control hormonal disorders or fertility issues. These include:
- Vitex is a complex herb that acts on the hormones of the hypothalamus, pituitary, and ovaries and helps to treat hormonal disorders, such as PMS and PCOS. However, as it is not FDA-approved, you should only take it under the guidance of an experienced physician.
- For women who experience short luteal phases, consider taking Optivite PMT or ProCycle PMS and increasing the consumption of fish oil.
- For women with limited fertile cervical fluid, they should try primrose oil, FertileCM, Mucinex Expectorant (antihistamine- free), Guaifenesin Extended-Release 600 mg tablets (antihistamine-free), Robitussin (antihistamine-free) as they improve cervical fluid.
Stress is defined as a “response to a physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension (such as fear or pain), that disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism”. Stress is the time when the body senses that conception should not occur and instead prevents it to protect both mother and child. Symptoms can include sleeplessness, irritability, restlessness or nervousness. Unfortunately, these are the same symptoms that may occur when you are having difficulty getting pregnant. There are many stress-reduction techniques that can suit everyone, ranging from meditation, yoga, and reading to hiking, and exercise!
Exercise & Body Weight
Being obese or overweight can lead to increased estrogen production, while being too thin may stop ovulation altogether! Ideally, you should have a BMI of around 20-24 and a body fat it the mid 20’s and make sure you exercise regularly. According to a 2017 systematic review, a vigorous exercise of 30-60 min daily can reduce the risk of anovulatory infertility.
It is vital to achieving an uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep each night! Try completely removing any source of light, as this will help you relax and sleep better and fix any menstrual cycle problems, from short luteal phases to irregular periods.
The source of fertility problems is equally divided between men and women, making the evaluation of male fertility equally important to the evaluation of the female when conception is not occurring. A man’s sperm is considered normal if his ejaculate contains at least 20 million sperm per millimeter and if the total number of sperm is at least 250-300 million.
If the man’s sperm count is normal
- Have sex every day from the day you have wet cervical fluid or a lubricative vaginal sensation, through and including the day of the first rise of temperature. The closer the intercourse takes place to your Peak day, the higher the chances of conception!
If the man’s sperm count is low
For the first few months, you should try having sex every day that you have eggwhite cervical fluid. But if that does not work, you might want to try having sex every other day. Men with low sperm count need more time to produce a higher count of more fertile sperm, which can be achieved by abstinence from ejaculation until your cervical fluid becomes slippery. Some tips to follow:
- Have sex every day from the day you have wet cervical fluid, until and including the day of the first rise of temperature.
- Have sex every other day from the day you have wet cervical fluid, until and including the day of the first rise of temperature.
- Have sex every other day from the day you have eggwhite cervical fluid, until and including the day of the first rise of temperature.
- If you only have 2 days of fertile cervical fluid, abstain the first day and have sex on the Peak day.
What to Avoid
- Eliminate caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and junk food. A proper diet is essential for increasing fertility, hormone balance, and achieving a healthy pregnancy.
- Avoid unnecessary medication and drugs including OTC’s. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, women who took aspirin, antacids, dextroamphetamine, phenobarbital, sodium amytal, other barbiturates, cough medicines, excessive iron, sulphonamides, and nicotinamide had more chances of having babies with birth defects compared to women who did not take any medication.
- Stay away from xenohormones. Xenohormones are chemicals that can disrupt your hormones. These include parabens, which can be found in shampoos, cosmetic products, and even food and drinks! Furthermore, flexible plastic often contains phthalates, an additional hormone disruptor! Make sure to read the labels of your everyday products and avoid xenohormones.
- Avoid exposure of testes to excessive heat (hot tubs and laptop computers, tight underwear), bicycling,