Body + Soul: 5 natural fertility fixes to try before you do IVF
Fertility Expert Dr Marc Cohen shares his top fertility tips for couples to try at home before heading to the clinic.
It’s a memorable moment in a couples’ life when they finally decide they want children. The beginning can be a mixture of excitement and anticipation, and sometimes followed by stress and anxiety—especially when falling pregnant doesn’t come easily.
For fertility expert Dr Marc Cohen, troubles with conception are becoming more and more common. And he’s not wrong— according to the Australian Health Department, one in six couples struggle with fertility problems in Australia.
Infertility usually refers to when a couple has been unable to conceive after 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse. Sometimes, more broadly, the word refers to when a woman is unable to carry a pregnancy to term.
There are many factors that may be causing problems with conception for both men and women, including weight, medications, diet, exercise, stress and exposure to toxins. Lifestyle choices like smoking, caffeine, drug and alcohol use may also be negatively impacting chances of conceiving as well.
An increasingly popular method for couples trying to get pregnant is a procedure called ‘in vitro fertilisation’ (IVF)—which can be both a costly and complex process. While IVF is the most effective form of assisted reproductive technology available to date, some fertility experts speculate that first addressing lifestyle and health habits and maximising pre-conception health is a crucial piece to solving infertility before resorting to such measures.
According to Dr Marc Cohen: “We need to start looking at how we can improve day to day habits and activities for both men and women, to prepare them for their best chances to conceive.”
Here are Dr Cohen’s top five fertility tips that couples can try at home before heading to the clinic.
Top 5 fertility tips to try before IVF
1. Cut Back on Harmful Habits
When it comes to conception, bad habits like alcohol consumption and smoking tobacco may be holding you back—especially if you don’t cut back.
Heavy drinking is associated with an increased risk of problems with ovulation in women, while in men it can alter sperm count, size, shape, motility and testosterone levels.
Cutting back on alcohol consumption is not only a smart move for fertility—but it is great for overall health. It also helps that low and non-alcohol drinks such as kombucha are also becoming increasingly popular.
New data points to a rise in consumer demand for these drink options, where bars and restaurants are providing more variety—making it easier for those wanting to dial back their drinking.
When it comes to smoking, studies show that this harmful activity has an impact on sperm parameters for men, and in women, it can speed up the loss rate of eggs. Reducing smoking as much as possible is the best option for fertility.
2. Fertility Foods
According to research, diets high in unsaturated fat, whole grains, vegetables and fish, have been associated with improved fertility in both men and women. On the opposite end of the scale—consumption of foods that are high in saturated fat and sugar may be linked to higher instances of infertility. For those wanting to explore fertility rich foods, there are a number of key nutrients that may assist with conception:
Omega-3 fatty acids
These healthy fats can be found in foods like salmon and walnuts— and have been shown to help men reach optimum sperm levels. Women who have diets that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to have higher fertility levels.
Research shows that a lack of vitamin B12 can have a negative impact on fertility in both men and women. Incorporating foods like beef, oysters, mussels, yoghurt, milk, eggs, chicken, fortified breakfast cereals and haddock are all good sources of this fertility rich nutrient.
This potent antioxidant, which is the active form of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), is found naturally in our bodies and in foods such as chicken, spinach, beef, peanuts and sardines. As we age, our naturally occurring levels of CoQ10 begin to deplete and decline. Research has found that Ubiquinol is present at high levels in healthy sperm. It has also been shown to protect sperm cells from damage and plays a role in sperm cell energy production and motility.
Linked to better embryo quality and chance of pregnancy, folic acid, which is recommended to women who are looking to conceive and during pregnancy, can be found in leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits such as oranges, beans, bread, rice and pasta.
3. Limiting Technology Use
If getting a better night sleep wasn’t enough to get people off their phones—recent studies have shown that mobile use may be contributing to male infertility and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Radiofrequency (RF) and radiation may negatively affect sperm quality in men by decreasing the semen volume, sperm concentration, sperm count, motility, and viability, thus impairing male fertility.
While mobile use is inevitable, a good place to start in limiting its use is by turning off your mobile or putting your phone on airplane mode at night to cut down on exposure to RF.
4. Pollution and exposure to toxins
While this is something that is often overlooked, it is important to consider how environmental toxins may be playing a role in potential infertility. Studies show that the worst fertility disrupters are organochlorine compounds (chlorinated pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, and dioxins), bisphenol A (BPA), and organophosphate pesticides and herbicides. However, many other chemicals, metals, and air pollutants also damage fertility.
Cutting down on exposure to common toxins can help increase rates of conception, including:
Water and airborne toxins
A whole-house water filter is a great way to reduce exposure to heavy metals, pesticides, pharmaceutical residues, disinfection by-products and radioactive elements. An air purifier is also worth considering if you live in the city or near heavy traffic.
Herbicides, pesticides & heavy metals
Opting for certified organic produce and animal products can limit exposure to herbicides and pesticides, while limiting your tuna or large fish intake, can reduce exposure to heavy metals such as mercury.
BPA, phthalates and plastics
Cutting down on plastics and personal care products containing ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ can help reduce exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals such as BPA and phthalates.
5. Meaningful activity
Happiness and engaging in meaningful activity can be a powerful thing—especially when it comes to fertility. Some studies suggest that reducing stress increases pregnancy rates, and so working through your difficulties is not only crucial for your mental wellbeing and happiness, but also for your chances of conception. For some this can include making an effort to spend quality time with your partner, friends and family, and also having a strong social support group.
Individual requirements may differ. Always speak to your healthcare professional about what is right for you.
As appeared on Body + Soul.