5 Fertility Enhancing Tips
If getting pregnant has been a bit of a challenge, or you're just wanting to lay the best foundation for a healthy pregnancy, here are a few tips for enhancing fertility and chances of conceiving. Please check with your medical professional before making any changes and consider this article informational. For specified and tailored assistance, an initial appointment is recommended.
1.) Know what your body is up to:
Where are you in your menstrual cycle? When are you most fertile and capable of getting pregnant? Are you actually ovulating? It may sound silly, but many women have no idea where in their cycle they are -- or just guess it's "about time" for their period.
The average menstrual cycle is 28 days (give or take -- no one is perfect) which coincides with the cycles of the moon. Cycle day (CD) one is the first day of your period -- the first day you bleed. The last cycle day is the one before your period begins again. It's normal to see longer or shorter cycles if you are under stress, not getting enough sleep, diet, etc.
Ovulation -- a.k.a. when you can get pregnant -- typically happens 14 days before the first day of your period. This will vary depending on the length of your cycle, of course. So, for an average cycle, the most fertile days will be cycle day 12, 13, and 14. Sexual intercourse should happen on these days, keeping in mind that sperm can survive in optimal conditions for up to 5 days! With the prevalence of PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome) and hormonal birth control, a woman may or may not be ovulating. If you're not sure if you're ovulating...
Consider tracking your cycle. This is much more than just noting when your period will start. Tracking your cycle will also include things like paying attention to cervical mucous, temperature, and how you feel -- both mentally and physically. I love this option even if you're not trying to conceive. It's an excellent way to get in touch with your body and to be aware of your internal shifting cycles.
2.) Cycle Tracking:
If you're open to it, this can be a deeply healing practice. For so many women, their period has been a burden, or something to be spoken about in hushed tones. Often the changes that come from feeling more outgoing, ranging to wanting to stay in bed, feeling angry, irritable, are all completely normal. They may be fluctuations in our cycle, or that we've had to repress them in order to go to work/school or just get through the day. As we track our cycle over many months to years, we may start to notice patterns and be able to plan around them, or be more gentle with ourselves.
Tracking can be done on an app (search for fertility or cycle tracker. There are a bunch!), on a piece of paper, or in a special diary/notebook. I like ones that allow for you to make notes how you are feeling emotionally and physically.
Especially if you are trying to get pregnant or want to know if you are ovulating, you will want to take your temperature daily. This is known as basal body temperature charting (BBT). This will be done the very first thing in the morning before you do ANYTHING! That includes drinking water, getting up, moving, having sex, etc. You will need a digital oral thermometer, as daily temperature changes are very subtle and to take your temperature at approximately the same time daily. Keep everything you need on a table next to your bed for ease.
Prior to ovulating, normal body temperature should be 97.2 to 97.7 degrees Fahrenheit (again, everyone's normal may be a little different). A "spike" of .5 to 1 degree increase will be noticed with ovulation, and will be maintained until cycle day one - OR will typically stay elevated with pregnancy. Note your daily temp in your app or on a BBT chart, if you prefer a piece of paper.
Pay attention to your cervical mucous. Again, this may be new or uncomfortable if you've never focused on this before, but it's a completely normal bodily function. Fertile cervical mucous will tend to be more plentiful, thicker, and like the consistency of egg-white.
Ovulation test predictor kits can be used, though they tend to be expensive and not always correct. They also do not predict fertile cervical mucous, which protects and feeds sperm during their journey.
If you are not ovulating, not sure if you are, or are not noticing fertile mucous, these are all things acupuncture and herbal medicine can improve.
Note the quality of your period as well. In Chinese medicine we like to know about the color of the bleeding (from dark black to bright red), the size and presence of clots, how many days bleeding, cramps, headache, and any other symptoms. If you experience extreme pain, PMMD, or bleeding during menstruation, this is also something we can work on improving.
3.) Warm-up & Nourish:
Generally speaking, a warm and well-cooked diet is optimal for women wanting to conceive. What does this mean? It generally means avoiding cold/raw foods and beverages. This may seem counter-intuitive in the era of smoothies and salads being promoted as the ultimate in "health-food", but cold/raw foods tend to slow down digestion and create a cold environment in the lower abdomen. This advice will vary according to a woman's constitution and the time of year: someone who runs very warm, or during hot, summer months, a little more flexibility here is possible. However, if you are someone who tends to have cold hands and feet (yes, I know how it goes ladies!), have poor circulation, or LOVE that hot water bottle over your abdomen, you are someone who needs warmer, more nourishing foods!
Bone broth, soup stock, soups, stews are all excellent to add vitamins and minerals to your diet. Adding greens and other veggies in slow-cooked soups and stews will make them much easier for your body to digest and absorb more nutrients. Beans and lentils can also be beneficial if you digest them well.
Roasted/baked root veggies: squash, sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, etc. are all very beneficial to the digestive system, warming, and nourishing.
Room temperature or warm beverages. This includes water. Avoid ice and beverages straight from the fridge. Again, this tends to slow digestion and cool the abdomen.
Warm breakfast foods: eggs (if not allergic), gluten-free oatmeal or other grains plus a tablespoon of organic, black-strap molasses. Molasses is excellent for building blood and providing vitamins and minerals.
Healthy fats: organic ghee or butter, avocados, nuts/seeds (small amounts), coconut oil (and coconut meat). Meat and dairy in small amounts, especially grass-fed/organic and raw when possible, tend to be helpful for most women.
Generally, soy/flax and drinking beverages from plastic and cans are discouraged to help keep hormones in healthy balance. Yes - even that La Croix can be problematic! Water from a glass bottle or local spring water are preferable.
More tailored and specific dietary advice is available at your initial appointment.
4.) Night-life & Bedtime for Hormone Optimization:
In the day and age of instant gratification and technology, we have everything at the tips of our fingers 24/7. Unfortunately, staying up late, working the graveyard shift, and staring at computer/cell phone screens until the wee hours, is not good for getting pregnant!
Try to have a consistent bed time, preferably by 10:30pm at the latest. Earlier is better. Irregular bedtimes confuse the body and can cause hormone disruptions.
If you or your partner work the graveyard or late-night shift, consider changing this, even just while trying to get pregnant. Being on a "normal" schedule can do wonders for hormones and I have seen patients get pregnant on multiple occasions by shifting THIS!
Limit exposure to blue light once the sun sets. This means either not using cell phones, computers, t.v. screens, or using blue light blocking glasses and apps. Blue light blocking glasses are available for purchase on Amazon and blue light blocking apps like Iris are available for your tech devices. Note that this means LED lights on everything from light bulbs, car headlights, and tech devices -- even alarm clocks.
If you use a computer daily, consider blue light blocking glasses throughout the day, or set the light on the monitor to a very gentle, red-light dominant setting.
Get outside for sunrise and sunset when possible. These both help re-set our beneficial hormone settings for not only mood, good sleep, but also for getting pregnant! This is important even during the winter.
5.) Male Factor:
Believe it or not, sperm issues are responsible for 50% of fertility and miscarriage issues. Ladies, this issue is not solely on you! First, if you've been trying for 6 months to a year to get pregnant and have not (of course, the older you are, the sooner you want to seek assistance), PLEASE make sure your partner/spouse has a sperm quality test conducted. It's rather surprising to me how often in fertility cases that this is missed. Also helpful:
Avoid drinks (soda, etc.) with a bright, artificial color (red, yellow, orange, etc.). The chemical used to create this color can damage sperm.
Stop smoking and avoid alcohol/coffee/energy drinks.
Keep electronics - cell phone out of your pants pockets and computers out of your lap. Not good for sperm quality!
Avoid working graveyard and late night shifts.
Avoid drinking out of plastic and aluminum cans, which can negatively impact hormone levels.
Eat meat, eggs, and dairy (in moderation) organically/grass-fed grown whenever possible.
As with women, sperm quality can decrease with age. Men are not fertile "forever", or the chance of miscarriage may increase with age.
Exercise - even moderate walking - can quickly improve general health.
The good news is that with a tailored protocol of acupuncture, herbal medicine, and other lifestyle modifications, chances of conception and giving birth to a healthy baby are within reach. Request a 15 min. complimentary consultation: firstname.lastname@example.org or if you're ready, schedule your appointment.