12 Natural Ways to Improve Fertility

  1. Consume a nutrient dense diet

What you eat really does make a huge difference to your overall health and fertility. Every meal should focus on fresh wholefoods and contain good quality protein, healthy fats and something fresh (ideally veggies). Aim for 7 types of vegetables every day and reduce the nutrient poor “shut up foods” which include sugar, excess grains and processed foods.

Focus on proteins such as organic eggs, fish, chicken, meat, nuts and seeds with healthy fats such as hummus, olive oil, coconut oil, almond butter and avocado with loads of fresh veggies including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, fennel, sprouts, asparagus and spinach.

  1. Minimise alcohol

Even small amounts of alcohol have been shown to reduce fertility. Its not much fun but it really is best to avoid alcohol for the three months prior to attempting conception. Studies have shown that even sharing one bottle of wine per week reduced IVF success rates by 25%. White wine appeared to be worse for women and beer was worse for men.

  1. Avoid coffee

Coffee consumption is widespread and addictive. Sadly for those trying to conceive, coffee seems to be related to poor conception outcomes, miscarriage and may lower sperm motility. Coffee and caffeine are also harmful in pregnancy so its best to try a kick the habit now – try a dandelion root coffee or green tea instead. Aim for 3L of filtered water every day.

  1. Understand when you are ovulating

Not knowing when you are ovulating means that it is harder to ensure that you are trying to conceive at the times that count! Most women will ovulate 14 days before their next period is due. Check your cervical mucus daily for the thin, clear and stretchy type of mucus which usually indicates ovulation. Thick white mucus is usually an infertile type of mucus.

If you are unsure, try using ovulation predictor urine sticks – be aware that these don’t work for every woman so don’t be stressed if you don’t get a clear result. In this case, ask your GP for a day 21 progesterone test to be done one week before your period is due to assess that ovulation has taken place.

  1. Ensure you have enough attempts in each cycle

Many of my clients are not having enough sex in each cycle to achieve conception. During the fourdays leading up to ovulation and for two days directly after, try to attempt conception every second day. For women with a 28 day cycle, this means trying from day 10-16. Having intercourse every second day ensures that sperm quality and quantity is at its greatest.

Men should aim for regular ejaculation during the whole cycle to keep the sperm in fresh supply and promote healthy DNA. Men should be ejaculating at least every 4-5 days outside ovulation.

  1. Correct any underlying nutritional deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies may contribute to sub-fertility. Common deficiencies include: omega 3’s, zinc (often low if you have been taking the oral contraceptive pill), vitamin D, selenium, iodine and protein. These deficiencies may be a result of poor diet, high stress levels, reduced digestion and absorption or a disease process. It is important to look and treat at the underlying cause of deficiency where possible.

  1. Supplement with good quality nutrients

While most of us would prefer to obtain all our nutrients from the food we eat, the reality is that sometimes our needs are greater than what we can eat or absorb. This may be due to poor nutrient quality in food, too much processed foods, a lack of vital nutrients in our soil or increased need for certain nutrients due to stress or health conditions. Nutritional supplements can be used to correct nutrient deficiencies or can be used in therapeutic doses to manage and treat certain conditions.

The type of supplement you choose is important and it can be really confusing when you are choosing on your own. It is advisable to have a naturopath prescribe supplements specifically for you to ensure you are taking everything you need (and nothing you don’t) and also to ensure that there are no contraindications. Please consult with your naturopath before self-prescribing supplements.

  1. Identify and treat common conditions

There are so many common conditions that can affect fertility and can often be improved with naturopathic treatment. These include PCOS, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, low ovarian reserve, thyroid problems, MTHFR mutations, autoimmune conditions, blood clotting disorders, inflammatory disorders and so many more.

Download the Seed app to learn about common conditions and the way they can impact health, menstrual cycles and fertility. Nutritional and lifestyle guidelines are given for each condition.

  1. Clean up your environment

Hormonal healthand fertility can beseriously affected bychemical exposure. More and more studies are coming out that link hormonal problems and poor fertility to common chemicals found in home cleaning products, pesticides and personal care products. To take this one step further, chemical exposure can also affect the health of your potential offspring. Many epigenetic studies are looking at the way that these toxins can affect the health of future generations which makes now the perfect time to make some changes!

It is essential to reduce your toxic exposure by replacing cleaning and personal care products which more natural alternatives, trying to buy more local or organic produce, avoiding plastics (no more plastic water bottles!) and using plants to improve the air quality in your home. Check out this website for a heap of great toxin free alternatives that work! (link to nourished life website affiliate link).

  1. Reduce stress

Most people know that stress can reduce your chances of conception but anyone who has been trying to conceive knows just how stressful it can be but the last thing you want to do is to be stressed about being stressed! Reduce stress and support your body by slowing down and saying no to too many commitments, making time for exercise, practicing yoga and remembering to breathe!

Good sleep reduces excess stress and cortisol production so ensure you are getting a good eight hours sleep every night. Aim to complete at least ten slow deep breaths twice every day and treat yourself to a massage or an Epsom bath when you can. Eating well and avoiding sugar and coffee will also help. If stress is excessive or anxiety is present, consider seeing a psychologist for extra help.

  1. Exercise regularly (but not too much!)

Exercise is essential to maintain ideal body weight, promote health and ensure good blood flow around the reproductive organs. Increasing exercise is often promoted and indeed it is ideal to aim for exercising 4-5 times per week to reduce weight (if required) or maintain health. If your body weight is quite low it is advised to reduce exercise to 2-3 times per week maximum.

What is often unknown is that excessive exercise can suppress reproductive hormone function which may affect your ability to conceive.Best exercise tips include: reduce high intensity workouts, keep cardio workouts to less than 4 hours per week and try to include more nourishing types of exercise such as long walks, yoga and swimming.

  1. See a Naturopath

Some couples have difficulty with conception and/or they conceive and experience miscarriage. Many are then told they have ‘unexplained infertility’ where they are often a case of ‘sub-fertility’.

Problems usually arise from a combination of genetic, environmental, inflammatory and immune components. There may be specific problems such as: poor sperm count and health, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, thyroid issues, menstrual irregularity and auto-immunity. Seed Naturopaths are experienced in treating male and female reproductive health problems.

After investigating and treating underlying health problems, changing diet and lifestyle and implementing appropriate nutritional supplementation, many couples achieve their dream of a healthy full-term pregnancy. In addition to pre and post-conception care, Seed also provides IVF support for those couples requiring medical intervention.

During your initial fertility consultation, your Seed Naturopath will examine each partner’s health history, order appropriate blood and semen analysis, explain how to chart the basal body temperature and cervical mucus, prescribe a reproductive health diet and prescribe individual herbal medicines and nutritional supplements to improve the fertility of both partners.

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About the author

Belinda Kirkpatrick is an expert Nutritionist and Naturopath in Sydney. She specialises in natural fertility, family and women's health care. She is the author of Healthy Hormones (a practical guide to balancing your hormones) and is the founder of the SEED Concept and also Seed App for iPhone.

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