A woman's ability to conceive is affected by her lifestyle choices. If you are having trouble conceiving, consider these ways to alter your current lifestyle for better egg quality, uterine receptivity, and gestation of a healthy baby:
1. Limit alcohol consumption to 1-3 drinks/week and limit caffeine intake to 1 (6oz) cup of coffee or 2 cups of tea/day. Avoid decaf unless it is water processed. The solvents/chemicals used to remove the caffeine are more toxic than the caffeine.
2. Sleep 7-8 hours/night. Your body replenishes its energy while you sleep and if you are sleep deprived, your endocrine system will suffer along with a lot of other things!
3. Exercise regularly, but not too much or too intense. Stick to more gentle workouts such as yoga, walking, etc. unless you have a BMI over 25 and need to lose weight. Avoid boot camp or HIIT classes, heavy weight lifting, hot yoga. Why? Intense exercise, even though it can feel good, it is a physical stress to the body. When trying to conceive, you want your energy available to nourish the reproductive system, not working on muscle recovery. The one caveat to this is that some body types can handle more intense exercise. Women with PCOS and/or that are overweight actually benefit from lowering their BMI (body mass index) and improve their chances of conceiving.
4. Eat a varied diet of organic meats and vegetables. Minimize sugar and simple carbs and only consume carbs and grains that have a lower glucose index. If consuming dairy, make it full-fat instead of low-fat and include a lot of healthy fats such as nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, and avocados. If you are a vegan or vegetarian for health reasons only, I encourage you to add meat and more animal protein back into your diet while trying to conceive. In my experience I find that meat-eaters have more regular menstrual cycles and more balanced hormones than vegetarians. If giving up a vegetarian lifestyle is a deal-breaker for you then definitely add more of the above mentioned healthy fats, eggs and other blood-building foods such as beets, dark leafy greens, berries, plums, and dates. Minimize soy as it can disrupt hormone balance. Women with PCOS do best with a low carb diet to regulate blood sugar levels.
5. Take a high quality prenatal vitamin. Professional grade supplements which are well tested and contain the purest and highest-quality active ingredients from well-researched sources. Most over-the-counter brands that have been randomly tested do not actually contain quality ingredients and in many cases have added fillers to cut costs. Consult a Naturopathic Physician or other healthcare providers who have access to professional grade supplements and can prescribe the right ones for you. I have an online dispensary that my patients can order from with my permission.
6. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. This is beneficial for high quality 'fertile' cervical mucus that aids in the sperm reaching the egg and keeping your ovarian follicles hydrated.
7. Track your cycles and take advantage of the 5-6 day fertile window each month. Five days prior to ovulation plus the day of ovulation is your fertile window. Waiting until you get the green light on your ovulation test, will only give you a 2-3 day window. Charting your basal body temps every morning for a few months will give you a better idea of the exact day you ovulate so then you can 'get busy' starting 5 days prior to your expected date of ovulation. FertilityFriend is a great free app to help you track your cycles & temps.
8. Avoid exposure to strong fumes, environmental toxins, avoid microwaving food in plastic containers & water in plastic bottles. Store leftovers in glass containers and drink filtered water from glasses or a water bottle that is “BPA-free”. Check out the Environmental Work Group to find shampoos, cosmetics and other personal care products that do not contain endocrine disrupting chemicals such as pthalates, dioxins and sulfates.
9. Self-Care and Stress Management. Chronic stress takes a toll on your reproductive system and egg quality. When the body is reacting to stress and is in 'fight or flight' mode, the first place it takes blood flow away from is the reproductive organs. Stress also disrupts the Hypothylamic-Pituitary-Ovarian Axis (HPO), which is basically the elegant system that orchestrates all reproductive hormonal functions. Meditation is one of the best ways to slow down, be more mindful, and manage stress effectively. It can be overwhelming to start meditating, so I like guided meditations. There are several apps you can download to your phone such as Headspace. Specifically for fertility I like Circle & Bloom's guided fertility meditations. Just 10-15 minutes a day is enough to have a positive effect on the neuro-endocrine system. Other ways to de-stress include: exercise, massage, acupuncture and other mind-body programs.
10. Experience joy every day. In Traditional Chinese Medicine theory there is an internal meridian that connects the heart and the uterus. If the connection between these 2 organs is disrupted or 'closed' due to an emotional upset or lack of joy, the uterus is not well nourished and your menstrual cycle and ability to conceive can be affected.
Expect a minimum of 3 months to have an effect on egg quality, but most of these lifestyle changes have an immediate effect on general well-being. A healthier body and state of mind have a huge impact on your ability to conceive!