Getting to the roots of infertility

by Julie Snyder Roots of InfertilityStarting a family begins with the decision to toss out the contraceptives and let the magic happen.

For some couples the "waiting game" stretches into months and in some instances years. Infertility isn't picky about who it affects or when. Studies show that one in six couples experience heartbreaking infertility issues.

You might be familiar with the usual baby-making tips, like finding out when's the best time to have sex. It's time to take your fertility back!

Take charge of your fertility!

Often, the first step in any infertility treatment is testing for underlying causes. Before seeking out a diagnosis, you and your partner can look for the roots of infertility in your diet, habits and around your home. Create a healthy preconception environment.

How does diet affect fertility?

Good nutrition can give your fertility a boost. These foods up your odds of getting pregnant.

Complex carbohydrates: Getting your carbohydrates from whole grains, fruits and vegetables enhances fertility. Eating sugar and processed foods increases your chance for infertility issues.

Plant proteins: Lentils, beans and split peas can help you get pregnant. Replacing part of the animal protein with plant protein was related to a lower risk of ovulation problems.

Healthy fats: These catalysts improve fertility. Trans fats do the opposite. Eating more trans fat reduces fertility.

"Color" your diet: Colorful fruits and vegetables raise the amount of antioxidants in your diet. Researchers equate these gems with a better chance of getting a baby on board.

Gluten sensitivity: Some couples say that they're parents today because they chose to skip gluten. New research supports their claims. Antibodies indicating gluten intolerance were five times more likely to be present in the blood of women with unexplained infertility, recurrent miscarriage and stillbirth compared to women without complications.

If you're contemplating going gluten-free, this primer will help you make fertility-friendly food choices.

Lifestyle affects fertility

Cigarettes, pollutants, obesity and stress all negatively affect your fertility.

Smoking makes it harder to get pregnant. Women who smoke take longer to get pregnant and face an increased risk for both primary and secondary infertility.

"Smoking doesn't make men sterile, but husbands or partners who chain smoke could add a couple of years of futile attempts before their wife is able to get pregnant," says Dr. Lani Burkman, a fertility expert at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine. The study found that cutting down to five or six cigarettes a day increased men's fertility.

Pollutants: Chemicals like phthalates, flame retardants and BPA can act like hormones. They can disrupt the way your own hormones works and affect ovulation.

Weight matters: Overweight and obese women take longer to get pregnant. The also have more pregnancy complications.

Is PCOS robbing you of your fertility? Small changes in your daily life can reduce or eliminate symptoms of PCOS, and that includes diet. A PCOS menu is loaded with high fiber, complex carbohydrates, protein and unsaturated fats, according to author Julie Merrick.

Stress: If you've been trying to get pregnant for a while, you've probably heard more than your share of statements like "You're trying too hard," or "Just relax; you'll get pregnant."

These "words of encouragement" add to the stress of trying to conceive. They infer that if you were better at relaxing, you'd be pregnant already. When you've been trying to get pregnant for months, it seems impossible that stress not enter the picture of coping with infertility.

Stress affects your reproductive life. Some men experience temporary impotence when diagnosed with poor sperm quality. Some women lose all interest in sex after a diagnosis of female factor infertility. Research indicates that stress and infertility could be connected.

At least one type of menstrual-related disorder linked to infertility may be the result of stress. You might try one or more of these ways to manage your stress.

• Life coaching or lifestyle changing therapy

• Exercise

• Yoga or meditation

• Deep breathing

• Massage

Hypnotherapy or acupuncture

Is it the man or woman?

Sometimes infertility turns out to be a problem with the woman. Then there are times it's a problem with the man. In other instances, it could be both partners contributing to infertility issues.

Ovulation issues or blockages in the reproductive organs top the list of female fertility problems. In men low sperm count, problems with the sperm's shape or movement cause a majority of the problems.

Most couples who need a bit of help can usually achieve pregnancy with lifestyle changes, drugs or minor surgery. Only a small percentage of couples need further treatment solutions. That is good news for anyone facing fertility problems.

How will you take charge of your fertility? What steps will you be taking? Share your success stories!

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.