by Simone Tennison
For lots of couples, conceiving a baby means tossing out their contraceptives and enjoying a fun night of love-making.
For other couples, getting a baby on board can become a roller coaster of emotions, charts, tests and "obligatory" sex.
We're all familiar with the obvious baby-making tips -- figuring out when you ovulate, having sex shortly before ovulation, and giving conceiving a baby time.
If these activities aren't working for you or you've hit the "wall," these natural tips could help you on your journey!
Increasing Fertility Through Nutrition
According to Deborah A. Klein, MS, RD, Pregnancy.org expert and creator of "A Plan to LIVE for," specific foods have been known to actually increase fertility. Peruse the list below to find out more information.
Good fats: Use more unsaturated vegetable oils, extra-virgin olive or canola oil.
Protein: Eat more vegetarian protein, such as beans and nuts and consume less animal protein.
Whole grains: Choose whole grain sources of carbohydrates instead of highly refined carbohydrates.
Iron: Get plenty of iron, especially from non-meat sources.
Take a prenatal vitamin or a multivitamin that contains folic acid and other B vitamins. Taking folic acid before conception could reduce the risk of spina bfida.
Foods to Limit or Avoid
Refined carbohydrates which include white flour, white rice, white bread, and white pasta can cause a spike in insulin and blood sugar levels. Women with PCOS might find their symptoms improve when food choices focus on vegetables, whole grains and fruits.
Highly processed foods may be low in the nutrients necessary for maintaining fertility and encouraging pregnancy. Many types of processed foods, like fast food, contain chemicals that could affect your fertility.
Sugared or artificially sweetened sodas: Have decaffeinated tea, water or sparkling waters with natural essence of flavor instead.
Coffee: Studies on fertility and coffee drinking suggest that drinking more than one cup a day reduces a woman's fertility. However men hoping to become fathers might have an extra cup. Some studies suggest that caffeine actually boosts the stamina of sperm.
Recently, scientists believe they have discovered a reason to keep your consumption under four cups of coffee a day. Caffeine affects rhythmic activity in cells like the ones that move the egg along the fallopian tube and down to the uterus.1
Fertility Friendly Lifestyle
Couples who adapt five or more diet and lifestyle changes that are fertility-friendly are 80 percent more likely to conceive than couples who don't adapt any.
Changes that can make a difference include the dietary suggestions above and these additional lifestyle changes:
Exercise: Start an exercise program. If you already exercise, keep it up but not too excessive if you are already quite lean.
Stop smoking. Smoking decreases fertility for both men and women. Plus stopping before you're pregnant means your baby has a healthier environment in the womb and beyond.
Avoiding pesticides and herbicides. Studies suggest these chemicals affect fertility. An unexpected source of exposure is your own lawn and garden.
Reduce indoor air pollution. Try to limit your exposure to chemicals like those found in hair dyes, chemical household cleaners, nail polish remover and paint fumes.
Go organic. Try to purchase organically grown, unsprayed produce. Switch to eating additive-free foods, free range eggs, fresh fish and organically reared meat and poultry where possible.
Cook it yourself and toss out the cans to reduce BPAs and other harmful chemicals from your diet.
Should You Detoxify Your Body?
Whether through the environment, our food, or every day household products, we're exposed to a variety of toxins. Some of these can build up in our bodies over time. Toxins called "endocrine disruptors" mimic natural hormones produced by our bodies and can interfere with fertility.
The answer to this question is that many natural health practitioners begin the journey with a body detoxification.
Live a little, laugh a little, love a little -- and get pregnant. That could be the next wave of advice for people who want to conceive, as doctors discover more links between stress and fertility.
You can reduce your body's response to stress in a variety of ways. Which of these do you think sound most relaxing? Therapeutic massage, listening to calming CDs, hypnosis, yoga, acupuncture or taking a daily, relaxing walk? All of these could play big part in promoting conception.
Herbs That Might Help You Conceive
Herbs have been used to promote fertility for thousands of years and can be considered to be a form of "natural fertility medication." The herbs below are often recommended by herbalists to help restore fertility and to promote healthy reproductive systems. Before taking anything, please consult your own healthcare provider.
- Chasteberry works to increase fertility by stimulating the pituitary gland. This is the gland responsible for producing sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Chasteberry might help fertility by balancing the sex hormones.
- Dong Quai is a Chinese fertility herb, used to solve menstrual difficulties. It's said to help balance estrogen levels in the body and improve chances of implantation.
- Licorice contains saponins and has been used to helped women with elevated testosterone and low estrogen levels, as commonly occurs in PCOS. No scientific evidence exists on the effects of licorice on fertility or your menstrual cycles2, but the University of Maryland Medical Center website cites licorice's ability to mimic the hormone estrogen in your body. Drugs.com notes that a safe dosage of licorice ranges between 0.2mg and 15g per day.
- Flax Seed Oil is a source of omega-3 fatty acids, an essential fatty acid. It might help with irregular periods.
- Red clover contains estrogen-like compounds that might promote fertility, particularly in women who are deficient in estrogen.
Megan, a pregnancy.org mom-to-be says, "I was having trouble getting pregnant and decided to try a natural approach first. I ate really well, eliminating unhealthy stuff from my diet, exercised and took my vitamins. I switched to organic fruits and vegetables. I went to acupuncture. I even switched to natural house hold cleaners. My baby is due in 14 weeks! Even if these changes didn't help me get pregnant, they gave me a sense of control during a really difficult time."
What methods have you used or did one of the ones we mentioned work for you? Tell us in the comments!
SOURCES: 1. Dixon, R., Hwang, S. (2011) "Inhibitory Effect of Caffeine on Fallopian Tube Contraction and Role in Delaying Conception." British Journal of Pharmacology. 2. Licorice (reviewed 2011, July 13) Evidence-based medicine resource is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. downloaded (2012, March 3) from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/881.html
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