When James and I were trying to fall pregnant with Hugo, we spent many hours researching natural ways to increase our fertility. With rates of successful conceptions dropping rapidly across the western world, and expensive IVF treatments becoming increasingly more common, there has never been a better time to empower women in taking control of their circumstances by ensuring that their bodies are vibrant and healthy while trying to conceive. Here are my top 3 takeaways for improving your chances of falling pregnant.
1. Reduce Stress
Stress can be a major influencing factor when it comes to conception. In fact, if you're struggling to fall pregnant, you may have already received advice along the lines of, "Just let yourself relax and it will happen." As condescending as this may feel, there may actually be some truth to it.
The hypothalamus is the part of your brain that is responsible for regulating emotions, appetite and the hormones that cause your ovaries to release eggs. If you're stressed, there's a chance that your ovulation will occur later than it should; or not at all. Therefore, if you're currently planning intimate moments based on your ovulation cycle, you may be missing that window of opportunity.
Negative stress isn't the only type of stress that can affect ovulation; positive stress such as the stress associated with a wedding or planning a vacation can also result in a similar outcome. Naturally, these situations vary from woman to woman, with some finding that even a minor disruption in their routine can change their cycle, while others can experience high levels of stress without noticing any effect at all. While stress may impact the time at which you ovulate, it generally won't diminish your overall chances of falling pregnant. If you know how to identify where you are in your cycle, there's still a good chance of successful conception.
2. Increase Your Intake Of Good Fats
Worryingly, most supermarket shelves these days are littered with "97% Fat-Free" and "Reduced Fat" products which are the antithesis of a wholesome, natural fertility diet. Marketing and misinformation are the driving forces behind our society's collective ignorance in this area, and yet good quality fats are one of the most fundamental factors in preparing your body for pregnancy. A Harvard University Nurses’ Health study found that the more low-fat products a woman consumed, the less likely she was to fall pregnant; while women who consumed full-fat foods increased their chances noticeably. In 2010, a similar Dutch study showed that women who consume a Mediterranean-style diet (naturally high in good quality fats) increase their chances of falling pregnant by up to 40%.
Good fats are essential in creating hormones that maintain the function of a female's reproductive system. When women start consuming a low-fat diet, their estrogen levels drop which has the potential to severely disrupt their menstrual cycle.
As you might be aware, not all fats are created equal, and therefore it is important to select the right types of fats to incorporate into your diet. Avoid any processed fats and aim for products that are available in their natural state such as eggs, whole dairy products, nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and carefully sourced fish products.
3. Eliminating Chemical Intake
Thanks to our species' apparent desire to pollute whatever natural landscapes we enter, synthetic chemicals can be found in almost every environment - the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat. Reducing your body's intake of chemicals involves much more than just "going organic" or throwing out the aerosol deodorant; it's a full-scale lifestyle change and one that can dramatically affect your chances of falling pregnant.
Let's start with the obvious - eating organic food. If a woman is consuming fruits and veggies that are covered in pesticides, meat products that have been pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones, and heavily processed snack foods; their body is not going to be the pristine environment in which a new life should be nurtured. Eating local, organic produce and free range, grass fed meats is an excellent way to start reducing the amount of toxicity in your body in preparation for falling pregnant.
The water that you consume can also have a substantial impact on your wellbeing and the overall level of toxicity in your body. Most tap water in the U.S. contains chlorine, chloramine (the nastier version of chlorine) and fluoride - none of which are great for your health. Most bottled water on the other hand is full of BPA, an endocrine-disrupting chemical which is definitely not something you want infiltrating your reproductive system. The best option for clean water is either carefully sourced spring water in BPA-free bottles or a good quality filter for your tap.
The final stage of decreasing your chemical intake is to scrutinize the body care products, cleaning products, and other general household products that you're using. Today, most of these products are a toxic cocktail of synthetic compounds which we have been told to rub into our skin and apply to our home environment without a second thought for the impact it might be having on our bodies. You can find natural alternatives to all of these products in most health food stores and online. Alternatively, you can make your own - and it's not as difficult as you might think! Check out our guide to making your own non-toxic cleaning kit.
Trying to fall pregnant can be a nerve-racking experience for many couples and at the end of the day, you need to make choices that feel right for you. Being a parent is the most rewarding thing you will ever experience, so enjoy the journey and cherish every moment!