By Victoria Maizes, MD
Author of Be Fruitful
The increase in environmental toxins, processed foods, and stress, as well as the advancing ages at which couples seek to have children, have made it more difficult for women to conceive. This is valuable information women and their partners need in order to conceive with ease and confidence, and to bear healthy children.
Q: It seems like women today are having a harder time getting pregnant. Is that true? Why is it that so many women are struggling with fertility these days?
Victoria: The most important factors that impact a women's fertility are her age, weight, and the chemicals and stress that can disrupt her hormonal balance. Fertility starts to go down in women as early as their late 20s but markedly decreases after age 35. Obesity, which is ever more common, makes it harder to conceive and increases miscarriage rates. Now women are exposed to thousands of environmental chemicals, many of which act as endocrine disruptors, altering the hormonal balance of the body. Even stress can alter our hormones by sending the message that the timing is off for bringing a new life into the world.
Q: Are there a few key things I can do to prepare my body before my partner and I begin trying to conceive?
V: Absolutely! This is an ideal time to take inventory of your diet, exercise, and stress management habits. You can reduce the toxins you are exposed to in personal care products and in food so that your body is as clean as possible.
I recommend that women and men take a multivitamin-multimineral. Women need to be sure it contains folic acid, iron, and iodine and men want a multi that is iron-free.
It makes sense to have a check-up with your doctor to be sure you are up to date on important immunizations as well as to review any medications you might be taking to see whether they are safe when attempting to conceive. Your doctor may also want to do some simple blood tests such as checking your blood count, thyroid level, and Vitamin D level.
Q: Do you recommend a special diet to bolster fertility?
V: A healthy diet with lots of vegetables and fruits, vegetable protein, avoiding simple carbohydrates, and enough Omega-3, is recommended for all women and men. There is substantial evidence to recommend particular foods when trying to conceive. These include eating 3 servings a week of low-mercury fish, switching to low glycemic index carbohydrates, increasing your vegetable proteins, and reducing your animal protein. I also recommend drinking whole milk and eating whole dairy yogurt in place of low-fat or non-fat products. Beverages to avoid include sodas and more than one alcoholic drink a day.
Q: Do you recommend a specific exercise regimen to bolster fertility?
V: Walking is the best exercise when you are trying to conceive. Thirty minutes a day at a moderate pace is what I recommend. It is best to avoid more vigorous exercise including training for marathons or ashtanga yoga. There are, however, specific yoga poses that can aid in conception and I describe them in my book, Be Fruitful.
Q: I've heard that acupuncture can aid in conception. Do you have any advice about how to find an acupuncturist with a specialization in fertility?
V: States license acupuncturists and the rules vary state by state. In general look for someone who has graduated from an accredited school, passed the NCCAOM certification, and then ask if they have experience treating fertility-related issues.
Q: How long should my partner and I spend trying to conceive before consulting a specialist?
V: It depends a bit on your age. If you are under 35 we usually suggest that you and your partner attempt to conceive for a full year before seeing a specialist. That time shrinks to six months for women aged 35-40 and to three months in women over 40. This is a bit paradoxical as it is likely to take longer to conceive as we age. Yet aging also confers greater urgency for treatment.
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