Over the last 20 years, we have become more aware of the many challenges couples face in getting pregnant. Individuals are marrying later in age and couples are waiting longer to have children.
In addition, environmental toxins and our own diet can directly impact our health and trying to conceive. From a Western medical viewpoint, advanced age and ovulatory dysfunction, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), thyroid issues and male fertility can all play a part in having difficulty conceiving.
During these times, many couples turn to integrative medicine as an alternative or in complement with western medicine. There are many ways to take care of our bodies and support a successful pregnancy. Here’s a brief overview.
Acupuncture has many benefits for women trying to conceive including increasing blood flow to and relaxing the uterus, improving egg quality and quantity, and increasing the thickness of the uterine lining. A German study found that acupuncture can increase the chances of pregnancy for women undergoing an IVF cycle. When we are under stress from dealing with infertility, our nervous system activates the “fight or flight” response, which can cause myriad health issues. Acupuncture is very effective in calming and balancing the sympathetic nervous system.
Nutrition and Supplements
The essential fatty acids in flax seed have been known to lengthen the follicular phase and delay early ovulation and increase the frequency of ovulation in women who do not ovulate regularly. Acai Berry helps to improve the quantity and quality of ovarian response. Taken in high doses, L-Arginine, an amino acid, increases blood flow to the uterus and ovaries. Antioxidants such as OPCs (Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins, which are bioflavonoids) stimulate our body’s own natural antioxidant defense and clean free radicals from the blood stream.
A well-balanced diet rich in vegetables and fruits is recommended for individuals who are trying to conceive. Paying specific attention to eating meats and dairy that are free of hormones (which may alter our own body’s hormone levels) is very important. Eliminating refined sweets as well as processed or bleached foods is also key. Words like refined, processed and bleached tell us right away that something has been altered or removed from the foods they describe. Rapidly digested carbohydrates that continually boost blood sugar and insulin levels can affect the delicate balance of hormones that affect ovulation and fertility. Finally, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) emphasizes eating right for the seasons to support digestive health. For example, during the winter months, eating many cold foods will tax our digestion and cause the processing of foods to slow down. Spicy foods eaten in the summer can create excess heat and cause the stomach to dry out and overheat. According to TCM, balance is the key to good digestive health.
A combination of aerobic exercise, strength training and stretching can work together to control weight, guard against high blood sugar and keep your muscles limber and strong. Exercise is also an important source of stress relief, something that anyone who is working on fertility can benefit from. Working with a professional to develop a balanced exercise program can have long-lasting health benefits.
Although the challenges faced in dealing with fertility can be overwhelming, it is also an opportunity to take better care of ourselves, make positive choices and be proactive in our own health care choices.