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 have direct impact on our health and trying to conceive. From a western medical viewpoint, advanced age and ovulatory dysfunction, PCOS, thyroid issues as well as male fertility can all play a part in having difficult conceiving.
There are many ways to take care of our bodies and support a successful pregnancy. During these times, many couples turn to holistic medicine as an alternative or in complement with western medicine.
Nutrition and Supplements
The essential fatty acids in flax seed has been known to lengthen the follicular phase and delay early ovulation, increase the frequency of ovulation in women who do not ovulate regularly. L-Arganine, an amino acid, taken in high doses, has been shown to improve fertilization rates in women who had previously failed cycles. Bee Pollen and its close friend Royal Jelly are both rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals and have also shown to increase fertility. Antioxidants such as OPC’s (which are bioflavanoids) 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 is 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 very important . Words like refined, processed and bleached tell us right away that something has been altered or removed from the foods they described. According to a Newsweek article (12/10/2007) whole grains, vegetables and whole fruits—all of which are good sources of slowly digested carbohydrates—can improve ovulation and your chances of getting pregnant. Rapidly digested carbohydrates that continually boost blood sugar and insulin levels can effect the delicate balance of hormones that effect ovulation and fertility. Finally, Traditional Chinese Medicine emphasizes eating right for the seasons to support our 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.
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 study done in Germany found that acupuncture can increase the chances of pregnancy for women undergoing and IVF cycle. When we are under stress from dealing with fertility, our nervous system activates the “fight or flight” response and can cause a myriad of health issues. Acupuncture is very effective in calming and balancing the sympathetic nervous system.
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 everyone 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 challenging, it is also an opportunity to take better care of ourselves, make positive choices and be proactive in our own health care choices.