One key take away is that your fertility can be greatly influenced by your health. When your body is dealing with less-than-ideal nutrition, lack of exercise, or high emotional stress levels, it can affect your likelihood of getting pregnant. Health is extremely important, but it’s not the only factor related to infertility, so if you’ve focused on improving your lifestyle and nothing has changed, then it may still be necessary at some point to seek medical care from a Reproductive Endocrinologist and Infertility Specialist (REI) for fertility testing and treatment. However, making these three changes may help you in your journey.
1) Healthy Diet Doesn’t Always Mean Following a Fad Diet
The first and most important step to controlling your health –this applies to both males and females – is to focus on nutrition. With all the diets we hear about in the media, it can be confusing to differentiate fad from science. Although those advertisements can be very convincing, many of the popular diets such as keto, low carb, and extreme types of fasting, are not the best approaches to food for those trying to conceive.
Studies show that the most important foods for optimal female and male fertility include a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The closest to an ideal “fertility diet” is the Mediterranean Diet.
Research also supports limiting meat and dairy intake while introducing more protein from low-mercury fish and plant sources can help increase your chances for pregnancy. Additionally, whole foods, plant-based meals, and focusing on organic items can greatly boost your health, and subsequently your fertility. Minimizing alcohol and eliminating processed and fast food is also strongly recommended. While the benefits of healthy nutrition build over time, there is never a time where it is “too late” to impact your overall health.
2) Find 30 Minutes to Exercise
Another extremely effective way to optimize health and fertility is to incorporate adequate exercise into your life. Body weight varies by person, but the fertility rule of thumb in this regard is to find a healthy middle ground that avoids being underweight or overweight. Exercise recommendations differ based on an individual’s Body Mass Index (BMI). For those with a normal BMI, 30 minutes of moderate exercise four to seven days per week can shorten the time it takes to achieve pregnancy. On the other hand, for individuals who are overweight or obese, fertility is improved by 30-60 minutes of vigorous exercise five to seven days per week. If you are currently undergoing fertility treatment, there may be times during your treatment cycle that exercise is temporarily limited or even totally off limits to minimize your risk of complications, so always ask your doctor about exercise during these times.
3) Balance Your Mental Health
Finally, we cannot underestimate the importance of stress management during fertility treatment. We now know that chronic emotional stress can significantly impact us and while it isn’t possible to eliminate stress entirely, finding ways to manage stress is essential. It’s especially important keep track of your mental health while undergoing fertility treatment and to make sure that you are receiving the support you need to maintain balance in your life.
Studies have shown that the stress of fertility treatment is the number one reason patients end their journeys. In fact, it can be as stressful as cancer treatment. Some effective and healthy tools for stress management include yoga, acupuncture, meditation, regular exercise, healthy diet, and getting adequate sleep. A conversation with your healthcare provider, a friend, a therapist, or a peer who has been through fertility treatment themselves can provide some insight as to what might work for you.
The reality for many is that you don’t have control over many aspects of your infertility. However, focusing on your health is a great place to start to figure out what might be preventing conception. If you are less than 35 years old and have been trying to conceive for one year or more, or if you are 35 or older and have been trying for six months or more, doctors recommend seeing an REI physician. However, if you have the Progyny benefit you don’t need to wait for a particular timeframe to see a doctor and can make an appointment as soon as you would like. But don’t stress! You are the master of your own health, and these lifestyle changes can be implemented at any point during your fertility journey to get you started on the path towards pregnancy.