Checklist to Help with Conceiving Naturally
When you look back about 10 years ago, women had normal deliveries. Today the number of C- sections are far more. What has really changed? Nothing. There are very few cases which require a C- section. Also, all of a sudden over the last couple of years In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) has become mainstream for women who are not able to conceive. It’s required and a helpful procedure for a few, but what we are seeing is that the moment a woman is not able to conceive, they are immediately offered all the solutions including IVF. We need to understand that in today’s world, women will not get pregnant easily because there are things which can interfere with this natural process. But this doesn’t mean that you immediately jump to IVF. You need to give yourself time and understand that some deficiencies and root causes that could be lifestyle related also lead to infertility. Some cases of infertility can actually be reversed when these deficiencies are corrected. You do not have to go through the IVF procedure but can conceive naturally which is always the best. Always prefer Nature over anything artificial. But there are some women who genuinely cannot conceive so then IVF is a good thing if it’s done the right way. It comes down to using common sense to understand whether you really need IVF or not.
Today IVF has become something which is just sold to women. In my practice, I have come across cases where they haven’t even given the woman a chance and time of 2-3 months to work on her health and try for natural conception. Fear is put inside their mind – you are getting older, it’s going to get more and more difficult, so here is IVF.
That needs to stop at some point. We should be giving a fair chance to women, like there should be a checklist that you do x, y, z and if you still cannot get pregnant, then IVF is definitely an option. Here are pointers for your checklist which you need to work upon to help you with natural conception:
- Vitamin D – there is enough research which shows correlation of vitamin D3 with infertility. Today one in three men and women have low levels of vitamin D3. It’s important for bone health and calcium absorption but there are vitamin D3 receptors in your uterus, in your ovaries, testes, in the placenta. Vitamin D3 has a role in turning genes on and off. If the levels are low, this can be one reason why you are not able to get pregnant. Start looking at Vitamin D3 levels 3-6 months before you start thinking about having a baby. You need to make sure your Vitamin D3 levels are on track. Don’t overdo because it can cause toxicity, follow moderation. Levels should not go above 100 ng/ml. Check Vitamin D3 levels and take necessary action. Sunlight helps with Vitamin D3 production in the body. If you cannot get it via sunlight, can include some fortified foods. If not, then can take supplement but that is on your doctor to decide it for you. But remember low vitamin D3 levels can be a reason you are not able to conceive.
- Hormonal Balance – An imbalance of hormones also decreases your chances to conceive. Today most women have high prolactin levels because of stress. Higher the prolactin levels, the more infertile you will be. You need to get the hormones checked and work on them naturally. Stress also causes increase in cortisol which leads to decrease in testosterone levels in men which affects the sperm count. The beauty of the human body is when the hormones are in sync, there is an increased chance for you to conceive.
- Stress – There is a direct connection between stress and your ability to conceive. When the body is chronically stressed, it will not allow you to conceive the right Nurturing a child within you is the last thing your body wants to do as it perceives any kind of stress. You can see that in your hormones fluctuating all over. Women will have high prolactin levels. Men will have low testosterone levels which will can cause low sex drive or erectile dysfunction. One of the best ways to reduce the high levels of prolactin are by reducing stress. Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, exercise, eating the right way and getting the right amount of sleep. When you bring down the prolactin levels, you allow the other hormones in the body to operate the right way.
- Nutrition – Women are given folic acid supplements 3-6 months prior to pregnancy as it is an important vitamin for child growth and for conception. Good quality protein, zinc, iron, calcium, dietary fibre are few more nutrients of importance for natural conception. Include whole grains, pulses and legumes, green leafy vegetables, seasonal fruits, nuts and seeds in your daily diet.
Men need to have good supply of Zinc rich foods like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, Green leafy vegetables, watermelon etc to boost testosterone levels which helps with good quality and quantity of sperms.
A variety of colors on your plate (different color vegetables and fruits) ensures you are getting a rich supply of antioxidants. Antioxidants help to fight the free radical which can harm the egg or sperm cell.
Make sure to avoid refined carbs and trans fat found in outside food, junk and processed food. Both of them affect your body’s insulin sensitivity which in turn increases the risk of infertility in both men and women. You need to make sure you are eating healthy, preferably all home cooked meals.
- Exercise – Staying active ensures healthy weight and also helps to improve insulin sensitivity in the body. Women with PCOS or women who are obese have difficulty with ovulation. And if ovulation is not proper, chances of conception decreases. A moderate intensity exercise 6 days a week with adequate nutrition helps to shed off the excess weight. Weight lifting, lunges, squats, push ups, pull ups help improve testosterone levels in men. Exercise helps with improvement in frequency of ovulation and thus better chances of conception. Exercise gives you a happy high which helps to reduce stress as well. But this doesn’t mean you go all out on exercise. Work with your trainer and doctor to decide on the frequency and intensity of the exercise. Over exercising will cause oxidative stress leading to free radical production which can affect your egg quality.
- Sleep – Sleep deprivation also affects fertility hormones. Sleep helps the body to get rejuvenated and repair. It helps restore the proper functioning of all body organs including the hormones. In females, sleep deprivation affects ovulation by interfering with the release of luteinizing hormone. This causes irregular menstrual cycles as ovulation is affected and hence your chances of conception. Sleep deprivation in males causes low testosterone levels, low sperm count and motility.
In order to work on your sleep, make sure to avoid any gadgets 1 hour before bedtime. Keep your room completely dark. You can use a calming fragrance like lavender in the diffuser in your room. Practice deep breathing, meditation, journal writing to declutter the mind and relax yourself for a good night’s sleep. Avoid drinking too much water just before bed as your sleep might get disturbed when you wake up to use the loo.
- Smoking and Alcohol – A complete abstinence from these is required as the chemicals present in cigarettes and alcohol affect the quality of your egg and sperm. Smoking and alcohol also increase the toxin load in the body. Body stores these toxins in the fat cells leading to an increase in your fat percentage. A high fat percentage then affects the secretion of your hormones which further reduces the fertility, hence it’s better to avoid smoking and drinking alcohol completely.
- Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC’s) – In our day to day lives, we are surrounded by chemicals. Whether it’s the pesticides sprayed on the food we eat, chemicals added to the cosmetic products or household products we use or the pollutants in the air we breathe. These chemicals affect the endocrine secretions (hormone secretion) in our body which in turn affects the quality of the egg and sperm, thus reducing the chances of conception. You cannot completely avoid these endocrine disrupting chemicals but can reduce your exposure to the same. Here is how:
- Try and procure organic fruits and vegetables as these are not sprayed with harmful pesticides. If you are not able to get organic produce, then wash the vegetables and fruits well before using.
- Avoid using plastic (bottles, containers, carry bags) as much as possible as they contain Xenoestrogen which mimic estrogen hormone in the body thus creating hormonal imbalance. Use glass or steel containers. Avoid use of nonstick cookware, use cast iron, glass or steel. Regular use of nonstick cookware causes release of chemicals in the food from the utensil which in turn affects your health.
- Avoid products which contain SLS, Parabens, Parfum as they increase the toxin load in your body. Shampoos, air fresheners, toothpaste, cosmetics, perfumes – all of these contain these EDC’s. Read labels and look for natural alternatives.
- Read labels on food products. Avoid the ones which contain various additives, preservatives, and too much sugar. If you can’t read the name of the ingredient or don’t know what it is, better not to put it inside the body.
You can include natural aphrodisiacs like almonds, fenugreek, sweet potato, ginger, watermelon, cinnamon, nutmeg, figs, cacao/dark chocolate, beetroot etc. in your daily diet.
You can also try this amazing Aphrodisiac drink – https://lukecoutinho.com/blog/recipe-corner/the-natural-aphrodisiac-mix-by-luke-coutinho/ .
- Yoga asanas to boost fertility : Paschimottasana, Supta baddha konasana, Sarvangasana, Viparita karani, Bhujangasana, Baddhakonasana, Setu bandhasana, Dhanurasana, Kumbhak asana are few of the asanas to boost male and female fertility. Please do consult your doctor before practicing these and take professional guidance to perform these asanas.
Conceiving is finally all about a healthy body. It’s all about having all the hormones in the right balance. Take some time, go back evaluate your life. Look what you need to change and see if you can conceive naturally. Work with your doctor, nutritionist, exercise coach, yoga trainer to improve your health by changing your lifestyle. It all comes down to a good and balanced lifestyle. Even if you are doing everything mentioned above and still not able to get pregnant, then IVF is for you.
Disclaimer: The guidelines mentioned above are not a replacement of the medical advice given to you by your doctor. Always keep your doctor in loop if you are planning to try something new.