The New Year is always a time for resolutions and for those of you struggling with fertility issues, it is often the time to become pro-active.
Going through the IVF process can be stressful however it doesn’t have to be. By keeping your stress levels down, and taking a positive approach, this can help you obtain the desired results.
Before you embark on IVF, ensure that you are doing everything you can naturally.
With these simple fertility tips, you can ensure you are in the best possible health and taking all the right measures. I always ask my patients to try the steps below for a minimum of three months before contemplating IVF to ensure all the correct measures are in place. If age is an issue or you suffer from immune problems than these do need to altered/considered.
Make sure you are having sex at the correct times. Most women ovulate between day 12 and 16 day, depending on your cycle (day 1 if the first day of your period).
The best way to measure ovulation is by using a Basal Body Temperature (BBT) Thermometer which monitors your cycle by indicating small fluctuations in body temperature. For example, higher levels of oestrogen present during the pre-ovulatory (follicular) phase of the menstrual cycle will lower your BBT.
The higher levels of progesterone released by the corpus luteum after ovulation will raise your BBT. The rise in temperatures can most commonly be seen the day after ovulation, but this varies and BBT can only be used to estimate ovulation within a three-day range. However It it is important to have plenty of sex on a regular basis to keep the sperm strong. Some studies have indicated that the day to have sex which leads to the highest conception rate is 2 days before ovulation. I suggest to my patients to have regular intercourse from day 10 to 16.
To coincide with ovulation, you should experience a stretchy and slippery egg white discharge at the time of ovulation.
The sperm uses this discharge as “stepping stones” into the uterus and therefore it is essential to ensure this is happening. If the discharge is thick and pasty, it can block the pathway to the uterus (this is where acupuncture is extremely effective). It is also important for the woman to orgasm after the man, if possible. The contraction of the uterine muscles that comes with an orgasm will assist the sperm in getting further into the uterus.
Both partners should get checked by the doctor – the woman should have her AMH, FSH and LH levels monitored to make sure she is producing the correct hormones and to check her egg reserve and the man should have a semen analysis.
In over 50% of infertility cases, the man has a low sperm count or low motility, yet it is the woman who undergoes all the tests, treatments, etc. Sadly, I treat a huge number of women for infertility where the man experiences difficulties, yet they refuse to see me. Sorry about this guys, but please remember there is no shame in this and it’s best to get it looked at as soon as possible. Also, when having a blood test, the female should ask her doctor to check her iron and thyroid levels.
I cannot tell you the amount of patients that I have seen after a failed IVF and their pulse indicates this type of deficiency. If your body is low in either, it can be difficult to maintain a pregnancy.
Stay warm. Your stomach should always be warm (not hot so do not use a hot water bottle) but I suggest putting a pillow on the stomach when watching television or other forms of relaxation. Also ensure you keep your feet warm at all times so always wear socks.
Booze and caffeine should be avoided when fertility is an issue. A woman can have three units of alcohol a week and a man six units, but absolutely no more. As for caffeine, NO COFFEE and only one cup of tea a day. You can have unlimited herbal tea, but no decaffeinated products as they are highly processed which can block the body’s natural ability to achieve a healthy equilibrium.
Superfood nutritional supplements can be purchased from health food shops or the internet, packed with algaes, vitamins and minerals which really helps in producing a good, high quality egg. I recommend Terra Nova’s Intense Greens or Superfood from Herbs Hands Healing. Additionally, a pre-natal supplement is also highly recommended, along with Omega 3 and Vitamin D supplements.
GET REGULAR ACUPUNCTURE. It is important to see a qualified acupuncturist regularly to help treat the underlying issues that can affect fertility.
The British Acupuncture Council has a list of all their members and you can find a practitioner close to you.
Make sure you eat protein regularly to keep your blood sugar levels stable. A handful of nuts, some hummus or avocado will do the trick. If your blood sugar levels are not stable, this will cause your insulin levels to fluctuate which can put undue pressure on your liver and pancreas.
Make sure you what you eat is organic – especially meat and fish and avoid farmed salmon (almost all salmon is farmed unless otherwise stated), and keep tuna and mackerel to a minimum.
Lots of beans, quinoa, green vegetables and organic free range chicken is the best and try to have plenty of foods rich in zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium.
In the world of Chinese Medicine, it is always suggested to avoid dairy products as it can be phlegm and damp forming, which can cause blockages in the reproductive areas. Try to substitute Cow’s Milk with Almond Milk or Rice Milk. Instead of cheese produced by cow’s products there are plenty of cheeses made from Goat or Sheep products which do not cause the damp and heaviness in the reproductive areas. Also, avoid plastics which is made from toxic materials and avoid chemicals of any sort.
Much has been written about the benefits of exercise when you are undergoing fertility problems. However, avoid high level cardio exercise such as running and aerobics and switch to gentle walking and yoga.
A high cardio exercise regime is not advised due to the adrenaline forming qualities which in turn releases cortisol (known as the stress hormone). Over a period of time, Cortisol has a negative impact on the body’s reproductive function. To combat this, try to practice regular meditations (mindfulness or manifesting meditations). More and more studies are showing the benefits of regular meditation and it is important to practice some form of relaxing technique.
Keep the lines of communication open with your partner. You are both going through this together, so it’s important that you share your feelings with one another.
If you do decide to embark on IVF, please ensure you find the right clinic for you. All IVF clinics have open days and you should find the clinic that suits you and your situation. You will be spending a lot of time and money with this clinic so it is important that you trust those around you and the advice you are being given.
Melanie Hackwell, BSc (Hons), Lic. Ac., MBAc, MRTCM
Melanie practices at her clinic at home in Balham, Feel Good Balham, Neal’s Yard Covent Garden and Concept Fertility Wandsworth.