Preconception care

Improve Your Fertility With Preconception Care

For couples with fertility problems - improving fertility and falling pregnant can require some preparation. When you decide to support your and your partner’s health and fertility, it may just be what it takes to solve the problem.

In this blog post, I will cover how, preconception care can help improve your fertility and hopefully get you inspired to take action. To be most effective, preconception care is usually started 3-6 months before pregnancy.  

When it comes to improving your health and fertility - the most obvious place to start is with your diet:

Fruit and vegetables can improve your fertility

Include as many different coloured vegetables in your daily diet as possible.

You Don't Need A Special Preconception Care Diet

You usually don’t have to take drastic measures. Making small lifestyle changes to enhance your body’s readiness for pregnancy is a positive first step.

Supplementing your body with a professional preconception multivitamin for him and for her along with some low toxicity fish oil is great start.

  • Have a green smoothie and a fresh salad every day. Green vegetables are packed with nutrients and help lower acidity. This in turn will help your cells function better. Vegetables also contain high levels of folate and antioxidants which can help protect the egg and sperm from oxidation.
  • Reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates. This basically means everything white; sugar, flour, bread, pasta, white rice etc. Refined carbohydrates are so nutrient poor that they have to rob your body’s own reserve of nutrients just to get metabolised! Carbohydrates mess with your hormones, make you put on weight and makes you crave even more refined carbohydrates.
  • Make sure you eat high quality protein every day. Fish, organic or hormone and antibiotic free chicken and lamb are good sources of lean protein. Lentil and beans are also good sources of protein although they need to be combined with grains, nuts or seeds to form a complete protein. This is an important issue for vegetarians and vegans.
  • Drink plenty of filtered water every day.
Green tea is encourage during preconception care

Green tea is high in antioxidants and 1-2 cups daily is encouraged during the preconception period.

Coffee, Tea, Alcohol, Recreational Drugs And Fertility

  • Kick the tea and coffee habit and increase your fertility by reducing your caffeine consumption. If you can’t do without -have max one regular coffee daily. According to a University of Nevada School of Medicine study, caffeine can slow down muscle contractions in the fallopian tubes. These contractions help move the fertilised egg towards the uterus. Drinks such as coffee, tea, cola and many energy drinks all contain caffeine.
  • Limit alcohol to one or two drinks per week or stop drinking it altogether. Alcohol has be proven to lower fertility in both men and women.
  • Stop all recreational drugs now. Recreational drugs has be proven to lower fertility in both men and women.

Exercise Can Improve Your Fertility 

  • Exercise regularly – 30 to 45 minutes four times per week should be your minimum. It is however, worth noting that excessive exercise can lower your fertility and even stop your menstrual period. Men should stay away from lycra sportswear and hot baths as well as saunas.

You can download our Fertility & Pregnancy Diet Guide from our website.

Weight loss can be an important way to imprive fertility and pregnancy outcomes

Try to reach your ideal weight range during your preconception period.

Fertility And Your Weight

Although this is not widely known to most, your weight might be the reason for your inability to conceive. Use the following tips about weight to support your reproductive health and fertility.

Check Your BMI

One of the best ways to increase your chance of getting pregnant is to be at your best fertility weight.

Your BMI or body mass index is an approximate measure of your fat mass based upon weight and height.

An optimal BMI falls between 19 and 25 for a woman. Anything outside of this range indicates that you are either underweight or overweight. When it comes to fertility - a BMI close to 25 is considered optimal.

Watch Your Weight

If you are underweight or overweight, ask your naturopath for recommendations on how to gain or lose weight in a healthy manner whilst improving your fertility.

Did you know that extra body fat increases your oestrogen levels and this is true for both men and women? Excess estrogen can throw the menstrual cycle out of balance and worsen endometriosis and fibroids.

Your cycle depends on a fine balance of progesterone and estrogen in order for ovulation to occur at the right time. If you ovulate too early or too late in your cycle or if you do not ovulate, something is clearly not as it should be.

You may be surprised to hear, that your partners weight also has an impact on your ability to conceive. If he is overweight – he too can produce too much oestrogen, which can affect his libido and sperm quality.

There are healthy, natural ways to lose or gain weight. Do not take over the counter pills that can harm your body. Taking drastic measures can make it harder to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy.

Yoga is great during preconception and pregnancy

Preconception Care

Preparing for pregnancy before conception has been shown to result in healthier, brighter and happier babies, born with fewer malformations.

A few months of preconception care and you can not only reduce the severity of fertility problems, but maximise your experience of a healthy pregnancy.

From conception to the end of the first trimester, the size of an embryo will increase over 2 ½ million times.

During this period of development cells differentiate and organs are formed. This stage of rapid growth requires levels of nutrients which are many times greater than those required by your body before pregnancy.

Diet deficiencies which may have gone undetected in everyday life may be inadequate to sustain a pregnancy.

This early development also follows a strict timetable. For example, if the nutrients necessary for the complete closure of the neural tube are insufficient, on day 28 or 29 of the pregnancy, the development will take place anyway with a neural tube defect such as spina bifida as the end result.

Francesca Naish 
Naturopath & Author

The Most Basic Preconception Care Consists Of:

  • A high quality multi vitamin and mineral formula specifically formulated with essential nutrients for pregnancy, in adequate amounts. Not all formulation on the market satisfy this requirement.
  • A high quality fish oil (low levels of heavy metals) with good levels of DHA.   1000 mg x 3 daily. 

Many women are low in these nutrients:

  • Many women have low iron stores and it is important to have a blood test to see if iron supplementation is warranted. The vitamins B9 and B12 are also important for red blood cell formation and should be taken together with any iron supplement. Dairy foods decrease your body's ability to absorb iron from your diet as does tea and coffee. If your iron levels are low - take your iron supplements with vitamin C and away from dairy and coffee. It is recommended that your iron stores (ferritin levels) are at least 65 before attempting conception.
  • Iodine is another nutrient which is often low in our diet. Iodine is required for proper thyroid health and a well-functioning thyroid is essential for conception and a full-term pregnancy. Daily dosage of iodine is 75mcg or 150mg as kelp.
  • Many women also test low for vitamin D. Supplement as needed depending on test results (generally 1000IU -3000IU daily) and get tested again after 3 months.
Infertility affects men and women equally

Testing For MTHFR Abnormalities

  • The MTHFR Genes. It is estimated that between 5-35% of the population have some form of mutation of the MTHFR genes. And between 5-10% have a more severe form which has been associated with; neural tube defects, recurrent miscarriage, autism spectrum disorders, stillbirths, depression and other mood disorders. Ask your naturopath or other health care practitioner for a referral for a blood test, if you have experienced any of the above-mentioned symptoms.

Of course, many more nutrients are important for preconception and during pregnancy, but the most commonly required nutrients are the ones listed above. If you have specific fertility issues you should consult with a naturopath or other health care professional, who is trained in nutrition for preconception and pregnancy care.

Get Proper Testing:

Infertility affects men and women equally. It is estimated that 40% of infertility issues are due to male factors and 40% to female factors, 10% are due to combined factors and 10% unexplained. All too often male factors are being ignored when it comes to failure to conceive, and a simple semen analysis can be a worthwhile investment.

Female Reproductive Issues and Failure to Conceive

If you are  planning to get pregnant you should get at least a basic pre-pregnancy health check-up from your GP. This include checking for immunity to rubella, iron stores, genitourinary infections, thyroid function etc. You should aim to correct any issues found during testing should before attempting to conceive.

It is important to be proactive and seek further testing to rule out any underlying causes, if you have been trying regularly for more than 6 to 12 months without falling pregnant. Don't forget to send your partner for testing as well - his sperm makes up 50% of your baby's DNA.

Below is a diagram showing the most common reasons for female infertility - many which can be successfully improved with natural medicine and lifestyle changes.

Causes of female infertiity - can preconception care help?

Causes of female infertility. Data source: Wendy Kuohung, MD, Mark D Hornstein, MD. Causes of female infertility. In: UpToDate, Robert L Barbieri, MD (Ed), 2014.

Severe tubal obstruction most often requires medical intervention to ensure the fertilised egg has enough space on its journey from the ovary to the uterus for implantation.

Minor obstruction due to accumulation of mucous in the fallopian tubes can often be successfully managed with natural medicine.

The same goes for endometriosis, in severe cases medical intervention is often needed, followed by herbal medicine to help prevent any new growth of endometrial lesions.

Ovulation Disorders

Ovulation disorders should be investigated further. Failure to ovulate makes it impossible to conceive naturally and infrequent or irregular ovulation makes next to impossible to plan your baby making attempts. Knowing the fertile time of your cycle is the single most important information you need to know, when trying to make a baby - as long as you grab your partner and act on it. One very common cause of lack of or irregular ovulation is PCOS.

If your periods are irregular, very light, or very heavy, if you suffer from; PMS, sore breast, bloating or headaches before your period - your hormones are most likely out of balance. Here investigations come in again! you need to know what it is you need to correct or rebalance. Lifestyle changes and herbal medicine can do a very good job of balancing hormones whilst at the same time preparing your body for pregnancy.

If you think you suffer from hormonal imbalances, contact a naturopath or likewise qualified health care practitioner, who specialised in female hormonal health and organise an appointment to get your hormones tested.

A bee symb

Other Causes / Unexplained Infertility

Unexplained infertility is often a case of not enough investigation and can often be explained with further testing.

However, in a few cases, the reason may be explained as sub-fertility. This could be a less that optimal diet or poor absorption of nutrients as is often the case in people with food sensitivities.

Unexplained can be caused by subtle factors in both partners which on their own would cause no problem, but when added together, is enough to prevent conception from occurring.

These subtle health issues can often be identified and corrected during the preconception period. However, couples with unexplained infertility may have to extend their preconception period beyond 3 months for optimal health to return.

With a little patience, the pregnancy success rate for sub-fertile couples is usually very good.

Every Couple Can Improve Their Health And Fertility.

All in all, there are plenty of reasons for why couples find it difficult to get pregnant. Not having optimal fertility is one of the main reasons, but there are ways to change this.

The important thing is to get started! The egg and the sperm takes just over 3 months to mature, which means that in 3 months you could have improved the quality of both egg and sperm. Good egg and sperm quality will greatly improve your chances of conceiving the following month.

For most couples, the single most important thing when trying to conceive is to know when the woman ovulates. Having intercourse every 2-3 days before ovulation will greatly increase your chance of conceiving in that cycle.

If you have been trying unsuccessfully for more than 6-12 months – it is time to do some testing. This involves both partners, as problems with fertility is just as common in males as in females.

At this point, is important for the woman to check that her fallopian tubes are open and healthy, so the sperm can travel to meet the egg.

The man should have a semen analysis, to rule out any problems with the sperm.

If you are trying to conceive through IVF - preconception care is just as important for you.  IVF can not improve the quality of the eggs and sperm, IVF can only bring them together.

Would you like more information on how to support your reproductive health and fertility? Do you need more information? Do you have questions? Post your question below - We will love to hear from you

About the author 

Henriette Selch ND

Hi there, I’m Henriette and the founder of Perth Natural Fertility. I believe in empowering people to make smarter, healthier choices in their lives. Over the past 18 years, I have helped hundreds of couples improve their health and fertility. In my spare time, I love travelling, reading and spending time with friends and family.

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