If you’re planning to get pregnant this year, then it’s always a good idea to make sure that you’re in optimum health before you start trying: you will maximise your chances of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy to term. And even if you’re not actively thinking of getting pregnant, ensuring that your hormones are in balance will help you in any number of ways from having great skin to generally feeling good about yourself. Marje Isabelle, CEO of Fertile Matters, a fertility analysis service www.fertilematters.co.uk, offers us her advice.
Get tested. Ideally, you should get your fertility checked which will tell you what is going on inside your body. Armed with the facts, you can make appropriate changes to your diet and lifestyle or get medical help. Medical techniques have moved on considerably lately and now you can find out your fertility with just one appointment where you will have a scan and a blood test – the appointment can now be made at any time during the month.
• Maintain an ideal weight – weight is one of the major issues with fertility problems, both being underweight and overweight. ‘We are our hormones’, and anything that sends them out of kilter affects egg health, egg production and ovulation. In addition it affects implantation, so a woman may be conceiving but having a very early miscarriage.
• A healthy diet from a fertility point of view will have good levels of protein with low levels of fat and dairy. Again, nutrition affects our hormonal balance and therefore women who are deficient in various vitamins and nutrients will have a longer menstrual cycle, which means that they are ovulating less frequently.
• It is easy to get your vitamin levels checked but generally speaking, the good things for women to top-up on are: Zinc, the B Vitamins, Folic Acid, Selenium, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin E and Vitamin C as well as ensuring that they are eating plenty of protein. And if you want to ensure your man is in tip-top condition, he will need Selenium, Coenzyme Q10, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin C and Zinc – but remember, it takes 3 months for the body to make new sperm, so dietary changes take a while to take effect.
• Cut down on your alcohol and even better, don’t drink at all. Apart from often being a contributory factor in weight gain, it does affect your hormone levels – along with weight, alcohol consumption is one of the ‘Big Two’ lifestyle issues that are problematic for fertility.
• Exercise (but not excessively). Doing regular exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle and is therefore good for fertility. However, extreme exercise which can lead to very low body fat percentages can affect the hormone balances and therefore adversely affect fertility. Gentle exercise is best – yoga is ideal and is also a good stress reducer, which leads me onto my next point…
• Cut your stress levels as it is really bad for fertility! There are numerous studies that show that conception levels decrease when women are going through psychological stress. Stress produces the hormone cortisol which floods the body – it is the ‘fight or flight’ hormone and as we don’t do either of those things in the modern world, it can accumulate in the body leading to all sorts of issues. Stress can be responsible for the restriction of blood flow to the uterus which can affect conception, and cortisol has been linked to encouraging the accumulation of fat evident especially around a person's waist, which again, can send hormones into flux.
• Drug use – a big no-no from a fertility point of view.
• If you’re in your 30s and your life isn’t settled in terms of a partner, a stable home and so on, then consider having a conversation with a fertility expert about ‘fertility preservation’. Egg freezing has hit the headlines recently with Facebook and Apple offering this to their female staff – it’s a complex subject, but it’s worth considering sooner rather than later as the quality and number of eggs deteriorates with age.
• If your hormones are in balance, your skin will glow, you will feel generally better physically and mentally and your overall health will benefit. Likewise women who are approaching menopause should have their levels checked, as it is now possible to manage that time much better and ensure that you feel vital (and sexy!) way beyond the menopause. We would urge women to check their fertility levels to ensure that their fitness and diet regimes are optimised.