This post is presented by VIOS Fertility Institute whose philosophy is to bring the science of medicine and the art of care to each patient in a customized, welcoming and reassuring atmosphere. Everyone’s fertility journey is different. At VIOS, their team approach focuses on helping you navigate the journey and make your dreams of parenthood a reality. Today’s featured author is Dr. Ellen C. Hayes, a board certified Reproductive Endocrinologist.
Even in these uncertain times where our “normal” looks significantly than it did just a couple months ago, for potential parents who are trying to conceive, the fertility journey continues, even from a social distance and with a face mask. We connected with the local experts at VIOS Fertility Institute to learn more about what steps people can be taking right now to optimize their fertility, even in the face of the added stress and anxiety of the outside world.
Taking Care of Your Fertility Health
For those of you having difficulty getting pregnant, it can feel like the process is completely out of your control leading to frustration and stress. Instead, let’s focus on ways to optimize your fertility that are under your control. These healthy changes can be beneficial whether you are just starting to think about getting pregnant, currently trying to conceive, or undergoing fertility treatment.
It’s important to keep in mind that the healthier you are, the better your fertility. When your body is under physical stress from inadequate nutrition, lack of exercise, or high emotional stress levels, it will conserve energy and react by decreasing your likelihood of getting pregnant. This is just a natural defense mechanism. And while it may still be necessary at some point during your fertility journey to seek medical care from a Reproductive Endocrinologist and Infertility Specialist (REI), like myself, for fertility testing and traditional fertility treatment, making a few healthy changes will give you your best chance for pregnancy overall.
Few factors under our control have as much of an impact on our health than proper nutrition, and with all the diets we hear about in the media, it can be confusing to differentiate fad from actual science. The fact is, many of the diets that are currently popular such as Keto, low carb, and extreme types of fasting, are not the best approaches to food for those trying for pregnancy. Studies show that the foods that are important for optimal female and male fertility include a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Just as important is having an adequate “feeding window” during the day. Intermittent fasting and time-restricted eating in a tight 6-8-hour window is too restrictive when trying for pregnancy and should be avoided. Research also supports limiting intake of meat and dairy, while increasing protein intake from low-mercury fish and plant sources. Whole foods with a focus on organic produce is healthiest. And finally, minimizing alcohol and eliminating processed and fast food is strongly recommended.
Another extremely effective way to optimize overall health as well as fertility is through exercise. It is well known that being at an ideal body weight, rather than being underweight or overweight, is best for fertility, therefore, exercise recommendations differ based on whether the individual has a normal or overweight BMI (body mass index). For those with a normal BMI, 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5-7 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 5-7 days per week, likely due to the positive effects of weight loss. For those who are currently undergoing fertility treatment, there may be times during your treatment cycle that exercise is temporarily off limits to minimize your risks for complications, so always ask your doctor about exercise during these times. Looking for ways to stay active at home during Safer at Home? We’ve got lots of ideas for you!
Finally, we can’t underestimate the importance of stress management to improve fertility. We now know that chronic emotional stress can affect us physically leading to many types of disease as well as contribute to infertility. And while it isn’t possible to eliminate stress entirely, finding ways to manage stress that work for you are essential. Stress negatively affects reproduction in at least two ways. First, chronic stress leads to chronically elevated cortisol levels in the body. This elevated cortisol alters secretion of the reproductive hormones essential for ovulation in women and sperm production in men. Secondly, stress also causes chronic inflammation in our body which can lead to decreased fertility. Some effective and healthy tools for stress management include yoga, acupuncture, meditation, regular exercise, healthy diet, and getting adequate sleep.
You do have control over many aspects of your health that can positively affect your fertility. And while it’s important to see an REI physician if you are less than 35 years old and have been trying for pregnancy for 1 year or more, or if you are 35 or older and have been trying for 6 months or more, these healthy changes can be implemented at any point during your fertility journey.
As a board certified Reproductive Endocrinologist with Vios Fertility Institute, Dr. Ellen C. Hayes is dedicated to assisting patients experiencing infertility issues. For over 15 years, she has been providing compassionate, individualized care to her patients with access to the most advanced, state-of-the-art treatment options available.