Infertility is on the rise, affecting many couples earlier in life. It is estimated that 6% of married couples are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying to conceive. Additionally, approximately 12% of women have difficulty getting pregnant or maintaining pregnancy. In vitro fertilization (IVF) has helped many couples have successful pregnancies, however its high cost leaves it out of reach for many couples. For couples looking to increase their chances of a successful pregnancy, whether through natural conception or IVF, below are the top 5 ways to boost fertility.
Folate is critical in DNA synthesis and helps prevent neural tube defects life spina bifida. Folic acid is the inactive form of folate, and methylfolate is the active form of folate. A percentage of the population has difficulty converting folic acid to methylfolate due to a variation of the gene that controls methylfolate production called MTHFR. Women with an MTHFR mutation can experience recurrent miscarriages. Most prenatal vitamins on the market contain folic acid, which the body has to convert to methylfolate. This process is impaired in someone with an MTHFR mutation. If you are trying to conceive, make sure your prenatal vitamin contains methylfolate, not folic acid, and consider getting tested to find out your MTHFR status. Additionally, dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and chard are naturally high in methylfolate.
We all know we should reduce stress, but for couples trying to conceive, it is important to understand how stress effects reproduction. Being in the “fight or flight” mode keeps the body from feeling like it is safe enough to reproduce. The adrenal glands, which is responsible for making our stress hormones, also makes some of our sex hormones that are important for reproduction. Putting a strain on the adrenal system can impair the adrenal glands’ ability to make these sex hormones. This can create just enough of an issue to interfere with reproductive hormones. Some ways to support the adrenal glands include taking adrenal supportive herbs and eating a small snack every 2 hours. Skipping meals forces the body to run on adrenaline, which puts a strain on the adrenal system, which can in turn affect reproductive hormones.
Chemicals in plastics such as BPA and phthalates are well known endocrine system disrupters, which can disrupt our reproductive hormones. These chemicals leach into food and liquids when stored in plastic, especially when heat is applied. Avoid heating food and consuming hot beverages from plastic containers. Opt for glass and stainless steel containers whenever possible. Also, it is important to use a water filter that filters out BPA, since BPA is a common contaminant of most tap water.
Zinc and Vitamin C
Zinc and vitamin C are not only important nutrients for the immune system but also important for egg and sperm quality. Vitamin C is an antioxidant which can help repair any oxidative damage to DNA in eggs and sperm. Zinc is important for testosterone production, sperm count, motility, and semen volume. Zinc also decreases elevated estrogen. It is recommended that supplementation start 4 months before trying to conceive as it takes up to 116 days to develop a healthy sperm, and up to 100 days for eggs.
Myo-inositol is a carbohydrate similar in structure to glucose and is found naturally in fruits, beans, nuts, and grains. Studies have shown that supplementation with myo-inositol improves ovulatory function, egg quantity, egg quality, and insulin sensitivity. Furthermore, women that supplemented with myo-inositol prior to undergoing treatment for in vitro fertilization had a greater number of eggs at retrieval and a greater number of embryos suitable for transfer. It is recommended to supplement for at least 3 months prior to trying to conceive or prior to egg retrieval to see the most benefit.
These are only a few of the ways you can boost fertility. There are many other herbs, nutrients, dietary, and lifestyle changes that can optimize fertility. Each couple is unique in their needs and their obstacles. At Northwest Wellness, Dr. April Sullivan works with couples at any stage of preconception planning. Whether couples are having difficulty conceiving, undergoing in vitro fertilization, or simply want to optimize fertility, Dr. Sullivan helps couples develop a plan to optimize their outcomes.