Are you thinking about starting our growing your family? You and your partner may be wondering what you can do to improve your chances of conceiving naturally and bringing a healthy baby into this world. In the last several years, we have learned a lot about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle to improve the quality of egg and sperm as well as to create a healthy environment in your body that allows your baby to thrive.
Lifestyle and natural medicine
Whether you are attempting to conceive on your own or about to enter the often intimidating world of reproductive medicine, there are things you and your partner can do that could enhance the odds of success. In the area of lifestyle and natural medicine, we can now give you many tips that have already helped countless people realize their dream of parenthood, so you can get started right away.
Some of these tips may seem like common sense, yet they are fundamentally important and cannot easily be replaced by high-tech medical interventions. Other strategies, like acupuncture and botanical medicine will involve working with an experienced practitioner of these healing systems.
What’s your motivation?
Before I start dispensing advice on nutritional approaches, I think it is important to recognize that just taking the right vitamins or having sex at the right time is not all there is to an act so profound as procreation. We all have different motivations and inspirations for wanting to be (or not be) parents. It’s important to explore these questions alone as well as with your partner and other trusted individuals. This is what you will draw strength from during your journey, esp. should you encounter challenges or roadblocks.
Creating babies is a unique ability and experience that connects you to the cycle of life and death. It takes a central role in the lives of many people, connecting us to our past and future. Raising a family is both a huge responsibility and a privilege, a joyful journey, yet at times frustrating, disappointing or even devastating.
Once you have a level of clarity and confidence that you’re comfortable with, you want to learn more about human reproduction and what role your choices can play before conception, during pregnancy and childbirth, and once you breastfeed your newborn (if you choose to).
Get to know your body
What I find astounding and saddening is how little most people know about women’s reproductive health, their menstrual cycles, egg quality, ovulation, conception, what happens during pregnancy, and what to expect as you’re preparing for labor, childbirth and beyond.
Even if you’re not planning to try for a baby anytime soon, you should pay attention to everything associated with your, or your partner’s, cycle. Many women don’t seem to know that being on oral contraceptives suppresses their natural hormones and menstrual cycle, so that what they’re experiencing is not actually their periods but break-through bleeding during withdrawal of synthetic hormones (something that some medical doctors don’t even think is needed every month or so). In other words, hormonal birth control methods prevent you from observing how your body functions naturally.
However, observing your body is extremely important because all the signs, symptoms and emotions associated with a natural menstrual cycle will give you and your holistic care provider lots of information on how well your body is functioning and whether you are actually fertile and could conceive, if you wanted to try. Using this vital information you can begin to balance your body long before you are ready to try for a baby. We have a much better understanding now how vital it is to support your body during the 100+ days before ovulation to enhance egg quality and the chances of conception. Equally important is creating the best conditions for a healthy endometrium, the inner lining of your uterus, so that the fertilized egg will have a nourishing place to attach to and grow.
For generally healthy women (and men), there are two areas that I think are important to focus on in preparation of trying for a baby. One is your lifestyle and everything that creates stress (or relieves it), the other is what goes into your mouth and becomes building blocks for all cells in your body, including the oocytes, or supports the multitude of metabolic processes in your body and microbiome. For example, we now know how crucially important the optimal functioning of mitochondria is for healthy eggs and sperm.
Your sources of stress
Every person is different, for sure, but it’s safe to say that most of us experience higher levels of stress in life than is healthy and sustainable for us. You need to identify the sources of your specific stress and find ways to reduce and better manage them. Stress can be connected to your work environment, family relationships, the place you live, anxiety about life, exposure to toxins, lack of exercise, play and rest, and, of course, inadequate nourishment. There are many strategies to counter stress, but sometimes it’s just most effective to do less and not pack your schedule to the rim. (Easier said than done, I know!)
What you eat really matters
When it comes to eating, I like to draw your attention away from fad diets and to thinking in terms of nutrition and nourishment. Our ancestors had no internet and still figured out how foods can enhance fertility naturally. Of course, they weren’t eating processed or convenience foods but relied entirely on what nature provided, and so should you. A whole foods diet should be your foundation, with tweaks according to your individual health needs. To figure those out, you should consider working with a natural medicine practitioner experienced in nutrition for fertility, pregnancy, and the time after childbirth. Without help it can be daunting to figure out what foods are causing inflammation or your blood sugar to fluctuate.
In addition, we now have a wide range of botanical medicines and nutritional supplements that can help balance certain health conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis or thyroid conditions and promote healthy menstrual cycles and ovulation. There is more research interest now in this area, so we can combine our traditional medicine knowledge with emerging evidence and modern clinical experience. Often, Chinese herbal medicine or naturopathic approaches can move the needle enough for you to conceive naturally when you thought (or were told) you couldn’t. It may take a little while but you won’t be the worse for wear.
© 2021 Christiane Siebert