If your New Year goal is to get pregnant then here are some top tips for improving fertility health that will help increase your chances.
Bourn Hall, the world’s first IVF clinic, has 40 years of treating infertility and it has found that body weight (BMI) has a major impact on the hormones that control reproduction. In some cases, gaining a healthy BMI can help restore ovulation – regular release of eggs – increasing the chance of getting pregnant naturally. BMI is also important for men as being overweight reduces sperm production.
There is strong evidence that good nutrition can improve your fertility and Bourn Hall has introduced a nutritional consultation within its Fertility Health + Wellbeing Package; for those who come to the clinic for its rapid fertility testing and diagnostic service.
Good nutrition has an impact on both male and female fertility
A varied diet, with a range of fruit and vegetables, less sugar and more protein can help to balance the hormones that control reproduction. Reducing stress is also important.
The hormones testosterone and oestrogen are found in both males and females but the relative proportions are different. With men having more testosterone and women more oestrogen.
- Males – testosterone is produced in the testicles and used for sperm production. If a man becomes obese then more of the testosterone is converted into oestrogen and this reduces his sperm count.
- Females – oestrogen regulates the menstrual cycle, an increase in oestrogen causes an egg to mature and be released. A hormone imbalance can make ovulation irregular reducing the chances of conception.
Five top tips for improving fertility health
Laura Carter-Penman, Lead Fertility Nurse at Bourn Hall Clinic, provides the following tips:
- Don’t get stressed about timing ovulation – ovulation happens once a month, so having regular unprotected intercourse two or three times a week will cover this. Keep a diary of your periods though, if they are irregular this is a sign that you are not ovulating.
- Eat protein for breakfast – an excess of body fat increases the amount of oestrogen in the body, causing hormone imbalance. Unbalanced blood sugar, can make it even more difficult to maintain a healthy BMI. So, eliminating simple carbs such as sweets and biscuits and eating protein, which also makes you feel fuller for every meal can help. Replacing carbohydrate heavy breakfasts such as cereal, with a protein rich one such as scrambled egg or high protein yoghurt with berries is a good choice.
- Reduce the heat –Overheated testicles can temporarily lower sperm counts, so avoid saunas, hot baths, and tight underwear.
- Moderate exercise is best – walking and activities like yoga that reduce stress are good. Cycling for long periods on hard bike seats can also reduce fertility through pressure on the perineum, potentially damaging nerves, and blood vessels to the genital area. A gel bike seat can help and provide more cushioning.
- Increase colour in your diet – leafy vegetables and colourful fruit are rich in antioxidants and help protect you from disease. They also reduce damage to DNA from free radicals – unstable molecules created in the body in response to stress and environmental toxins – improving the quality of your sperm.
BMI and fertility
For both men and women lifestyle improvement can help improve fertility and this is something that you can do while waiting for test results or treatment.
People are often told to lose weight before their infertility can be investigated and to ensure the health of the mother and child during pregnancy. Many women with irregular ovulation can be helped to get pregnant naturally through lifestyle changes for both partners and carefully monitored ovulation induction to help the timing of intercourse.
If IVF is required, then the NHS specifies that you need to have a BMI of 30 or less to qualify for NHS funded treatment.
The fertility health and wellbeing check can provide reassurance and peace of mind about the chances of natural conception or may lead to advice about lifestyle changes that could increase the chances of achieving a pregnancy.
The package includes a suite of fertility tests that are tailored to individual needs, lifestyle advice, support for gaining a healthy BMI, with diagnosis and a consultation with a fertility specialist within 6 weeks.
The Bourn Hall Fertility health + wellbeing package includes:
- A suite of personalised fertility tests such as semen analysis; AMH blood tests for ovarian reserve and an ultrasound scan.
- A 30-minute consultation with a nutritionist to look at underlying body system imbalances and a review of current nutrition. This may include blood sugar regulation, gastro-intestinal function, adrenal health, inflammatory processes and liver function.
- Discussion of the results and findings with a specialist fertility doctor which includes a diagnosis and recommendations for next steps which might include further tests such as a HyCoSy tubal patency test to check that the fallopian tubes are clear.
Bourn Hall provides both NHS and self-funded treatments. If fertility specialists identify that treatment or surgical intervention is indicated, patients will be guided through their options, with advice and support every step of the way.