Starting a family is an exciting time!
The body is innately designed to move towards optimal health when it is nourished physically, chemically and emotionally. A body that is under chronic stress is not thinking “now is a great time to get pregnant!”. Instead, it’s thinking “I have to survive” and survival mode is not a mode that is congruent with starting a new life as it affects hormone production which can make conception a challenge.
It takes two to tango – so to ensure you are in the prime state for conception and that your soon to be bub is off to a flying start – preparation can take upwards of 3-6 months for both parents to be, if not longer depending on your health habits preconception.
It takes roughly 75 days for sperm to mature and around 120 days for an egg to mature. Therefore, expect around 3 months for lifestyle changes to begin to manifest in hormonal changes – which is important to bear in mind when making any change to your lifestyle. Remember that changing lifestyle habits doesn’t only mean coming off birth control, it means cleaning up your nervous system for optimal coordination of every function in your body including:
- Chemical environment
- Physical environment
- Emotional environment
- Sleep/Rest habits
Nervous System Function
Your nervous system controls, co-ordinates and influences every function of your body including reproduction. Ensuring that you and your partner are getting regular Chiropractic care to optimise your nervous system function is step 1 in your preconception care approach. If your nervous system is not working well this can negatively impact your ability to regulate hormones, utilise nutrients you are eating or rest efficiently. You/your partner’s pelvis also needs to be able to move in order to optimise your comfort and reduce tension through the supporting ligaments of the uterus when you/your partner do fall pregnant.
Chemical is not just about getting off medication like the oral contraceptive pill or the implantation – it refers to what you are eating, drinking, putting onto your skin and the quality of your gut to absorb and detox.
Did you know coming off birth control can be a stress on the body itself? The oral contraceptive pill depletes the body of vitamin B, Zinc and Folate, which are essential for a normal menstrual cycle, so ensuring you are getting enough of this in your diet through increasing the intake of:
- Vitamin B – Organic free range organ meat, red meat (2 x per week) or supplementation
- Zinc – oysters, nuts, cheese, eggs, spinach, mushrooms, red meat
- Folate – legumes, asparagus, free range organic eggs, leafy greens, avocado, nuts and seeds
For some people who start their journey already in nutritional deficit supplementation may be required. Oral medications such as antibiotics, steroids, antihypertensives can also affect sperm quality. Always work with a health professional to determine what supplements are best for you and your goals as everybody is different.
Reactive oxidative stress or ROS occurs from chemical stressors like food, stress and smoking. ROS has been shown to reduce quality of cell production – remember that sperm and ovum are cells. What you eat can also create inflammation your body which is detrimental to cell production and quality.
Action point: Clean up your diet – processed foods drive inflammation. Cutting out gluten, and minimising caffeine and alcohol helps to reduce inflammation in the body and take stress off the liver – which is an important organ for hormone production.
Sperm and Ovum loving foods include
- Green leafy vegetables – load up your plate with broccoli, spinach, kale, cavalo nero
- Oily foods such as fish (Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines and Herring) nuts, seeds, oils
- Choose fish or organic eggs > red meat
- Drinking at least 2-3L of filtered water per day
Starting an exercise routine if you are not already doing so is incredibly important to regulate hormones, lose weight, improve blood flow to vital organs like the reproductive organs and reduce stress.
Ladies, did you know that as your hormones change throughout your cycle your exercise regime should change too? Cardio exercise should be your focus during the first week after your period, intervals in the 2nd week during the ovulation phase. Strength training in the 3rd week or the ‘luteal phase’ and pilates/yoga during your menstrual phase.
For men, exercise is important for sensitising your body to insulin. Insulin resistance in fathers has been shown to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in their daughters. Just a few weeks of strength training can increase insulin sensitivity by 24%. Research has also shown that regular exercise increases sperm count, sperm motility and quality.
Action point: Find exercise that works for you or find time to exercise together! We work with a lot of different fitness professionals in practice like yoga, pilates, personal trainers and even mixed martial arts – ask your Chiropractor for more information about who may be a good contact for you.
Stress – the ultimate anti-aphrodisiac. During times of emotional stress cortisol is produced in excess – chronic stress over time affects the body in the following ways:
- Affects testosterone production which is important for libido in both female and males
- Previous emotional trauma (>2 times in life) lower percentage of sperm motility and normal shaped sperm
- Stimulates the adrenals which can lead to non-ovulatory cycles
Action point: Reducing stress is different for everyone. Here are a few to try:
- Apps like headspace and calm have been shown to reduce anxiety.
- Try being grateful with your partner – each night write or share with your partner why you are grateful for each other. Read more about stress busting tips here:
- Get adjusted! Research shows reduction in cortisol levels after an adjustment.
Sleep and your circadian rhythm plays an incredibly important role in hormone production for both females and males. Sleeping less than 7 hours a night has been shown to reduce FSH levels in women by 20% and in men it reduces testosterone leading to lesser quality sperm.
- Make your bedroom a technology free zone
- Go to bed 30 mins-1 hour earlier even if you aren’t going to sleep go to bed and read or connect with your other half.
- Try to have a set bedtime every night
- Get adjusted – the adjustment helps to stimulate alpha waves in your brain which create that relaxed feeling
As no two people are the same no two couples are on the same fertility journey. Optimising your health, learning and listening to your body takes time but is incredibly rewarding in the long term. If you are thinking of starting a family and want holistic support from the inside out to strengthen your chances of conception talk to your Northcote Chiropractic Chiropractor for advice that is tailored to you and your partner.
Hill, M.A. (2019, October 10) Embryology Oocyte Development. Retriev
Palmery M, et al. “Oral contraceptives and changes in nutritional requirements.” Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2013 Jul;17(13)1804-13
Shmerling, R, ShmerlingA, “Fertility and diet: Is there a connection?” HArvard Health Blog, May 31 2018. Available online: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fertility-and-diet-is-there-a-connection-2018053113949 Accessed October 10 2019
Vitti, A. 2015. “How to sync up your exercise routine with your cycle” Flo Living February 25 2015 Avialable at: https://www.floliving.com/exercise-and-menstrual-cycle/ (accessed: October 6 2019)
Vitti, A. 2016 “cycle syncing your workout Regime: easy exercises to do at home for each phase.” Flo Living May 17 2016 Available at: https://www.floliving.com/cycle-synching-workout-regime-easy-exercises-home-phase/ (accessed: October 6 2019)
Carole. 2011. “ Medications that can impair sperm quality and fertility” Fertility Lab Insider October 17, 2011 Available at: http://fertilitylabinsider.com/2011/10/medications-that-can-impair-sperm-quality-and-fertility/ (accessed: October 6 2019)
Eriksson J, Taimela S. et al. “Resistance training in the treatment of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus” Int J Sports Med 1997; 18(4): 242-246
Maleki, BH, Tartibian, B. “Combined aerobic and resistance exercise training for improving reproductive function in infertile men: a randomized controlled trial” Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 2017, 42(12): 1293-1306, https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2017-0249
Maleki, BH, Tartibian, B. “High-Intensity Exercise Training for Improving Reproductive Function in Infertile Patients: A Randomised Controlled Trial” Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, 2017, 39(7): 545-558
Teresa Janevic, Linda G. Kahn, Paul Landsbergis, Piera M. Cirillo, Barbara A. Cohn, Xinhua Liu, Pam Factor-Litvak. Effects of work and life stress on semen quality. Fertility and Sterility, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2014.04.021
Touzet, S, RAbillous M, Boegringer H, Barranco E, Ecochard R, “Relationship between sleep and secretion of gonadotropin and ovarian hormones in women with normal cycles.” Fertil Sterl. 2002 Apr;77(4):738-44
Wagner H, Cheng, JW, Ko EY “Role of reactive oxygen species in male infertility: An updated review of the literature” Arab J Urol 2017 Dec 8;16(1):35-43
Ahok A, Gupriya Virk, et al. “Effect of Oxidative Stress on Male Reproduction” World J Mens Health. 2014 Apr;32(1):1-17. Published online 2014 Apr 25
Unknown Author (11 October 2019) Wellbeing Herts & Essex Fertility Centre Available online: https://hertsandessexfertility.com/treatments/diet-for-health-egg-and-sperm/