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Ways to increase fertility

You can decide your own personal action plan to increase your fertility; you’ll find that not only do you become fitter but, if you need IVF, you’ll feel more positive and in control.

The impact of nutrition on fertility

Leading conception and pregnancy expert Zita West highlights the importance of good nutrition for healthy eggs and sperm, improving your chances of successful fertility treatment.

Zita West is the founder of the renowned Zita West Fertility Clinic, which is part of the Care Fertility Group, combining our world-leading science and commitment to highly personalised care with the Zita West focus on pre-preparation and the micro-management of your treatment.

Want to learn more ways to increase your fertility? Dr Gillian Lockwood, Medical Director of Care Tamworth, discusses global research and good nutrition for fertility in this blog. Zita has also written a blog about supporting your immunity from home, including explaining where to find important nutrients, antioxidants and fatty acids in common foods.

Eating a healthy and balanced diet is crucial for both of you when preparing to conceive. Remember… You are what you eat! 

Taking vitamins and minerals will help boost your fertility and will definitely improve the health of your pregnancy. You can benefit from these essentials vitamins:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium

In addition to a healthy and balanced diet you may wish to take a multi vitamin and mineral supplement especially designed for pre pregnancy, known as prenatal vitamins. As a general rule most prenatal supplements contain a greater amount of folic acid, iron and calcium so simply taking an ordinary multi vitamin will not suffice when trying to conceive.

You should also take a folic acid supplement, starting at least a month before beginning your treatment cycle. Folic acid is essential for normal cell division, especially during early pregnancy. It also protects against certain developmental abnormalities such as spina bifida. The dosage of folic acid taken should be 400 mcg or 0.4mg daily and you should ensure that the supplement you use does not contain vitamin A or fish liver oil. Folic acid can be found in foods such as leafy green vegetables, fruit juices and fortified beans and breakfast cereals.

Several studies have shown the beneficial effects of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants on sperm quality. We would therefore recommend that men start taking the following supplements 3 months before starting treatment:

  • Vitamin E – 400 IU
  • Vitamin C – 100 mg
  • Selenium 26 ugm
  • Zinc 25 mg
  • Lycopene 6 mg
  • Folate 0.5mg
  • Garlic 1000 mg

Being overweight or underweight can reduce the chances of conceiving. Women who are underweight often have problems with ovulation. Women who are overweight or obese tend to have more fat in their bodies, this fat can actually increase the amount of oestrogen inside the body. Obesity in men also has a detrimental effect on sperm motility and erectile function. Exercise is an integral part of any healthy lifestyle and will of course help you with any weight issues. When exercise is pursued in healthy moderation, it can actually help to increase fertility. Exercising 30 minutes a day, three to four days a week, can help you on your way to pregnancy.

Alcohol disrupts the hormonal balance of the female reproductive system, leading to menstrual irregularities and even anovulatory cycles (menstrual cycles where ovulation fails to occur). These changes can drastically decrease a woman's chance of becoming pregnant and thus affect fertility.

Excessive alcohol intake is also detrimental to sperm quality. Men who continue to consume alcohol on a regular basis, can decrease their sperm count and even affect sperm quality, both of which are important factors in achieving fertility. We would recommend where to possible both partners cut down on alcohol or preferably stop completely during treatment and pregnancy.

You should try and cut back on caffeine where possible.

Research suggests that high caffeine intake can affect both male and female fertility, so it's best for both partners to keep track of how much coffee, tea, cola and chocolate you consume before and during treatment. As a general rule men and women should limit their caffeine consumption to about 2 cups of tea or coffee per day. In addition to the potential impact on fertility, caffeine can impair your body's absorbtion of iron and calcium. It has also been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage.

Cigarette smoke contains many toxic substances that impact on both male and female fertility. Men who smoke have been shown to have abnormalities in sperm production. Both sperm quality and quantity are affected.

For women, smoking causes hormonal changes that can lead to menstrual irregularities and even anovulation (menstrual cycles where ovulation fails to occur). Women who smoke ten or more cigarettes per day are three times more likely to experience difficulty conceiving than non-smokers. There is clear evidence that smoking reduces the chance of success in an IVF cycle by about a third, therefore couples trying to conceive should quit smoking immediately.

When trying to conceive, it's best to avoid taking any drugs, prescribed or otherwise.

Some medicines can decrease fertility, so tell your GP or specialist that you are trying for a baby if you need a prescribed medicine. If you are on long term medication, your GP may be able to prescribe an alternative if the original drug is known to have an affect on fertility. If you are unsure about any medication you have been prescribed or have bought over the counter, please do not hesitate to consult a member of the medical/nursing staff at Care.

Going through fertility treatment definitely falls under the heading of ‘a stressful experience’ you are both likely to feel a range of emotions before, during and after treatment. There will be highs and lows, as well as the stress of the actual treatment programme itself, whilst juggling all the other things that are going on in your lives; jobs, home, social life and the rest.

Whilst we cannot completely remove the stress of going through fertility treatment there are some things we advise to try to help reduce your stress levels:

  • Talk to each other, remember you aren't going through this alone.
  • Use Care's counselling service – A professional and confidential counselling service is available to all Care patients before, during and after treatment.
  • Do not work for more than ten hours a day.
  • Take regular breaks during the day and allow at least half an hour for meals.
  • Do some exercise two or three times per week.
  • Use relaxation techniques once a day (e.g. meditation or relaxation tapes etc).
  • Be kind to yourself. Set aside some time each day to be by yourself – listen to music, have a relaxing bath or just take time out.
  • Learn to say NO – to christenings, children’s birthday parties…. If you feel that an invitation will cause you anxiety, allow yourself the right to say no. You are dealing with enough when going through IVF so don’t expect more of yourself
  • Do not set or accept deadlines that you cannot keep, most things can actually wait until tomorrow.
  • Get sufficient sleep each night. Do something to relax you before going to bed and avoid drinking tea and coffee during the evening.
  • Have a complete break away from everything as often as you can

Do something fun at least once a week.

As a complementary treatment for IVF it is claimed that it works by improving blood flow to the reproductive organs, however there is no convincing evidence that it improves ovarian blood and it’s use during stimulation with fertility drugs has as yet not been shown to improve follicle growth, egg quality or endometrial thickening.

Acupuncture is not harmful though and if you use it you may find that it reduces stress. Some of our male patients also use acupuncture.

Preparing for IVF, some real life experiences

If you have any concerns about your fertility health, please come and see us.