5 factors that affect fertility
There are, of course, hundreds of factors that affect fertility, from mind to physiological elements. Whether you are considering pregnancy or trying to fall pregnant, it is beneficial to view your mind and body as one, to think holistically and to have an awareness of how your reproductive system works to aid your fertility and have a comfortable pregnancy. So, what affects fertility?
1. The foods you eat
Food nourishes your body. As petrol fuels an engine, food fuels you. The feeling of hunger is your body alerting you to its need for sustenance. Sometimes, with the huge array of food choices we have today, we forget the needs of our bodies and choose foods that fill the hole but do little more. Often we can pick the foods carefully crafted by experts to trick our senses, taste delicious and leave us wanting more. These foods rarely bring your body what it needs, but fill the hole.
To work optimally, your body needs a selection of foods that bring you protein, fibre, healthy fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Ideally, your body receives this from natural unprocessed foods, such as organic unmedicated meat and dairy, nuts, seeds, vegetables, beans and a small amount of fruit. These nutrients give your body what it needs to function efficiently.
I like the car fuel analogy and elaborate on it - you wouldn’t fill a fuel tank with water and expect the car to run properly. When you fill your tummy with foods that do not bring your body anything that it needs, it is unlikely to run as expected. The malfunction is not always obviously related to your diet, for example, anxiety is a symptom of a body lacking in nutrition. So, to help your body work as you expect, including your reproductive system, check that your daily food intake includes all the nutrients your body needs.
2. The liquid you drink
In addition to nutritious foods, your body needs water. Your cells, tissue and organs all need water to work properly. Your body maintains its temperature, lubricates your joints and removes waste using water through defecation, urination and perspiration.
When you restrict your body from water, it is unable to perform its functions efficiently. Water helps your body absorb nutrients. When your diet brings you all the nutrients you need, ensure you include water to open the locks. The recommendation is around two litres of water a day for women and three for men.
Alcohol can increase the risk of ovulation disorders. Some people choose to stop drinking alcohol completely, so consider whether this will work for you. Stress and infertility go hand in hand. If abstaining from alcohol will increase your stress, you might find it preferable to reduce your alcohol consumption rather than go teetotal.
3. To exercise or not?
Exercise is important for your body; it helps you maintain a healthy weight, which is important for fertility and it reduces your risk of disease. Not only this but exercise also improves mood and boosts energy, helps you sleep, and increases your libido. However, regular intense exercise can prevent ovulation and affect hormone production. If your exercise programme is vigorous, consider reducing it slightly.
Low quality sleep correlates with lower rates of fertility. Lifestyles today affect sleep dramatically. Artificial lighting that we all use to light our homes and streets, combined with the bright light on screens, all inhibit your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Busy lives leave many of us overtired. When you ignore your body’s sleep cues, your body responds with the danger response and pumps the ‘alert’ hormone, cortisol, through your body. A lack of nutrients in your body will also affect your sleep.
Limited sleep can cause symptoms of anxiety. You can call this false anxiety. It feels like anxiety, but it is a physiological response to your sleep cycle. Many people experience all kinds of anxiety when trying to conceive, including ovulation anxiety, anxiety around pregnancy tests, anxiety about when you will fall pregnant, anxiety about pregnancy, anxiety about having a baby, and the list goes on. Try to reduce your levels of false anxiety by getting consistently enough sleep.
Stress and fertility do not match well. Your body cannot differentiate between stress as a threat to your life and stress of modern life. When your body is in the stress response, it shuts down all areas not needed to fight or flee. All resources redirect to the important areas needed to save your life. Your reproductive system is unimportant in this body state. Try to reduce all stress in your life to allow your reproductive system the resources it needs.
Does stress affect sperm?
Research indicates stress has a negative impact on the male reproductive system. Stress decreases testosterone, lowers sperm count, impacts sperm production and sperm motility.
Can stress affect pregnancy?
Stress can affect pregnancy. When you use hypnosis or meditation, you take your body out of the stress response. Worrying about stress only increases your levels of stress. Hypnobirthing will help you have a stress free pregnancy, as you learn techniques to remain in the moment, calm and in control, which you can use throughout your pregnancy and birth journey.
Depression and infertility
Infertility and depression sometimes come as a pair. Often there is a positive feedback mechanism, you might not know which came first, but they both increase the other. If your fertility journey creates a feeling of depression for you, it is important to ask for help.
Your doctor will guide you with medications and let you know what is available for you under the NHS. If you can get private support, a hypnotherapist or other talking therapist will help you unpick your feelings and emotions in a safe, supportive environment. A hypnotherapist can help you manage your diet, feel motivated to exercise, change your sleep pattern and reduce your stress.
If you feel you have hit a stumbling block on your fertility journey, some hypnotherapy sessions might help you regain energy and strength to continue. Research shows hypnotherapy has a positive impact on fertility, with many people conceiving during or after therapy.