women

Best natural therapies

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

TCM enhances the success rate of Western fertility treatments, reported a small study in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine. More research is needed, but the anecdotal evidence is strong.

Hypnotherapy

This can have a tranquillising effect, helping to ease stress and reduce fears and anxieties about pregnancy, which in turn, theoretically, should improve your chances of conceiving. A study by a team at Soroka University in Israel found that hypnotherapy can help improve the pregnancy rate of women undergoing IVF.

Acupuncture

One German study found that acupuncture boosted the chances of pregnancy in women undergoing IVF, possibly by increasing blood flow to the uterus and relaxing muscle tissue to help the embryo implant. It’s not clear whether it can help boost fertility more generally, but it’s said to balance energy in the body that may be out of kilter.

Conception diet

Fertility friends

Kate: Rich in folic acid, which protects against birth defects.

Flaxseeds: High in omega fats that help balance fertility hormones. Aim for 2 tsp a day ground up and sprinkled over salad; porridge or blended in a casserole or smoothie.

Brown rice: Helps balance blood sugar and hormones.

Sardines: Full of fertility-boosting omega-3 fats and vitamin D.

Lentils: Nutrient-dense and full of fibre to help regulate blood sugar and keep hormones on an even keel.

Sesame seeds: Rich in zinc, a fertility super-nutrient. When baking, swap some wheat flour with sesame flour for a nutrient boost.

Fertility Enemies

Factory-made cakes: Often packed with artificial and unhealthy trans fats – look for the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” on the label.

White bread: Sends your blood sugar soaring then plummeting, which can upset your hormones. Opt for whole-meal instead

Mass-market chocolate bars: A fertility-bashing mix of blood-destabilising sugar, caffeine-containing chocolate, trans fats and not a lot of micronutrients. Help yourself to a small amount of finest-quality dark chocolate instead, which has antioxidants along with chocolate pleasure.

Description: Caffeine, smoking and alcohol can increase the risk of miscarriage

Caffeine, smoking and alcohol can increase the risk of miscarriage

Avoid caffeine, smoking and alcohol

Drinking any alcohol can send your fertility plummeting, possibly cutting it in half – and the more you drink, the less likely you are to conceive. Too much alcohol also reduces testosterone, reducing libido, and affects sperm quality and quantity in men. Caffeine is thought to disrupt fertility hormone levels and many affect the muscles in your fallopian tubes, which carry eggs to your womb. Regularly consuming more than 200mg of caffeine a day (a cup of filter coffee is about 100mg, a mug of tea is about 75mg) may also increase your risk of miscarriage. Smoking is so bad for your general health, as well as fertility, that you should quit before trying for a baby.

Go organic

“Environment toxins, such as pesticides and other synthetic oestrogen and oestrogen imitators, are a potential cause of delayed conception, so switch to organic wherever possible” says Glenville. “We consume too many hormones and hormone-like compounds in everyday food that can push us into toxic overload. This can affect ovulation in women, and lower sperm count and sperm viability in men.” Organic food often comes in healthier packaging, too.

Exercise right

It goes without saying that being fit makes sense if you’re trying to conceive. “Exercise helps you stay in shape – if you are over-weight or underweight it’s harder to conceive” says Emma Cannon, fertility guru and author of The Baby-Making Bible (Rodale; $23). “It can also reduce stress, making it more likely you’ll conceive,” she adds. However, the wrong kind of exercise, just like the wrong kind of food, can be detrimental to your health and fertility. “The focus should shift away from wanting a “red-carpet body” if you are trying to get pregnant,” says Cannon. Working out regularly to exhaustion, or doing a workout every single day that gets you out of breath, without taking any rest days, will reduce your chances of conceiving. Instead, adopt a sensible exercise regime and avoid hours of punishing workouts every day of the week. If you’re a heavy high-impact exerciser and want to get pregnant quickly, consider toning down your workouts. Optimise your chances of conceiving by including more low-impact workouts such as yoga and swimming, instead.

Test your fertility

The “fertility self-assessment tool” at nhs.uk will advise on whether you need to seek medical advice about your fertility.

If it seems to be taking too long to get pregnant, the best way to measure your fertility is with checks at an NHS or private clinic. Basic tests include an ultrasound scan to check the womb and ovaries, blood tests to measure fertility hormones such as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH) and progesterone, tests for sexually transmitted diseases or polycystic ovary syndrome that can reduce fertility. Men will have the quality and quantity of sperm measured.

Home kits may help you gauge your fertility – some monitor ovulation and the best two days to have sex, such as Clear Blue Ovulation Test Kit ($32; boots.com). Others predict how many eggs you might have left, such as Ovarian Ageing Profile, ($517; medichecks.com) or DuoFertility, ($767; duofertility.com). Most analyse blood or urine for hormones that may predict how many eggs you have left. But never rely on them to decide how long you can wait before starting a family. Doctors fear they may give women false hope because they don’t give a complete picture about the quality of the eggs or detect other problems, such as blocked fallopian tubes or a partner with low sperm count.

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