From eating more oily fish to watching your posture, these lifestyle hacks can help boost your fertility
In the UK, around one in seven couples may have difficulty conceiving. But it doesn't necessarily have to be this way, as often a few key lifestyle changes can give your fertility a natural boost. We asked three experts what simple changes you could make to help boost your chances of conceiving naturally.
Eat more oily fish
You may already be cutting out alcohol, caffeine or sugar, but what should you be adding to your diet to help give your fertility a boost?
“Oily fish for the polyunsaturated omega-3 fats EPA and DHA,” says Charlotte Grand, fertility nutritionist and founder of The Fertility Kitchen. “Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and are important for cell membrane function, immune health, sperm and egg health, and your baby’s brain development.”
Women with a sufficient level of omega-3 fats have been shown to have higher-quality embryos in IVF. Men should also be upping their intake, as EPA and DHA can improve sperm motility, volume and strength.
Choose Atlantic mackerel, herring, rainbow trout, sardines and wild Alaskan or sockeye salmon, two to three times a week. If you don’t eat oily fish, invest in a good supplement to ensure you get all this fishy goodness in your diet.
Choose full-fat dairy
A lot of women are still actively avoiding fat, but full-fat dairy has been shown to improve fertility, according to Charlotte Grand. She says: “Fat is hugely important for optimal health and fertility. It provides a concentrated energy source and is important for hormone production, nutrient absorption and blood-sugar regulation.
“There are many different fatty acids (the building blocks of fat) and we need balanced amounts of each.”
"Not all fats are created equal, so avoid trans fats, such as margarine and vegetable oils"
However not all fats are created equal, so avoid trans fats, such as margarine and vegetable oils, when trying to conceive. Commonly found in processed snack foods, frozen dinners and fast food, they have been shown to harm fertility and are associated with poor sperm quality.
Improve your posture
Poor posture can have a huge impact on fertility. Wearing high heels tilts the pelvis forward due to the pressure applied towards the front of the feet which can negatively affect fertility, especially if also hunching or slouching. In men, poor posture while sitting can increase body temperature, impacting sperm concentration and mobility.
Farren Morgan, head coach and tactical trainer at Farren Morgan Coaching, recommends a simple exercise called the chest opener to help address postural problems and help you stand straighter. He says: “Stand with your feet hip-width apart, interlock your fingers behind you, or grab the ends of a resistance band, or even a towel. Make sure your entire body is facing forward, before you take a deep breath and bring your arms downward as you lift your chest. Hold the position for three to five deep breaths then release. After a few minutes of rest, do five or ten more reps.”
Keep stress in check
High stress levels can lead to delayed or absent ovulation and decreased testosterone levels, lower sperm count, abnormal sperm production, and decreased sperm mobility—all of which are not great if you’re trying to conceive.
A great place to start tackling stress is in the bedroom—by getting a good night’s sleep. “Getting enough good quality sleep sits at the foundation of good health,” says Geraldine Joaquim, a clinical hypnotherapist and wellness coach. A lack of sleep leaves us feeling irritable and fatigued and reaching for unhealthy sugary and fatty foods in an attempt to boost flagging energy levels. And the last thing you want to do when you’re overtired is to exercise.
"A great place to start tackling stress is in the bedroom—by getting a good night’s sleep"
But moving your body more, incorporating breathing exercises into your daily routine and changing your mindset are good ways to tackle stress.
Geraldine adds: “Learn to step back from stress, reframe situations, let go of things outside your control. We can control our thoughts and behaviours and those two elements feed into how we feel.”
Live in the now
“Be more present, enjoy your life, your relationships, look for the pleasure—and be grateful,” explains Geraldine Joaquim. We spend a huge amount of time thinking about the future and ruminating on the past. And when you are trying for a baby, your whole focus is on pregnancy tests and when is a good time to have sex.
But obsessively focusing on one thing can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. Geraldine says: “Learn to be more present in the here and now, notice the good things in your life rather than drift past them.” And crucially: “The more you can relax, the better chance of it happening.”
If you have been having regular unprotected sex but have not conceived within a year of trying, you should make an appointment with your GP for further advice.
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