Fertility in both women and men can be affected by lifestyle habits, like what you eat and how you manage stress. Also a woman’s health and nutritional status at the time of conception can affect her ability to carry a healthy baby full-term.
So while you’re eager to start trying, this is your opportunity to ensure you’re in optimal health. It’s recommended that you spend at least a few months (if not 6 months to a year) focusing on eating better, exercising more consistently, getting better rest, and taking supplements or herbs to prime your body for conception.
It takes time to develop new habits — and for your body to reap the benefits of those habits, particularly when it comes to nutrition. So why not start now? You’ll thank yourself later for making the effort now.
Your sleeping habits influence how your body functions — particularly the regulation of hormones involved in reproduction. The ideal time to go to bed is 10 or 10:30 pm and the best time to wake is at 6 or 6:30 am. Because your body craves consistency, it’s good to stick to this schedule (even on weekends!). Make sure to stop using any electronic devices at least an hour before bed.
Being active can do wonders for both fertility and the ability of your body to sustain more than nine months of pregnancy. You needn’t run a marathon — moderate exercise is all you need. Consider brisk walking, swimming, working out on an eplliptical machine, yoga or tai chi for 25-40 minutes per day. Keep your heart rate between 120-140 bpm as you exercise.
We all have stress in our lives, but severe or prolonged stress can wreck havoc in the body. Many of your body’s functions are negatively impacted by stress hormones, including: digestion, sleep, mental function, and even fertility.
Managing stress well pays dividends for both your body and soul — especially when you’re trying to conceive. A number of techniques can help you return to a calm, centred state when anxiety hits. Consider meditation, tai chi, yoga, nature walks, massage therapy, acupuncture, or even time floating in a sensory deprivation chamber. All of these activities can help your body come through the stress response (also known as the fight-or-flight response) more quickly.
Lifestyle habits can also help your body resist the effects of stress. Try to get adequate and deep sleep, avoid traveling across time zones, reduce body pain and injury, manage your allergies, limit foods that cause inflammatory responses in the body and regulate your blood sugar by eating well.
How you eat can greatly affect your overall health — and your fertility. Start your day with a good breakfast sometime between 7 and 9 am (for optimal digestion) and avoid caffeine. Eat regularly throughout the day, but try not to eat while you’re working — this makes it harder to focus on how you’re eating or what you’re feeling. Chew well and mind your posture, making sure not to hunch over or cross your legs. Ideally, you should stop eating just before you are full. It’s also important to drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated (aim for half your body weight in ounces).
What you eat is just as important as when and how you eat it. Aim for a balanced diet that emphasizes:
- Whole foods: These contain more vitamins and minerals than processed foods, and are free of preservatives and dyes.
- Healthy fats: Try to incorporate wild fish, avocados, coconut oil, flax seed and butter.
- Warm, cooked foods: Raw and frozen/chilled foods are harder on your digestive system.
- Locally grown and raised foods: These are better for your health, as well as the livelihoods of your local farmers.
- Protein: Boost your protein to balance your blood sugar throughout the day, especially if you’re someone prone to becoming lightheaded, tired or mentally fuzzy if you haven’t eaten for awhile.
Try not to eat:
- Greasy or oily foods: Fries, pizza, and mac-and-cheese are delicious, but not nutritious.
- Fish with high levels of mercury: These include deep-water fish like tuna, sea bass and sword fish (choose wild salmon instead).
For most women, stopping birth control is the first step in preparing for conception — and it’s as easy as deciding not to resume taking your pills after your last period. But if you’re on other kinds of medication, you need to know if it’s safe to take while pregnant and breastfeeding (if you choose to). Talk to your primary health-care provider to see if there are any risks associated with your medication and, if you decide to stop taking it, how you can safely do so (you may need to taper off gradually). For men there are a number of medications that can affect sperm parameters, so it is equally important to talk to your primary health-care provider about the risks and side effects of your medication.