By naturopath Margaret Jasinska

In recent years we are seeing an increasing number of couples suffering with infertility. It’s interesting to note that the couples seeking our help are getting younger. A vast number of factors can affect female and male fertility. Here are 10 worth considering:

1. Maintain a healthy weight

Overweight women are more prone to menstrual cycle disturbances, find it more difficult to fall pregnant and have a higher risk of pregnancy and delivery complications.  Carrying excess body fat creates a number of metabolic and hormonal disorders that help to explain these outcomes.  In men excess body fat reduces sperm quality and quantity.

2. Avoid sexually transmitted infections

In women and men, infections can cause inflammation and damage to pelvic organs, resulting in infertility.  In women, pelvic infections can cause blockage of the fallopian tubes, which are the tubes that an egg travels down each month.  If the egg cannot join with the sperm, fertilisation is impossible. In a lot of cases, sexually transmitted infections have very few symptoms, therefore may go undiagnosed for many years. If you have a new sexual partner, it’s best if both of you get tested for infections.

3. Men should avoid exposure to excess heat

The testes require a temperature two to three degrees lower than body temperature in order to manufacture sperm.  Therefore, while attempting to conceive, men should avoid hot spas and saunas, tight underpants or resting a laptop computer on their thighs.  Obesity also increases testicular temperature.

4. Get tested for nutrient deficiencies

Nutrient deficiencies are extremely common, even in people who have a healthy diet.  Vitamin D deficiency can inhibit ovulation, as can iron deficiency.  Deficiency of iron during pregnancy impairs development of the baby’s brain.  Iodine deficiency is very common in Australia and this can impair the health of the thyroid gland.  Thyroid gland dysfunction is a common cause of infertility.

5. Avoid sugar and excess carbohydrate

Sugar, bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, breakfast cereals and all foods made of flour, if consumed in excess, can inhibit some women from ovulating.  This is especially true for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.  This is one of the most common causes of infertility and affects at least one in ten women.

6. Avoid social toxins

Cigarettes, alcohol and excess caffeine can all inhibit a woman from falling pregnant and increase the risk of miscarriage.  These substances also reduce sperm quality and quantity in men.  A couple wishing to conceive should avoid these substances for at least three months beforehand.

7. Increase the vegetable and fruit content of your diet

Very few people consume enough vegetables.  You should aim for at least five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit each day.  They are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, including folate, which helps to prevent neural tube defects.  Eating only pure, natural foods will improve the health of the egg and sperm, therefore you will pass on the best possible genes to your future children.

8. Reduce your exposure to environmental chemicals

A number of environmental chemicals have been strongly linked to worldwide declining fertility.  These chemicals are found in plastic, pesticides, some personal care products and some cleaning products.  Natural alternatives exist in most instances.

9. Try to minimise stress

Stress can cause major disruptions to the female menstrual cycle and it can inhibit ovulation.  If you are stressed, your body considers it an inappropriate time to become pregnant and raise children!  Unfortunately many of us live with chronic stress.  Try to find healthy ways to unwind, or see a counsellor to help you make some life changes.

10. Look after your immune system

A number of immune system disorders can impair fertility in women and men.  Women with autoimmune disease are well known to have more difficulties conceiving, but subtle immune problems like allergies or food intolerance are often present in infertile couples.  Identifying and eliminating allergies usually leads to improved fertility.

For more information see the book Infertility: The Hidden Causes.

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