The Truth About Fertility
1) Based on what you’ve seen with your own patients, how big of a problem is infertility/sub-fertility in the U.S.? Is it increasing?
One in six couples experience challenges conceiving and about 25% of pregnancies end in pregnancy loss. Infertility/sub-fertility is a growing problem. First, the rates of fertility are on the decline in the population of couples that should be fertile (i.e. the 18-35 year old population) and, additionally, couples are choosing to wait till later to start trying. The rate of difficult conception in the 35 and over population tends to be even higher than the general statistical evaluation.
2) Women often blame themselves for not being able to conceive. What do you say to them to help alleviate the guilt/ explain to them that it’s often not their fault and that a number of factors might be working against them? The question below also ties into this.
Many women shoulder the responsibility of inability to conceive. Many women are quick to assume it’s their “fault” or their bodies are failing them. However, many factors play a role in inability to conceive.
Firstly, the medical world has shifted assessment of male sperm counts and quality, making them far less significant in fertility. Less than fifty years ago, men were expected to have over 120 million sperm, and at least 14% of those sperm would be considered “normal.” Now, we consider 20 million and 4% to be normal. This change leads to more doctors saying to men that their sperm are “great” which again starts to shift responsibility on to the women.
Women have to understand that there are so many factors that play a role in the couple’s ability to conceive, whether it’s about sperm quality, age, egg quality, other hormonal imbalances, and the list goes on. There are even environmental factors that used to be less of a concern in previous generations.
With all the new factors that our bodies have to deal with, the higher levels of toxins in our environment in body care products, plastics being more widely used, exposure to higher levels of pesticides, and genetically modified foods, there is a higher level of physiological stress on the body. Stress is ovarian kryptonite.
3) What are some aspects of our modern world that might be messing with fertility in ways we wouldn’t have seen in the past? This can be based on what you’ve seen with your clients, what the research says, etc.
Chronic stress is a well-documented factor affecting fertility. In addition to the higher loads of toxins which act as stressors on the body, there is also the impact of our modern lives- which tend to be busier in general, and more disconnected from people we love. There is scientific evidence that being around people we love (connection and community which has been core to human survival for centuries) helps increase oxytocin levels which helps to decrease stress levels and the way that stress impacts our bodies. Infertility/sub-fertility is a growing problem that is a result of our modern lifestyles.
Poor sleep is also a factor in decreased fertility. When we have less sleep than optimal or lower than optimal quality of sleep, there is often a deficiency of melatonin production. Melatonin is essential to fertility and has an important effect on the ovaries– it acts as a signal for the ovaries to produce better quality eggs.
Although previous use of hormonal birth control has not directly shown to impact fertility, there is evidence that hormonal birth control use thins the uterine lining, making it more and more difficult to have healthy implantation and healthy pregnancy.
4) Given all the potential factors that could impact fertility, is taking a holistic approach to improving fertility particularly important?
The factors impacting fertility permeate through so many areas of our lives (toxins in our home, the impact of our dietary choices, and stressors) and additionally, fertility is often affected by a global hormonal imbalance (i.e. hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, and ovarian hormones can all be out of balance in someone who is unable to conceive). That’s why it’s crucial that the approach to improving fertility be holistic.
Helping to address all the underlying factors, or root causes, that are out of balance in our bodies, is not only a more effective approach to fertility optimization, it’s often a more efficient approach. In the process of fertility optimization, there are also side benefits of improved health and prevention of future health issues. So, a holistic approach affords many advantages to couples wanting to improve their chances of conception.
5) Even if women don’t want to get pregnant in their 20s, what are some things they can be doing in their 20s to increase their chances of getting pregnant later on?
There are many things women can do in their 20s to improve their chances of preserving their fertility.
What are most crucial to preserving ovarian age?
~ good nourishing food
~ great quality deep sleep
~ making the body more stress resilient
~ loading up on good, anti-aging antioxidant nutrients
~ and, most importantly, making sure there is optimal blood flow and circulation to the ovaries
Deeper dive into each of the points above:
~ avoid GMO foods
~ eat a variety of greens, reds, oranges, and purples – the deeper colors are rich in antioxidants and nutrients. Antioxidants are essential to fertility.
~ omega 3 rich foods: fish, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, etc
~ avoid foods that are inflammatory to you! If you’re not sure what those could be, work with a practitioner to clarify what will work best for you.
Common questions I get are around alcohol and coffee- are they okay for fertility?
~ wine- if you’re actively trying to conceive, you want to avoid (maybe up to 1 glass / mo); If you’re not actively trying to conceive, 1/week is generally okay but over-consumption of alcohol has shown to be detrimental to long-term fertility…
~ coffee – My general rule of thumb: if you “need” it, you shouldn’t drink it! Your need for coffee means that your adrenal glands are depleted and not optimally functioning. Years of pushing the adrenals to function beyond capacity can add up to depletion of ovarian reserves.
~ this is essential for longevity of your body and your ovaries.
How much sleep should you get? The rule of thumb is that you sleep long and deep enough that you wake up in the morning without an alarm and feel rested enough to function thru your day without coffee.
Don’t sleep well?
Get some melatonin! 3mg per day will help you sleep well and it’s a great antioxidant for the ovaries!
Stress is an ovarian kryptonite.
Stress has a significant negative impact on various hormones throughout the body, making it much harder for the body to be able to conceive and carry to term. However, as we all know, stress is sometimes unavoidable. So, I say it’s important to make your body more stress resilient.
Here is a daily, 2-minute practice that can increase your body’s ability to bounce back from stress. This is a good starting point to help support lowering your stressors and teaching your body to react LESS. learn it here.
My favorite fertility nutrients are :
– Alpha lipoid acid
– Vit E — essential nutrient for ovaries, also is an anti-aging antioxidant
– Vit D — it’s essential to get skin exposed to sunlight but we also need to take additional Vit D3 which is absorbable and often necessary for us
~ We often spend too much of our day sitting which blocks off blood flow to the uterus and ovaries.
~ You can make sure you move around/ stand more often
~ And… dance! The movement of the hips help to increase blood flow and circulation to the uterus and ovaries.
There are so many amazing things you can do to support your fertility! If you need more support to figuring out why you’re not getting pregnant and/or what else you can do, schedule a FREE Fertility Insights session on our website.
Full Disclosure: this article was quoted in mindbodygreen https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/infertility-crisis-why-its-not-your-fault-you-cant-get-pregnant