Misconnections about Conception
The common misconception surrounding fertility, specifically female fertility is that once you reach a certain age you immediately become infertile. This evokes extreme stress and fear in women, which affects fertility more negatively than age, weight and health combined. It’s like a Jenga tower where each block represents a different risk factor — it takes a combination of multiple risk factors to affect fertility (ie take out enough blocks and the tower collapses). Below are some common risk factors and the actual scientific truth behind their implications in fertility.
The number one fear of fertility is age. When women reach the age of 35, they believe that their fertility plummets. Thanks to modern medicine and improvements in our environment and foods, the biological age in which fertility declines has increased. In the most recent research articles, fertility rates decrease about 6% at 38–39yo and another 6% at 42–44yo.
Overweight or obesity (ie a BMI of 30–35, or >35) does impact fertility, however, it’s not the weight itself but certain conditions that are correlated to weight gain that are the culprit. These conditions include: metabolic syndrome, hypothyroidism, menstrual irregularities, diabetes mellitus, and chronic inflammation. Weight is not a direct indicator of health status; many individuals operate at a higher weight without any cofactors.
Your genetic inheritance is not a sentence — it’s a susceptibility. If there are certain conditions that run in your family, it doesn’t mean that you will automatically inherit them. It means that you have to take certain precautions in your environment and diet in order to decrease the probability of inheriting such conditions.
4. Past medical history
The following conditions may increase you risk of fertility issues: smoking, poor diet, diabetes, hypothyroidism, menstrual irregularities, alcohol consumption, caffeine consumption, fibroids, blocked fallopian tube, autoimmune disorders, PCOS, etc. It is important to note that having one these medical issues will not render you infertile (as society may have you believe). They are also very treatable and reversible with proper natural treatment (such as healthy nutrition and relaxation exercises).
5. Previous miscarriage
Having a miscarriage has physical and psychological effects on a woman. They may have fear around conception and loss, and possibly feel guilt/shame for the loss. In retrospect, about 50% of conceptions result in abortion, they just happen before a woman is aware she is pregnant (hence they go unnoticed). A spontaneous abortion is the body’s way of deciding that genetic composition of the fetus is not viable to survive, so it’s a survival mechanism ingrained into a person’s physiology.
What can you do to improve fertility and probability of conception?
In the traditional medical paradigm, “infertility” is defined as inability to conceive within a year. It’s best to prepare about 3–6 months before you want to conceive. First is address cycle regularity (are your menstrual cycles regular?). Then you want to test for any health factors which may affect fertility (test) hormone levels (FSH, LH, Progesterone, Estrogen), test thyroid function (TSH, free T3, free T4), ultrasound for cysts/fibroids/blocked fallopian tubes, test blood glucose levels). Lastly, you can chart basal body temperature against your menstrual cycle to see when you ovulate.
2. It’s all about the chromosomes
Chromosomal health of the egg is an important determinant in fertility (ovarian reserve is more important that biological age in fertility). By reducing oxidative stress (ie eating a clean diet, avoiding pollutants, decreasing psychological stress) you improve the chromosomal health. Supplements shown to improve egg health include: coQ10, L-arginine, Omega 3, vitamin E, etc.
3. Address stress
The fear of not being able to conceive, ironically, is actually damaging to our fertility. It is no coincidence that anxiety and infertility are correlatively on the rise in our society. Stress can create oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Stress relaxation techniques (such as mediation, exercise, yoga, acupuncture, visualization, etc) can help improve conception. Joy and socialization increases endorphin levels and oxytocin (helps with hormonal production), hence doing things you enjoy and spending time with others also helps your health.