It’s no secret that women are waiting longer to have babies. According to the CDC*, from 2000 to 2014 in the US, the proportion of first births to women aged 30–34 rose 28% and first births to women aged 35 and over rose 23% (1). But, as women age, fertility naturally declines and statistics show that one in three women over the age of 35 will have fertility challenges.
So, what can you do to preserve your fertility and increase your chance of conceiving naturally without having to spend thousands of dollars on expensive, invasive fertility treatments?
EAT FOR FERTILITY!
As a Preconception Health Coach, one of the most common questions I get from my clients is “what should I eat to help me get pregnant?”
Well, fertility requires a complex interplay of nutrients and hormones, all of which are affected by your food choices, stress and your environment.
Taking the time to prepare and nourish the body prior to conceiving or even after running into difficulties, is one of the best ways to set up the best possible environment for conception to occur.
You might be thinking:
- I already eat well and am a healthy weight, so what’s left to consider?
- My first level fertility intervention didn’t work, so surely ‘just food and exercise’ won’t do anything either
- I’ve been trying for so long, or I’m already (insert your age here), maybe it’s just not in my cards
- My lab results have all been normal, so what’s left to target?
Here’s the truth!
- Normal blood labs and semen analysis don’t always mean healthy or ideal
- Low grade inflammation or undiagnosed autoimmune conditions are often an explanation for ‘unexplained infertility’
- Mild hormone imbalances are major contributors to ‘heard to treat’ fertility issues
- Stress is a major cause of failure to conceive
- Foods that you avoid are just as important as the foods that you eat
As a matter of fact, the Journal of American Medical Women’s Association has shown that diet alone can improve your chances of getting pregnant by 80%.
That’s why you’ll want to follow my 4R’s to Getting Pregnant. Each of these steps compounds on the next, helping you balance your hormones and get pregnant.
Step 1: Remove
Start by removing inflammatory and toxic foods that are inflaming your body and not serving you. Though this is specific to each individual person, some examples can include gluten, dairy, sugar, soy, caffeine, inflammatory oils & alcohol to name a few. When your body is inflamed, it creates an acidic environment, and this is not an ideal state for conception to occur. If you know that cutting everything out cold turkey won’t likely work for you, start by cutting in half three inflammatory food groups each week and keep building.
Get started: Replace your afternoon coffee with green tea, use nutritional yeast as a cheese garnish substitute and cut in half your weekly alcohol intake, as an example. Then start thinking about what alternatives you can sub for next week.
Step 2: Replace
To crowd out the toxins, you must then replace them with nutrient-dense fertility foods, such as high-quality proteins and healthy fats, dark leafy greens, a rainbow of veggies and fruits, complex carbs and healing nutrients like homemade chicken bone broth. In this step, it’s also crucial to understand how to eat, rather than just knowing what to eat. Learning how to balance your meals and snacks, and time them appropriately throughout your day will level out your hormones by balancing your blood sugar.
Get started: Add one new green veggie to your shopping cart every week. This will help you get a full spectrum of benefits that these chlorophyll-dense foods have to offer.
Step 3: Repair
In order for your body to digest and assimilate these fertility foods, your digestive system needs to be healthy and functioning optimally. Therefore, the next step is to focus on honing in on healing and repairing the gut. You are not only what you eat, but also what you digest and excrete! Yes, your poo is a big part of this equation. Your bowels should be moving at least 2-3 times a day without strenuous strain or immediate urges to run to the bathroom. Repairing the gut starts by addressing personal food sensitivities. Then it’s about healing and nourishing the digestive tract with high collagen and l-glutamine foods such as bone broth, fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut while staying adequately hydrated throughout your day.
Get started: Add two large forkfuls of sauerkraut or kimchi to your lunch or dinner. These provide natural digestive enzymes to help breakdown your meal and provide you with healthy probiotics.
Step 4: Rebalance
The last “R” is rebalance, which means maintaining your current progress and learning how to rebalance your hormones by eating for your menstrual cycle. The body has different nutritional needs at each week of the menstrual cycle. By replenishing depleted nutrients in each week based on hormonal fluctuations, and supplying the body with the energy that it needs, you not only balance your hormones, you also beat your PMS, feel amazing and optimize and preserve fertility.
Get started: Track where you are in your cycle today. Then figure out what nutritional needs need to be met during that week and start consuming them.
Nora DeBora is a preconception health coach who helps women prepare their body for pregnancy and have a healthy baby after 30. She is also certified as a holistic nutritionist, yoga instructor, personal trainer and the author of the guide Eat to Get Pregnant.