What are some of the common issues that you find that women have that stands between them and conception?
Media images of older pregnant celebrities give women the impression that they can wait until their forties to conceive. Rarely is the role of assisted reproductive technologies, and the likelihood that conception occurred with donor eggs, acknowledged.
Half of pregnancies are unplanned. So it is important for all women of childbearing age to take a multivitamin with folic acid, iron, and iodine.
Women do not necessarily know their signs of fertility. Day 14 of a woman’s cycle is just an average and not reliable. By observing your own bodily signs you can greatly increase your chance of conception.
Does a man’s heath play an important role in conception?
Men’s health matters more than we ever suspected. Epigenetic changes (epi stands for above the gene) induced by unhealthy lifestyles are passed on to children. Fathers over forty have a higher risk of fathering a child with autism or schizophrenia.
Why do we have so many toxins in our bodies?
There are over 80,000 industrial chemicals in use and we absorb them in the air we breathe (think pollution, air fresheners, scented candles), the water we drink (filter your own water to reduce your risk) and the food we eat (pay attention to organic). Shockingly, the average baby is born with more than 200 chemicals in their bodies. These environmental chemicals can increase the risk of ADHD, autism, diabetes, and heart disease. While terribly frightening, lifestyle changes can reduce your baby’s exposure to environmental toxins. My favorite resource is the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org), which addresses food, water, cosmetics, and cleaning products.
Are there ways to purge the toxins so we can become more fertile and increase our overall health?
The first rule of detoxification is to stop ingesting toxins. Pay attention to the food you eat, the water you drink, the air you breathe, the products you put on your skin, as well as any chemicals you may be exposed to at work. Get a water purification system for your home, fill and carry your own stainless steel water bottle. Choose organic food whenever you can. Review your personal care products at www.ewg.org/skindeep. In addition, you can increase excretion of toxins through judicious use of saunas, increasing your fluid and fiber intake, and eating cruciferous vegetables that rev up the liver’s detoxification systems. Finally, the herb milk thistle improves your liver’s ability to detoxify toxins.
Why is a mind-body practice so important for fertility?
Our bodies respond to stress with physiological changes that can interfere with conception. The hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the brain produce hormonal signals that can partially, or on rare occasions completely, shut down ovarian function. From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense; when a woman is under great stress, her body focuses on survival rather than reproduction. Preliminary evidence supports the use of mind body practices to help restore fertility. In addition, these practices help us feel centered and well. A regular practice of yoga, tai chi, meditation, guided imagery, or breathing exercises, can help restore the normal hormonal cascade, and make it easier to conceive.
What are some of the opportunities from conventional fertility treatments?
Conventional medicine can be simply miraculous; new innovations allow women and men who previously wouldn’t have been able to conceive to bear children. Sometimes simple, other times incredibly complex, fertility treatments can range from treating low thyroid, to the use of ovulation inducing medications, to in vitro fertilization. Other procedures include artificial or intrauterine insemination and a range of surgeries for blocked tubes or endometriosis.
What can women do to get the most out of their pre conception visit?
Doctors are super busy these days and visit times are often short. Come prepared with your list of questions. Bring in your multivitamin and ask your doctor to look over the list of ingredients. If you are charting your cycle, bring your charts. Review your immunizations to be sure they are up to date. Get appropriate lab work and ask about genetic testing.
What are some important foods to incorporate in a better diet?
A healthy diet is critical to women seeking to conceive as well as those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. I recommend a whole food diet, rich in vegetables and fruits, abundant in high omega 3 fatty acids (choosing low-mercury fish such as wild salmon and sardines), eggs, and vegetable sources of protein. The diet should be low in processed foods, meat, and rapidly digesting, high glycemic index carbohydrates. The Mediterranean diet is one such whole food diet and in two recent studies it reduced the risk of infertility in women trying to conceive naturally as well as those using IVF.
Victoria Maizes MD is the executive director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and a Professor of Medicine and Public Health. Her newest book Be Fruitful: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Fertility and Giving Birth to a Healthy Child is available on amazon. For more information visit her website victoriamaizesmd.com or follow her on twitter @vmaizes.