Couples who have unprotected sexual intercourse regularly ― at least two to three times a week ― usually stand an 80 to 85 per cent chances of conceiving a year . However, one out of seven couples will have to try a little harder and longer.
Dr Liana Koe, an obstetrician & gynaecologist at STO+G Practice, encourages such couples not to delay seeking fertility advice. She notes it’s even more urgent if the woman is “aged 37 or older, or she has symptoms that suggest fertility issues such as previous pelvic infections, irregular or no periods, and painful or heavy periods.”
Why some couples have problems conceiving
Some couples struggle with TTC for various reasons. In men, it could range from to erectile dysfunction/ejaculation problems to a low or no sperm count. In women, it could be related to ovulation, including polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This condition, which affects between 5 and 10 per cent of women, leads to irregular and infrequent periods.
Incidentally, one in 10 women suffer from endometriosis, which occurs when the lining of the womb moves outside of the womb. When menstrual blood leaks backwards from the womb and into the pelvis and the womb lining cells implant around the pelvis, inflammation results. This damages the fallopian tubes and ovarian cysts.
Issues with the fallopian tubes, which can become blocked or damaged, can also pose problems. Causes range from sexually-transmitted disease to endometriosis and since the egg and the sperm cannot “meet”, fertilisation cannot take place.
Antioxidants reduce free radicals, which damage the body’s cells. Vitamins C and E, along with minerals like zinc and selenium…contribute to sperm production and healthy ovulation.
So, improve your chances of having a baby with these tweak-your-routine tips.
#1 Do consume foods high in omega-3 fatty acids
To improve fertility in women and sperm quality in men, your diet should be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fats. Also choose poultry, seafood, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, Dr Koe says. Foods that boast omega-3 fatty acids include oily fish such as salmon, chia seeds, leafy green vegetables and tofu.
#2 Do choose clean protein
Boost your intake of clean proteins, recommends Karin G Reiter, a functional medicine nutritionist at Nutritious & Delicious and who wrote Adrenal Fatigue. Free of harmful substances such as antibiotics, pesticides and heavy metals (unlike many foods that include food flavourings and chemicals to prolong shelf life), these minimise the negative impact on our health. Good examples include organic chicken, grass-fed beef, lentils and quinoa. These are also farmed using sustainable techniques that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
#3 Do take foods rich in antioxidants
Foods containing antioxidants help improve fertility in both men and women. Kathy Lowes, a paediatric nutritionist at Body With Soul, points out that antioxidants reduce free radicals, which damage the body’s cells. Vitamins C and E, along with minerals like zinc and selenium, are examples of antioxidants, usually found in fruit, vegetables, sunflower seeds, seafood and nuts. These contribute to sperm production and healthy ovulation,
#4 Do fill up on fibre-dense foods
Fibre is another crucial food group to load up on because it improves overall health, and hence, improves your chances of conceiving. Fibre keeps our guts moving and bowel movements regular as it isn’t digested, Lowes explains. In addition, it provides fuel for good bacteria in the large intestine and regulates blood glucose.
#5 Do stay cool
Men might want to skip the onsen or sauna for a while. Exposing the testes to excessively high temperatures can affect sperm production and quality. So, it is best to make sure the temperature of your family jewels is lower than your body temperature. Do also wear trousers that aren’t tight. In a Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health study, men who wore airy boxers produced 25 per cent more sperm per millilitre than those using briefs or tighter undergarments. Since it takes 10 to 11 week to produce sperm, do take note of this, uh, wardrobe advice before any between-the-sheets action.
#6 Do take a break from work
Living a healthy lifestyle can improve fertility. Avoid bringing work home, and spend the time instead with your spouse. Catch up and connect with each other. Even if you cannot get away for an overseas holiday, try to reserve one or two hours every day to focus on each other. Exercise together by walking around the neighbourhood or going for a swim. Exercise releases endorphins and boosts your mood instantly, which helps to lower stress levels and improve your overall well-being.
#7 Do exercise…
Excess fat can affect the release of female hormones, which will cause ovulation problems, Dr Koe states. Research shows that pregnancy outcomes are better and ovulation normalises when women with a high Body Mass Index (more than 30kg/m2) lose weight and their BMIs return to a healthy level (less than 23kg/m2).
Exercise regularly to keep fit. The World Health Organization recommends adults do at least 150 minutes a week (or 30 minutes a day, five times a week) of moderate intensity aerobic exercise (or equivalent) to improve heart health. Do muscle-strengthening activities two or more days every week. Doing up to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity can increase the benefits to your health.
#8… But don’t overdo it
Exercising too much ― more than what WHO recommends ― can disrupt the levels of both the follicle-stimulating and the luteinising hormones that stimulate ovulation, points out Dr Koe. This leads to irregular or non-existent periods. Studies reveal that women who have a BMI of less than 19kg/m2 struggle with ovulation issues. So, keep yours at between 20 and 25. If you notice any changes to your periods, consult a gynaecologist.
Studies reveal that women who have a BMI of less than 19kg/m2 struggle with ovulation issues. So, keep yours at between 20 and 25. If you notice any changes to your periods, consult a gynaecologist.
#9 Don’t take processed carbs
As carbohydrates supply energy and essential vitamins and minerals, you should not go carb-free. Instead of eating processed carbs like white bread and pastries, opt for complex carbs instead, Reiter advises. Choose whole grains like buckwheat and quinoa (also a source of fibre), as well as starchy colourful vegetables such as sweet potato, pumpkin and beetroot.
#10 Don’t eat trans fats
You need to get rid of trans fats from your menu, Lowes asserts. “Trans fats are of no nutritional benefit to our bodies. Too much of these foods prevent antioxidants from working and can increase your insulin resistance, which can impede egg development, as well as healthy ovulation and sperm production.
She adds, “Natural trans fats are found in animal products such as red meats and dairy, so consume in moderation. Artificial versions are found in processed foods, fast foods and baked goods.”
#11 Don’t drink so much coffee
Although caffeine has not been proven to lower fertility, it may affect foetal health. So, cut consumption to just two cups a day as you prep for pregnancy, Dr Koe advises. This means staying away from coffee, tea and soft drinks.
#12 Don’t smoke/drink
Cigarette smoking (even passive smoking) has been linked to reduced fertility in women and poorer sperm quality in men. These problems include blockage in the fallopian tubes, egg damage, as well as increased risk of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage.
Excessive alcohol consumption, meanwhile, decreases fertility in both genders and also affects sperm quality. Women who have seven or more drinks a week or more than three drinks every session are more likely to experience heavy or irregular periods and other ovulation difficulties. Men who drink heavily, on the other hand, are at risk of reducing their sex drive and may even be impotent.
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