You might think you know all there is to know about getting pregnant, either because you’ve ‘been there, done that’ with babies, or because you’ve tried everything under the sun to get pregnant. Or maybe you simply are just way too smart for the average fertility guru to handle. Whatever way your egg bounces, reading this article might surprise you once or twice: being fertile isn’t always what it’s ‘cracked up to be’ (pun intended).
1. Dr. Oz might not make the cut. That’s right – just because you exercise regularly, eat right and know everything under the sun about how to keep healthy, it doesn’t mean you’re fertile and ready to make babies. In fact, one in ten healthy couples will have issues with fertility for one reason or another, making the woman responsible one third of the time, the man another third, and the final third left to an unknown reason. What can you do? Well, just throwing in the towel won’t help – keep doing what you can to be healthy as it might increase your odds, but also seek out natural methods of improving your chances like trying naturopathic medicine.
2. Set a date before you ovulate. That’s right, you’re not necessarily more fertile the very day you ovulate, so plan to start trying around five or six days before the actual day. This is because the man’s sperm is viable inside you for several days (or even weeks!), and so you can really build up a good store of sperm by starting early. Then when ovulation does happen, you’ll have more little swimmers to take a shot at the one egg up for grabs.
3. Men, bike away! Worried your man’s bicycle is going to keep the two of you childless? Well, studies show that such concerns really have no merit. Unless he’s cycling for hours and hours a day and his racing shorts are super-duper tight, and he has a very narrow seat that presses right on his gonads – and even then – you’re likely to be completely in the clear. Besides, a little exercise is good for fertility!
4. What’s that smell? Smell something funny that no one else can? Could mean you’re ovulating! Maybe biology has made it this way to help you smell out the right mate (and steer clear of the wrong ones!), but for whatever reason studies show that ovulating women have a heightened sense of smell. So if you’re trying to get pregnant, look for the super-smell signs!
5. Men have a clock too. Men are not unlimited for time when it comes to being fertile either. While they may have a little more time than women, after about 45 years old a man’s quality of sperm starts to decrease, which of course affects fertility. So although you can still get pregnant with a man of that age or older, your odds go down the more his age goes up.
6. Shed the weight. If you’re looking to drop that last ten pounds you don’t need to worry, but if you’re looking at a great deal more than that you should probably consider trying to lose some. And we’re not talking about model-type weight here, just enough to get you into healthy parameters – most experts recommend a BMI (Body Mass Index) of between 18.5 and 25.
7. Drop the heat. A man’s sperm is more viable at temperatures lower than normal body temp’s, so make sure your guy is keeping his nether regions in the right range for fertility. Most people know that super-tight underwear is less than ideal, but many are not aware of the potential rise in temperature from things like laptops on the lap, or even saunas and hot tubs. So tell him to keep his boys cool, at least until you’ve conceived.
By Richard Lobbenberg, Registered Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner
Getting pregnant is either easy or it’s just way too hard – that kind of attitude is very common in our society of quick fixes and extremes. But the truth is that we may not know everything about our bodies and we certainly don’t know everything there is to know about getting pregnant, even if we’ve already had a baby or two. So relax and read on, and you just might pick up a couple of tips to help you get that baby you really want.
1. His Swimmers Are Stubborn. You may have been told to have more sex around ovulation, but the truth is that a man’s sperm can stick around inside you for several days and still remain completely viable. Not only that, but despite all the charts, calendars, apps and cervical mucosa testing, it’s really best practice to have sex every couple of days throughout your cycle. Too time consuming or worried about getting bored? At least focus on the two weeks around your peak of ovulation, i.e. have sex every other day starting one week before you’re meant to ovulate, and keep going a week after as well. If his sperm counts are low, you may want to drop it down to every three or four days, but then you’ll want to extend your window to three weeks.
2. Ditch the Deep-Freeze. Freezing your eggs may not be the best solution if you’re thinking of getting pregnant soon, or even somewhere down the road. It’s usually recommended for people with unavoidable medical concerns and not as a means of extending your fertile years, so bear this in mind. The success rate with frozen eggs drops dramatically as you age, plus there’s really no reason to expect much benefit from the procedure if you’re already in your late 30’s, and it’s quite costly – upwards of $20,000 in some cases. Ask your doctor if you’re interested, but make sure that you get all the facts about your own personal situation.
3. Schedule Your Obsessing. You might become really anxious once you’ve ovulated and you’re simply waiting to see if you’re pregnant or not. While this is completely normal, it won’t leave you feeling very good, and won’t do much for your (hopefully) growing baby. So schedule some time, say 10-15 minutes in the morning and 10-15 minutes at night, each day to make sure you a. get all that obsessing out of the way, and b. you let your mind relax the rest of the day. This focused time for checking charts, mucosa, urine or what have you can leave your mind open to focus on the rest of your life, the rest of the day.
4. Let Your Hair Down. Speaking of stress, relaxing just might be the thing you need to help you conceive. Stress levels can adversely affect your levels of egg-releasing hormones, and so too much stress can cause you to ovulate later than expected, or can even keep it from happening at all. This is one of the ways that acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, massage therapy, psychotherapy and other natural medicines can help. So if you’ve been having trouble getting pregnant, look at ways that you can help those hormones get a little more balanced.
5. Know the Odds. While it might seem like getting pregnant should be easy – heck, you spent all those years trying NOT to have it happen, so this should just be like letting go, right? If only it were that easy. The truth is that couples in their 30’s only have a 15 percent chance of getting pregnant each month, which is why most doctors suggest giving it a full year before being concerned. Plus, your genetics really determine how many eggs you’re born with, so the fact is that you only have so much control over what happens. Good advice: do your best with what you’ve got (including good nutrition and natural medicine), and leave the rest up to fate.
6. He Needs a Check-Up Too. Many couples start with the woman – making sure everything is working properly, then trying for a number of months before the man even gets considered as a candidate for testing. The truth is that men’s sperm counts can decline as they age, based on their natural genetics and their lifestyle – did you know that gum disease can lower sperm counts? Get him brushing! Other factors for him to consider are being under- or overweight, previous infection with an STD, smoking or excessive drinking. While most doctors suggest waiting a year before getting tested, you might as well both start living healthy now – it will only help you achieve your goal faster.
7. Keep it Real. Speaking of living healthier, STD’s can reduce fertility in either partner, so if you haven’t been already, start practicing safe sex now. And you might want to also stop douching – it can lower levels of good bacteria in your vagina which in turn can lead to bacterial or yeast infection, which can lead to reduced fertility. All of this points to one simple rule: live as cleanly, safely and as naturally as possible, and you’ll start improving your chances of conceiving.
By Richard Lobbenberg, BSc BHSc DAc
Since stress has become such an important figure in today’s modern society, it’s no wonder that an abundance of it can have an impact on your ability to conceive. You may have been told to ‘just relax and let it happen’, assuming stress is the culprit, but that’s easier said than done. Especially when the stresses of life don’t just go away – it’s one thing to try and adapt, but more often than not it takes a rather different approach to what you’re doing to get things working. So here is a little background on what stress is, how it may be affecting your fertility, and what you can possibly do to counteract its effects.
Stress 101: When you’re ‘under stress’, you’re really experiencing the ‘fight or flight’ response, which is a built-in system left over from times when humans had to worry about predators attacking. Back then, this mechanism was very handy, because it causes your body to increase your heart rate and ramp up cortisol levels, which increase blood pressure. All of this, in the short term, is great because it makes you respond more quickly – a necessary advantage when being chased or attacked. But in today’s fast-paced, high-stress world this mechanism can get triggered hourly, and since you’re not built to be ‘attacked’ so frequently, your body suffers. Sure, give it a few thousand years and humanity will learn to adapt, but right now a frequently triggered alarm system causes hormone levels to be out of whack, causing various kinds of illness, including high blood pressure.
So how does stress affect fertility? Scientifically-speaking, when you’re under stress your sex hormone GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone) gets suppressed, thus affecting ovulation, implantation, libido, and sperm count. This makes sense in evolutionary terms, since a stressed-out human would be unlikely to be able to care for a baby. If only your body knew the advances we’ve made! And stress gets even worse when you’ve had trouble conceiving, so of course the added stress makes conceiving even more difficult.
If you are trying to conceive and are having trouble, you should definitely look at ways to reduce the stress in your life, no matter what conventional methods (e.g. IVF) you’re already trying. Here are some ways that you can lower the stress in your life naturally, and thus improve your chances of conception:
1. Quit. That is, consider changing positions within your company, or getting a new job altogether. This may seem drastic, but if you are taking fertility seriously, you have to ask yourself some tough questions. How far are you willing to go? If you’re on the fence about leaving your current job versus having a baby, then also consider your own personal health. Stress has untold effects on other parts of your body besides fertility, so making a career move could very well be adding years to your life in addition to a little bundle of joy.
2. Talk to a psychotherapist. Actually, anyone trained in helping you get your feelings out can help – so consider talking to someone who can help you get to the root of some of your stresses, and possibly also help you find ways to cope with them better.
3. Try some massage therapy, salt baths or anything natural to relax your muscles. Getting your blood flowing and releasing some toxins as a result can have a tremendous effect on your well-being and fertility.
4. Acupuncture. This ancient modality of Traditional Chinese Medicine has been used for thousands of years for fertility, and still with great results. It can be used in conjunction with any drug therapy you might be on, and it may only take a couple of months of acupuncture to get your hormones back on track.
5. Exercise and eat right. You just can’t say it enough: a proper diet with some exercise thrown in will help you manage your hormone levels, lowering your stress and helping increase your chances of conceiving.
There are really many, many ways to learn to relax. Choose what feels right for you – don’t force yourself to do something because everyone else likes it. If making mud pies in the park is your thing, go for it. It’s all for a good cause.
By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner
Many women today are having great success with IVF and other fantastic methods of conception that our medical system has come up with. And others still are using acupuncture and other natural therapies to either complement the conventional therapies they’re using, or as their first effort, hoping to forego the drugs and test tubes. But there are still women having trouble getting pregnant. Why?
It’s certainly not fair that one woman who tries the same methods as the next can get pregnant while the second woman cannot. And it would be great if we could say why, after repeated attempts with IVF, and after tens of thousands of dollars spent, some women still can’t get pregnant. It would be great if we had answers for them, because then maybe they wouldn’t feel so awful, blaming themselves, their partners, or whoever they can think of. Sometimes, there’s just no one to blame, and that can hurt just as badly, or worse.
We certainly live in a great time: there are seemingly endless options available for couples trying to get pregnant. The flip-side, of course, is that one has trouble choosing which therapy should work for them. IVF seems to be a popular choice, but it is very expensive. I have been practicing acupuncture and Chinese Medicine for several years, and have had the opportunity to treat some women who were looking to conceive. Their results with me were mostly very positive, especially for those who were able to come for the recommended amount of treatments and follow my advice regarding lifestyle changes. But for those without insurance, who are forced to pay out-of-pocket, even a few acupuncture sessions at a reduced rate can seem financially daunting, especially when results cannot be guaranteed. So what can you do?
Until the Ontario government covers IVF and acupuncture for fertility under OHIP, we’re left in a bit of a void concerning the ‘right’ choices one can make with regards to becoming more fertile. And many women need help at a point when they’re of a certain age, thus a very real time limit is set. In the end, like so many things in life, what to do about fertility treatment is a personal choice. I advocate acupuncture (of course), and also recommend trying certain changes in your diet. You can even try yoga, which has been used for centuries to make women more fertile. And most importantly, make the choice to be happy. Whether you end up conceiving or not.
By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner
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