Today many couples have problems conceiving. If the problem is simply mechanical, there is the option of in vitro fertilization. This process entails extracting an egg from a woman’s ovary and sperm from a man. Then the sperm is then injected into the egg in a laboratory setting. This stimulates the fertilized egg to undergo cellular divisions and this is how life begins. When the egg becomes a ball of cells, it is injected into the uterus of the woman for it to undergo implantation into the uterine wall. Once implanted, it continues its development to become a fetus.
This all sounds great and in fact, it is. But it does not work when there is a problem with either the egg or the sperm. Such problems can be genetic or environmental. When genetic, there is really not much that can be done at the present with the state of our technology. The only options in such cases are to take a healthy sperm or egg from a donor or to adopt a child. If the problem is environmental, it can have many causes that can be eliminated for increased fertility.
Weight & Exercise
These causes are basically what we put into our body and how we take care of ourselves. In regards to women, it is important to have optimal body weight. This means not too much weight and not too little. What I mean by that is a body mass index (BMI) between 18 and 25. BMI is calculated by taking the weight of an individual in kilograms and dividing this number by the height of the individual in meters squared. Women with a body mass index below 18 may stop ovulating, and women with a body mass index above 25 can have problems with their menstrual cycles. Regular exercise is very good for increased fertility, but it should not be exaggerated. Reaching a body mass index below 18 due to exercise can stop ovulation. The stress that is put on the body due to excessive exercise can also stop ovulation. In relation to body stress, mental stress can impact fertility in a negative way. Thus, it is imperative that women wishing to conceive are in a stable and peaceful life situation.
Food Supply Dangers
Diet is also very important. High fat diets and diets with high simple carbohydrates can impact fertility in a negative way. It is important to have a diet rich in vegetables, fruits (preferably the not-too-sweet ones such as tropical fruits) and lean protein sources such as fish and organic poultry. It is also very important to stay away from processed foods, foods with preservatives, and food products that have been exposed to hormones and/or antibiotics (for example, beef or poultry that were exposed to hormones for increased growth and to antibiotics to prevent infections). Antibiotics are used in these cases because of the crowded and usually unsanitary conditions of big production cattle and poultry facilities. Both hormones and antibiotics, but especially hormones, can cause infertility by wreaking havoc with our endocrine (i.e. hormonal) system. A healthy endocrine system plays a pivotal role for the health of our reproductive organs, our eggs and our sperm.
Another very important point for women trying to conceive is to stop smoking and stop or limit alcohol consumption to one glass of red wine (or equivalent) every few days. Both tobacco smoke and alcohol impact fertility in a negative way by accelerating the aging process of the ovaries. They also have a negative impact on sperm and erections in men. If a pregnancy does occur, it is imperative that both substances are stopped completely, due to the tremendous toxic impact they have on the developing fetus. Both can cause permanent malformations and underdevelopment of the brain.
In terms of supplements, it is very important to provide the body with all the essential minerals and vitamins. This is best achieved by taking one multi vitamin/mineral each day. Calcium, magnesium and vitamin D are also very important and should be taken at higher doses than that found in multi vitamin/mineral tablets. Another supplement that is very important is folic acid, if a pregnancy does occur. It is needed at higher doses during this time for the proper development of the nervous system as well as for the prevention of neural tube defects (defects of the spinal cord or the spinal vertebrae or both). Most of the time, these defects have dire consequences.
Next week I will continue this interesting topic by explaining how environment and health issues apply to men, the frequency and timing of unprotected sex between partners, the positive impact of birth control pills for fertility (yes you read correctly!), and the negative impact of vaginal douches. See you then.