The causes of fertility problems are many, it can be everything from hormonal disturbances, autoimmune diseases, physical blockages, infection to oxidative stress. In both sexes there are common drivers underlying these factors. In many cases it comes back to the same common villains; obesity, stress, lifestyle and poor diet mixed in with the patient’s unique imbalances and genetic disturbances. These villains also contribute to adverse pregnancy outcomes and can increase the child’s risk to disease later on in their life. Ideally, these issues need to be addressed as part of the preconception plan.
Sadly I see patients lacking in essential phytonutrients and minerals that are important for optimal for fertility and healthy pregnancy. An alarming figure of less than half of Australian men and women aged between 19 and 44 not consuming the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables daily.1 In both Australia and New Zealand mineral deficiencies are common, with average intakes of selenium, calcium, iodine, and magnesium often below the recommended daily intake. Is it any wonder why many young people are struggling to make a baby?
Nutrients To Give Mum & Bub A Better Outcome
Pregnancy Multivitamin: Nutrition is important for a healthy pregnancy and there is a growing body of evidence suggesting perinatal nutrient deficiencies are associated with disease states in the offspring such as neural tube defects, anaemia, low birth weight as well as an increased risk to chronic disease later on in life. Surprisingly, it is not uncommon for pregnant woman to be deficient in nutrients including iron, calcium, iodine and vitamin D, and yet these same nutrients assist in reducing adverse pregnancy outcomes. Vitamin D, calcium, iodine and selenium, for example, reduce the risk of preeclampsia. Routine iron supplementation throughout pregnancy may lower the frequency of caesarean section, blood transfusions and lead to a longer gestation period and higher postpartum haemoglobin.5
A quality supplement will be recommended to you and sometimes your partner for preconception and during pregnancy to ensure all of the essential nutrients for both mum and bub are at their optimal levels.
Fish Oil: Another supplement that mat be recommended is Fish Oil. A foetus is ‘thirsty’ for essential fatty acids, especially DHA and EPA . Adequate omega-3 intake, particularly DHA, in pregnant and nursing women along with young children is acknowledged for its positive role in increasing gestation and birth weight and its effects on neonatal cognitive and visual function.6 With many women concerned about the possible contamination of fish there is the potential for these crucial fatty acids to be low in many mothers. This may further lead to a post partum deficiency of EPA and DHA in the mother and increase her risk of post partum depression. To ensure that both mother and baby receive enough of these essential fatty acids it is recommended that mothers are supplemented with a high quality fish oil that is free from contaminants and impurities. By improving the antenatal essential fatty acid status, both mother and baby will reap the rewards postnatally.
Probiotics: One of the easiest and safest supplements to provide a pregnant patient is probiotics. These amazing bugs are able to support immune function, digestive balance and overall health.
The Thick and the Thin of PCOS
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common reasons for ovulatory infertility, accounting for approximately 73% of cases. 2 there are many ways in which PCOS can effect fertility, one being the high concentration of insulin, which leads to the reduction of circulating sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), resulting in increased circulating testosterone and free oestradiol levels. Raised insulin also stimulates ovarian androgen biosynthesis. A long story short the combination of these hormonal changes disrupts the process of ovulation and thus leading to infertility.
As a practitioner I need to address excess weight in any fertility patient who walks through your door, as obesity not only contributes to the pathogenesis of PCOS, but has been shown to reduce many aspects of female fertility. It has been proposed that obesity impairs fertility via affecting the control of ovulation, oocyte, embryo and endometrial development, and implantation.3 On the bright side, research shows that even a modest weight loss of between 5-8 kg can be enough to help normalise the menstrual cycle and hormonal profile in obese women.
Quite often, PCOS brings to mind pictures of overweight patients with acne and hirsutism, however PCOS is not always so obvious and often occurs in lean women. Treatment strategies always differ from patient to patient and there are so many avenues that need to be explored that may be causing you grief. PCOS is a treatable condition and in many cases it can be reversed and totally manageable, allowing you to achieve a healthy pregnancy, we have seen this time and time again as Naturopaths.
Fertility is More Than Just the Fun Stuff
In order to achieve the best health of their next generation, prospective parents need to realise that what they do before conception and during pregnancy may impact their children in later life. It is absolutely essential that both men and women work together to ensure that they reduce any factors which can adversely affect their child. Pregnant women also need to ensure that they receive the best nutrition and care, for both the benefit of the baby as well as themselves. By implementing strategies to improve parental health, you are inevitably helping to reduce the burden of chronic disease and knowing you are doing your very best to achieve a healthy pregnancy and a happy and healthy baby.
Fertility is more than just getting pregnant, it has so many factors and you need fertile soil to help grow a healthy baby.