Fertility: It Takes Two to Tango
Posted: 23 October 2021
There are various factors that can be considered to optimise preconception care and fertility which, of course, should be combined with individualised advice from a healthcare professional.
A Naturopath's Guide to Fertility
Infertility is a widespread issue in Australia, with 1 in 6 couples of reproductive age struggling with fertility issues. Conversely, infertility is not just a female issue. In approximately 40% of infertile couples the cause stems from a male factor; in 40% it is a female factor; in 10% it is a joint factor; and in the last 10% the cause is unknown. This is why, it takes two to tango!
So what is infertility defined as? Infertility is the inability to conceive after 12+ months of regular unprotected intercourse with the same partner. While infertility is not a disease, it can cause major emotional distress and feelings of frustration, hopelessness and depression. Fortunately, there are various factors that can be considered to optimise preconception care and fertility which, of course, should be combined with individualised advice from a healthcare professional.
Support those swimmers
Men across the globe are producing less semen and less sperm; one study in particular reported that sperm counts have declined by more than 50% over the past 40 years.
The production of sperm takes 72-76 days, meaning the sperm ejaculated today has been impacted by the past 3 months of diet and lifestyle choices (yep, that boozy weekend counts). This is why preconception care is key to ensuring those swimmers are strong!
There is a long list of factors that reduce quality and quantity of sperm, with the most common including: being overweight, stress, consumption of alcohol (over 2 drinks per day), smoking, illicit drugs and increased heat to the testes (tight clothes, regular saunas/spas, cycling).
Nutrients play a critical role in sperm quantity and quality. The most well-recognised being zinc, B vitamins, selenium, coenzyme Q10, vitamin E and C. The easiest way to achieve this is by eating plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, healthy fats and quality proteins. A high-quality supplement may also be of benefit during pre-conception.
“…One study in particular reported that sperm counts have declined by more than 50% over the past 40 years.”
Timing your tango
In a healthy ovulating woman, the fertile window is approximately 6 days each menstrual cycle, so timing intercourse is pretty crucial when looking to conceive.
This fertile window is the 6-day interval ending on the day of ovulation, so in a 28-day cycle, this is days 8 to 14. However, not everyone has a ‘text-book standard’ cycle, so this window will differ from person to person.
The simplest way to monitor your fertile window is by tracking cervical mucous. Around ovulation, cervical mucous become slippery and stretchy, with a ‘raw egg-white’ texture. Sperm love this fluid as it protects them from the acidity of the vagina and is the perfect vehicle to swim upstream to the cervix and beyond!
If you don’t notice this type of cervical mucous, or have irregular/missing periods, it is worth checking in with your health care professional to assess for certain conditions that impact regular ovulation.
While on the tango topic, it is best to avoid artificial lubricants as they can reduce sperm motility and have even shown to kill sperm. If you’re needing a little extra hydration below, choose a natural pH balanced lubricant, such as YES WB.
Enhancing Fertility by Enhancing you
The preconception phase should be treated as a time to nurture yourself and feel the best for you. There are so many benefits of investing time into your health, one of them just so happens to be increased fertility!
Below are some of the most common factors that can impact fertility and are worth considering for couples during the preconception phase:
Being under or overweight
Stress – acute and chronic
Tobacco use, high alcohol consumption, illicit drug use
High toxin exposure
Health conditions such as PCOS, premature ovarian failure, thyroid issues, endometriosis, autoimmune disease and fibroids
Age (35+ for women and 40+ for men)
Some of these factors can be a little more difficult to navigate, so reaching out to your chosen health care professional for individualised advice is recommended.
Eat well, giggle regularly and go gently with yourself - your body, and fertility, will thank you for it.
About the Author
Laura Ballin is a Clinical Naturopath (BHSc) passionate about empowering individuals to reconnect with their body and return home to their true self. After battling with an eating disorder and various digestive concerns, Laura has a special interest in the gut, mental health, women’s hormonal health and skin conditions.
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Kumar, N., & Singh, A. K. (2015). Trends of male factor infertility, an important cause of infertility: A review of literature. Journal of human reproductive sciences, 8(4), 191. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4691969/
Levine, H., Jørgensen, N., Martino-Andrade, A., Mendiola, J., Weksler-Derri, D., Mindlis, I., ... & Swan, S. H. (2017). Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis. Human reproduction update, 23(6), 646-659. https://academic.oup.com/humupd/article/23/6/646/4035689?login=true