For women in the modern world there is a myriad of physiological aspects as well as external factors that can influence fertility and conception with 1 in 6 Australian couples experiencing infertility and up to 25% of all pregnancies ending in miscarriage. The most powerful influence on successful conception and oocyte quality is increasing age. Interestingly, there is a growing trend in the 21st century to postpone conception well into the 30s, whereas previously most couples were starting families in their 20s. This delay in childbirth is just one piece of the infertility puzzle, with other lifestyle, environmental and genetic aspects leading to reduced fertility.
Lifestyle factors that have a detrimental effect on reproduction are predominantly around the rising rates of obesity, with 2 out of 3 Australian adults now overweight or obese. However, factors such as excessive exercise, low peripheral body fat, smoking, and sexually-transmitted diseases are all lifestyle contributors to infertility in women. Rising rates of conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis and uterine fibroids all contribute to the rates of fertility, alongside genetic influences that can limit or decrease ovarian reserve, an expression of the total number of oocytes within the ovary.
Extensive evidence has suggested that environmental factors such as phthalate, dioxin, and bisphenol A exposure has some significant links with vital factors such as endometriosis and ovarian reserve as well as gonadal damage, oocyte development and maturation. Environmental toxins have a huge impact on our unborn baby’s health and, according to environmental specialist Dr Mark Donohoe, greatly affect behavioural problems and autism.
As a clinician, it is my goal to decipher where there may be dysfunction occurring in certain key areas such as endocrine disruption, inflammation and oxidative stress, and therefore determine the appropriate prescription based on your individual needs.
Factors that influence fertility and conception include:
Before starting a family or if you are having difficulty conceiving, find out how essential nutrients are in pre-conception, conception and throughout pregnancy. From the point of conception, there is a strict timeline for development of the embryo and foetus. If a particular nutrient is missing on a particular day, this may lead to improper formation of any given tissue or organ. For this reason good nutrition and absence of toxins is paramount before and during pregnancy.
Good nutrition is also important for the dad-to-be in order to ensure sperm viability. Sperm develop over a 12-week period, so men should detox and adopt healthy lifestyle habits preferably six months before starting a family.
The health of your unborn child is in your hands.
As well as a good diet, eliminating any toxins which could negatively impact conception is vital. A major factor impeding conception is heavy metal toxicity. Metals and other substances block the body’s processes, including production of healthy sperm and ovulation. Lead and cadmium have been shown to delay conception.
There are many chemicals that are toxic – some preventing conception while others are dangerous to the unborn baby. Spray tans should be avoided for at least six months prior to trying to conceive.
I strongly recommend a thorough health analysis of both parents before starting a family. This ensures the best possible start in life for your precious baby.
At True Medicine, I ask that you bring along any pathology test results when you come in for your consultation. There are several options to help identify if heavy metals or other mineral/nutrient imbalances are stopping you from becoming parents. The tests are easy, not expensive and results are known in about 14 days.
In addition to toxic overloads, the consumption of other drugs and medications also play a role in parental health. Many regularly consumed medications or pain relievers pose risks to the health of your unborn child. Prior to even considering starting a family, read up on how to avoid birth defects.
Listen to what environmental health specialist, Dr Mark Donohoe, says about toxins
Another area that we often forget about is electromagnetic fields – these include smart phones, tablets, computers, Wi-Fi, and baby monitors. Watch this short 16 minute TED talk and be informed before you have children.
Another area of your health all too often overlooked prior to conception is your mouth. Ensure that you have seen your dentist and corrected any oral health issues well before trying to start a family.
Pregnancy and Pre-conception Nutrition – an easy reference table to foods and their nutrients.
Read about how eating vegetables during pregnancy can prevent diabetes in your child.
Sometimes it may be necessary to take nutritional supplements. There are several available, some over-the-counter and others practitioner-only. As always, there is a BIG difference. A recent check of a commonly recommended pregnancy multi-vitamin revealed such low levels of some nutrients and high levels of others making it a very imbalanced formulation. Furthermore, the forms of vitamins used are synthetic which provide little, if any, positive benefit for your body and that of your unborn baby. When supplementing during pregnancy, balanced nutrients together with safe ingredients are essential – more is not always best. Never self-prescribe and always seek the advice of a qualified natural health practitioner.
Proper preparation for birth can help make this the wondrous experience it should be. At True Medicine we can advise you on suitable herbal remedies and also provide an essential oil ‘birthing’ blend for you.
Once baby is born, it is important to give him or her the best possible start to life. If you are unsure whether to breast or bottle-feed your newborn baby, take the time to read about baby and infant formulas.
Learn how to introduce solid foods gradually and properly to prevent development of allergies and even behavioural or future health problems.
The importance of Iodine
Iodine deficiency has re-emerged in Australia. 70% of women of child-bearing age are iodine deficient. All pregnant and lactating women should discuss iodine supplementation with a qualified natural health practitioner. It is essential to check your iodine levels BEFORE conception and also to check your thyroid’s capacity to function properly throughout gestation.
Read more about the official stance of the National Health and Medical Research Council regarding iodine in the Blog.
Why? Iodine deficiency in pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of intellectual impairment in the world. Due to iodine’s role in foetal brain and nervous development, a deficiency during pregnancy may lead to irreversible damage. Even mild iodine deficiency could prevent children and adolescents from attaining their full intellectual potential and increase the risk of ADD.
So why are we so iodine deficient? One of the major antagonists of iodine is fluoride. Fluoride and chlorine both block the body’s ability to absorb iodine. Both of these substances are contained in our drinking water. However, there are also many other hidden sources of fluoride.
Don’t self prescribe
As with all supplements, consult your health care practitioner to assess your iodine levels and NEVER self prescribe – especially during pregnancy.