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Planning your pregnancy
tips & methods to prepare your body for a successful pregnancy | fertility tips
Ovulation - the basics
Every month, the reproductive organs of a healthy woman prepare for conception.
The complex interaction between the pituitary gland in the brain, the ovaries and the uterus create the ideal environment for ovulation (the release of an egg), for the sperm and egg to meet and for the fertilized egg to implant in the uterus.
Each month, the pituitary gland in the brain secretes a hormone. This hormone causes the ovaries to produce a series of fluid-filled cysts called follicles. When the follicles develop, they release a hormone called estrogen. Estrogen works to thicken the lining of the womb for conception. On the seventh day of your cycle, all but one of the follicles stop growing. This follicle continues to grow and feeds the mature egg (oocyte) inside.
On day 12, the mature follicle releases a surge of estrogen into the bloodstream. The estrogen then circulates in the bloodstream. When the estrogen reaches the pituitary gland in the brain, it reacts by releasing luteinizing hormone. This hormone causes the follicle to grow rapidly. Shortly before the ovulation, the egg divides inside the follicle. The follicle releases a chemical that stimulates the fallopian tubes to approach and begin to surround the follicle.
The follicle expels the egg and fluid into the abdominal cavity and swells until it opens. Tiny finger-like projections at the end of the fallopian tube, called fimbriae, brush over the ruptured follicle and pick up the egg. The egg is carried to the entrance of the fallopian tube. Once inside the walls of the fallopian tube, muscle contractions gently push the egg towards the uterus.
As the egg passes through the fallopian tube, it either meets a sperm and is fertilized or it enters the uterus without fertilization and is absorbed by the body.
It’s important you prepare your body and adjust your lifestyle to maximize your chances of conception. Here are some tips that can really make a difference to your level of fertility:
It’s important you prepare your body and adjust your lifestyle to maximize your chances of conception. Here are some tips that can really make a difference to your level of fertility.
Make your vaginal environment as sperm-friendly as possible. Avoid vaginal sprays and scented tampons (which can cause an imbalance in the pH of your vagina), artificial lubricants, vegetable oils and glycerin (because they can kill sperm), saliva (because saliva can also kill sperm) and enemas/douches (because they can change the normal acidity of the vagina, cause vaginal infections and/or pelvic inflammatory disease, and remove the cervical mucus needed to carry sperm).
Looking for a delicious way to introduce a little more folic acid into your diet? Start your day with a tall glass of orange juice or a fresh, juicy orange. Both are excellent sources of folic acid – an important nutrient for any woman trying to get pregnant.
If you haven’t quit yet, do it now. Studies have shown that smoking only 10 cigarettes a day reduces a woman’s chances of getting pregnant by 40%.
Women have a 40% lower chance of getting pregnant if they smoke, according to a report published by the British Medical Association (BMA). Smoking decreases sperm count and increases sperm abnormalities in men. Ask your GP or Nurse for help in quitting.
Do you take vitamins? High doses of some vitamins can be harmful to your baby’s development. Switch to a prenatal vitamin before you get pregnant.
Are you a coffee drinker? It’s time to quit or switch to decaf! Caffeine is thought to limit the growth of the developing baby by constricting blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the uterus.
In addition, some studies show that excessive caffeine consumption (i.e. more than three cups of filter coffee per day) can lead to fertility problems. However, this has not yet been definitively established.
Taking a supplement(s) specially formulated for/before conception will provide you with additional support. 400mcg folic acid and other nutrients such as l-arginine vitamin D and vitamin B12 help support the nutritional requirements of women trying to conceive.
Lying down for at least a few minutes after sex increases the odds that the sperm will be able to keep their date with the awaiting egg.
If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter drugs be sure to ask your doctor if it’s safe to continue taking them once you start trying to conceive. Contrary to popular belief, taking the contraceptive pill, antibiotics or analgesics should not affect the accuracy of your pregnancy test.
Keep a menstrual calendar and note the date when your period starts, the number of days it lasts and anything else your doctor or midwife might want to know.
Don’t go on a crash diet. They affect your ovulation and consequently your fertility.
Eating a healthy balanced diet when trying to conceive helps the body to be in optimum condition for conception and pregnancy, and also helps to build adequate stores of vitamins and minerals for the baby to call upon when needed.
Foods to consume while trying to get pregnant:
Fortified breakfast cereals, lentils, soy beans, dried fruit and leafy greens such as spinach are great sources of iron.
New research (Dr Jorge Chavarros, Harvard School of Public Health) indicates women who want to get pregnant should eat a Mediterranean-style diet rich in avocados and olive oil but light in diary and meat.
Eating mono-unsaturated fat – found in peanuts, almonds and cashews may support conception too.
Fish, wholegrain breads, asparagus, spinach and watercress will provide zinc to help keep the immune system strong, which is essential when trying to get pregnant. Zinc can also help the production of healthy eggs, as well as healthy sperm.
Fibre rich beans and whole grains keep the bowels healthy, helping to flush away the bodies waste, thereby increasing the chances of getting pregnant.
It is also a good idea to consider taking a supplement designed to support conception which contains 400mcg folic acid and other nutrients to help support the nutritional requirements of women trying to conceive.
Good to know
If you or your partner are regularly exposed to hazardous substances at work, consider changing jobs or careers before starting a family.
Some substances can affect both sperm quality and embryonic development.
If you have not yet been tested, make an appointment with your doctor to review your medical history and discuss your pregnancy plans.
Are you currently taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications? Ask your doctor if it is safe to continue taking these medications if you are trying to get pregnant.
If you have diabetes, it is important to control your blood sugar before you become pregnant. Studies have shown that women with poorly controlled insulin-dependent diabetes are four to six times more likely to have a baby with birth defects than women without diabetes.
Make sure you are properly screened for STDs. More than one million North American women are affected by pelvic inflammatory disease each year. The most common cause is an untreated sexually transmitted disease.
Tempted to light a cigarette or have a glass of wine? You should assume you are pregnant until you are sure you are not. One of the most critical periods of embryonic development occurs before a woman even knows she is pregnant.
Want to know more? Simply make an appointment and get the inside scoop.
Fertility myths unravelled
Age & fertility
Fertility falls more sharply for women as they age than for men. women are most fertile between the ages of 20 and 24 years – as women grow older the likelihood of getting pregnant falls while the likelihood of pelvic inflammatory disease
Tips for you
As women get older, there are a number of factors that can make it harder to get pregnant. Fertility factors that change include:
- Ovarian reserve – this is the number of functioning follicles still in the ovaries. As women get older, they have fewer viable eggs left; in cases of early menopause, eggs run out much earlier than usual.
- Menstrual cycle – as women approach menopause, their menstrual cycles may become irregular and shorter.
- Uterine lining – the lining of the uterus may become thinner and less hospitable to a fertilized egg.
- Mucus secretions – vaginal secretions may become less fluid and more hostile to sperm.
- Diseases affecting the reproductive system – some diseases can damage or worsen the reproductive organs over time if not properly treated, such as endometriosis, PCOS, and chlamydia.
- Chronic diseases – some diseases can have a negative impact on fertility.
Tips for him
Men can do a lot to improve their chances of conceiving by taking care of their health and lifestyle. The following is a checklist for men trying to have a baby.
- Avoid alcohol – It lowers men’s sperm count, even if they drink only small amounts.
- Have sex – Have it in the morning, because research shows that a man’s sperm count is higher at this time – take advantage of it!
- Keep a cool head – Men have higher sperm counts when their genitals are kept at a cooler temperature. So stay away from hot baths, hot showers, and tight-fitting underwear.
- Smoke – Don’t. Smoking has been shown to decrease both sperm count and sperm motility.
- Nutrition and supplements – When men are malnourished or don’t eat enough of the right foods and nutrients, their sperm count can suffer. Take a dietary supplement that contains specific nutrients like zinc for male reproductive health.
- Workaholic – Fatigue can affect a man’s interest in sex, so it’s important to find a balance.
- Toxins – Stay away from environmental toxins and hazards. This includes pesticides/insecticides, organic solvents, lead, ionizing radiation, heavy metals and toxic chemicals.
- Drugs – Even moderate amounts, such as cannabis, can cause low sperm count, poor sperm velocity, and increased sperm abnormalities.
- Exercise – Swap the exercise bike for the treadmill. Repeatedly bumping your groin against the bike seat can damage critical arteries and nerves.
- Cell phones – missing the info??? Looks like this got cut off According to research by Hungarian scientists, men who carry their cell phones turned on in their pockets or on their belts have significantly reduced sperm counts and risk dropping their fertility by up to one-third. Sperm motility can also be affected by long phone calls.