The Life of an Urban Herbalist
A collection of musings and some articles with a more scientific approach.
You fell in love, you got married and now you want to start a family!
These days being in a same sex relationship need be no barrier to having a family of your own. However unless you have a very strong friendship with with another same sex couple of the opposite sex then IVF or surrogacy are your options if you don’t want to adopt..
Most people do not consider the quality of their fertility until they decide to start a family. If you’re having male/female sex regularly it soon becomes apparent if that longed for pregnancy doesn’t happen. When you have to use IVF or surrogacy then it may not become apparent until you’ve already spent a lot of money.
It’s a good idea to ensure you are in optimum health before you start spending money on assisted conception for yourselves or with surrogate There are some things that can be done to ensure you are in the best of health to start your IVF journey and for guys to ensure that their swimmers are up to the job and additional procedures like ICSI are not necessary.
For men the biggest problems are a poor diet, being overweight and drinking alcohol. Loosing just 5% of your body weight can have a dramatic effect on fertility. To start with, a leaner gentleman with less padding allows his tackle to swing freer of the body keeping genetic material at a lower temperature. Other things a chap can do to keep things cooler are to
Eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, cutting down coffee to one cup a day and cutting out alcohol can all help improve semen sample quality.
Exercise is good for you and in moderation it can improve fertility levels not least because of it's stress lowering benefits. However if you are a gym fiend then cutting down on your exercise can help. The hot sweaty environment can lead to a raise in testicular temperature but also high intensity workouts can seriously limit your fertility as it lowers testosterone levels. If you really want to use your own sperm to conceive a child take a break from high intensity muscle training and go for gentler cardio exercise no more than 3 times a week.
It’s also important, where possible, to minimise stress. If your job is difficult try taking walks with your partner, find a mindfulness app like Headspace* or look on YouTube for mindfulness exercises. Reducing stress will enable your body to use valuable building blocks like DHEA to make more sex hormones and less cortisol!
If this isn’t enough there are herbs that will enhance testosterone and help the body reduce the build up of stress hormones.
And for the Women
The usual suspects in women's unexplained infertility are undiagnosed PCOS or Endometriosis, insulin resistance caused by central weight gain, a highly stressed job or family life and too much time at the gym or over exercising. Weight is a factor too. If you have less than 17% body fat you may not produce sex hormones and if you are overweight, particularly if you have central weight gain you may have an element of insulin resistance which will also affect your chances of conceiving.
If you are particularly slender this can have an impact on fertility as can excessive gym use. It may help to allow yourself to gain a little weight so your body starts to reestablish a natural hormone profile. Evolution has designed us to cease reproduction when food is scarce so if you restrict your diet increasing your body fat ratio will help. However if you are one of those people with tiny parents or who just doesn't gain weight whatever you do then your natural shape is unlikely to influence your hormones.
Equally if you are overweight then cutting out carbs for a few weeks can really help you loose a little weight. It doesn’t need to be stones. Just a few pounds can make all the difference. (anyone who knows me knows i've always been comfortably padded-I"m not a woman to throw stones in the proverbial greenhouse)
Coffee is a complete no-no for women who want to conceive. The caffeine affects insulin sensitivity and other hormonal function. It is also a diuretic and can lead to dryness. If you're using a syringe method for introducing sperm this can slow the rate at which they are able to swim towards the egg. Cut the coffee out, you won’t want it when you’re pregnant anyway.
The last tip is extremely important. In a world where women are taking on more traditional roles and having to be more combative in stressful environments unsurprisingly they are producing more testosterone. Women need testosterone but if the levels get too high then it can influence egg release, cause acne and effect ovulation. Taking a little time out each day to meditate will make all the difference and your partner will love the more chilled out you!
And for everyone SPEND SOME TIME WITH YOUR PARTNER! Don’t let your quest for a child overshadow the reason you wanted to start a family in the first place. Treat each other kindly, go on dates, make love (ok also have hot dirty low down sex too), be the reason your partner wants you to share parenthood with them and the rest will just follow naturally.
*I have no connection to headspace and receive no remuneration from them for suggesting their site.