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By: Megan Kelly (CNP)

Thinking about having a baby down the road, but just not yet? You’re not alone. In fact, women are waiting longer than ever before to have their first baby.

A statistic report published in the United States in 2017 found that birth rates were falling in every age group except for one: women in their 40s. The study also found a record low of births in women aged 20-29.

Age has a significant impact on fertility. A woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have, and reaches her peak fertility between 20 and 30 years old. Although we see fertility start to shift in the 30s, it isn’t until the mid-late 30s that we start to see fertility decline at a faster pace. That said, age isn’t the only factor that impacts fertility. Every individual is unique, and some women get pregnant easily in their 40s!

If you’re planning on having a baby later in life, it may be wise to consider planning now. Your habits and current health may have more of an effect on your future fertility than you know.

Here are a few things that you can do now to support your future fertility.

Dial in Your Nutrition

Consider a diet rich in vitamins and minerals and low in trans-fats. This is easy to achieve naturally if you enjoy a whole foods based diet, avoiding processed & packaged goods.

It is important to incorporate plenty of antioxidant-rich foods. Antioxidants will help to protect your eggs from oxidative damage. Consider focusing on foods like berries, pomegranates, sweet potato & cacao.

If you are vegan or vegetarian or have other dietary restrictions, be aware of what your diet might be missing and find ways to supplement that.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Weight is an important factor in fertility. Both overweight and underweight women experience more problems than women with an average body mass index.

In obesity, the hormone insulin gets thrown off-kilter, which can lead to problems with ovulation.

We also see problems with ovulation in underweight women. If a woman has a low enough body fat percentage, ovulation can cease altogether.

If you have difficulty maintaining a healthy body weight, consider reaching out to a naturopath and nutritionist to help you.

Avoid Smoking & Alcohol

Smoking reduces both male and female fertility and reduces conception rates. Cigarette smoke affects organs through oxidation. The body’s tissues can be damaged by oxidants, including a woman’s eggs. This leads to a damaging environment within the ovaries.

When it comes to cocktails, the research is mixed. Some studies show that a single glass of red wine a day can actually improve a woman’s overall health. However, a study from the Harris BirthRight Center of Reproductive Medicine in Sheffield, UK showed that women who drank less than five glass of wine per week were twice as likely to get pregnant within six-months compared to those who drank more. It would be wise to consider moderation when it comes to alcohol consumption, and when you’re actively trying to conceive, cutting back even further may increase your odds.

Avoid the Night Shift

Night workers tend to be at a higher risk of infertility. This is due to the disruption of circadian rhythms and therefore the disruption of proper hormone production.

If you do have to work the night shift, try to get enough sleep when you’re not working.

Avoid Exposure to Toxins

Environmental polluatants and toxins, such as pesticides, dry-cleaning solvents, aluminum in deodorants, preservatives, food dyes, etc, can adversely affect fertility.

Consider switching to cleaner household products and cosmetics. You may also want to consider buying organic produce whenever possible. It may be helpful to consult the EWG’s Dirty Dozen/ Clean Fifteen list to determine which items are the most important to purchase organic.

Reduce Stress

Chronic stress releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can suppress ovulation. The consistent production of the stress hormones can cause sex hormone imbalances and lead to inflammation, which also puts your egg quality at risk.

To protect your future fertility, consider taking steps to reduce stress like meditation, breathwork, yoga, drawing, singing, etc. Whatever allows you to slow down and smile will ultimately help to reduce stress.

Conclusion

While age and genetics are significant factors in our fertility, there are many factors still within our control. If you know you want to get pregnant later in life, consider focusing on some of these simple steps and ask for help from your naturopathic doctore where needed.

SOURCES

Hornstein MD, et al. Optimizing natural fertility in couples planning pregnancy. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 26, 2018.

Kuohung W, et al. Evaluation of female infertility. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 26, 2018.

Kuohung W, et al. Causes of female infertility. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 26, 2018.

Lobo RA, et al. Infertility: Etiology, diagnostic evaluation, management, prognosis. In: Comprehensive Gynecology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 2, 2018.

Simonneaux V, et al. Daily rhythms count for female fertility. Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2017;31:505.

Stress and infertility. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. http://www.reproductivefacts.org/news-and-publications/patient-fact-sheets-and-booklets/documents/fact-sheets-and-info-booklets/stress-and-infertility/. Accessed March 2, 2018.

Rakel D, ed. Preconception counseling and fertility. In: Integrative Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2018. https://clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 2, 2018.

Goldman RH, et al. Overview of occupational and environmental risks to reproduction in females. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed March 2, 2018.