When you decide it’s time to start your family, the do’s and don’ts of how to get the show on the road can be downright overwhelming. Couple that with endless swirling news about friends undergoing IVF and other fertility challenges and the process can get stressful, FAST. So let’s talk about it! What do you really need to do when your goal is to optimize your chances of conceiving naturally? For starters, it’s important to be realistic about any red flags you might have, and to see your doctor to discuss them before spending too much time trying on your own. More on that later! Let’s start by presuming that you and your partner are fit and fertile….what are the essential things you need to know before bringing a baby on board? Eating for Fertility There is so much information out there about fertility diets, which can make it challenging to figure out how to best nourish yourself ahead of pregnancy. The key components to a healthy fertility diet look something like this:
Keep your blood sugar stable. A little known fact is that hormones for fertility (like estrogen) can be thrown out of balance if your blood sugar levels are too high. In order to keep your hormones in check and yourself feeling steady, eating in a protein-forward way will help to keep your insulin levels stable. The job of insulin is to control how much sugar is in your blood by sending it into your cells. Over time, if you consume too much sugar, your cells start rejecting insulin’s efforts to send in more, a condition called insulin resistance. Eating more protein and healthy fats instead of refined carbs helps to slow things down enough to allow your cells to process sugar and use it for energy. Start your day with eggs, high-quality protein powder for smoothies, or full-fat Greek yogurt with fruit and chia seeds and nuts. Throughout the day, make sure to include good quality protein and fats like avocados and olive oil with every meal, and cut down on refined carbohydrates wherever possible.
Nutrient density is the name of the game. In order to replenish your body with all the nutrients it needs, you’ll want to ditch the junk in your diet asap. This also isn’t a time to skip meals or intermittently fast beyond a 12-hour window. Think about nourishing your body with high-quality proteins, fats, and “slow” carbohydrates like root veggies, whole grains, and seasonal fruits.
Don’t make yourself nuts! Making subtle changes to your diet can make a profound difference. Start by planning to eat on a regular schedule, and do your best to prepare food ahead of time so you aren’t caught with only suboptimal options. Also, if you have days where your diet falls apart, just carry on! Eating for conception need not be stressful, just mindful!
Supplements are important, but not nearly as important as a balanced diet. Yes, there are definitely certain nutrients that are highly recommended for pregnancy, and their importance makes it worthwhile to take supplements to ensure you are getting enough. Vitamins like folate, D, A, K and B12, along with minerals like calcium, magnesium, selenium and zinc, and omega 3 fatty acids, to name a few, are all important for making a healthy kiddo. Still, supplements should always remain true to their role: to supplement, not replace, an already nutrient dense diet.
Mind Your Stress
In my private practice, I find myself counseling my patients about stress management every single day. I’m not going to lie, ongoing fertility challenges can be very stressful, so the key is not to get ahead of yourself! We know that 1 in 6 couples who are TTC will run into fertility challenges, but what that really means is that 5 out of 6 won’t! There’s a wise saying in Chinese medicine, “where the mind flows, the qi goes.” The best way to manage the stress that can creep into any conception journey is to work on training your mind to focus on what you want rather than what you don’t.
One of the ways that I encourage couples to go about the first few months of baby making is to take the pressure off by simply enjoying being intimate with the intention of conceiving. Try to avoid perfectionist tactics, like checking for ovulation 3 different ways, and taking pregnancy tests days before your period is due. In fact, if you are TTC with your partner via intercourse, my advice to you is to spend the first 3 cycles without apps, ovulation predictor kits or BBT charts. Shift your focus instead to connecting with each other, thinking of the week between the end of your period and ovulation (roughly days 7-14 for women with 28 day cycles) as ‘date week’! Invite your partner to the party with a shared calendar that lets him know your fertile window has opened, and then let him lead the way (or whatever you both prefer). Enjoy quality time together during date week, adding some special dinners, long walks or romantic one on one time. Your body is going to be most open to conception when you are feeling in love, connected and attracted to your partner, so it’s best not to jump right into the “doing” that goes with obsessing about ovulation, and instead to devote that energy to the love you chose, and spend your energy connecting over your shared desire to call a baby into your lives.
Let’s talk about those red flags!
Circling back to the discussion around when to seek help, because it’s not the same for everyone, so let’s break it down. The fundamental truth about fertility is that age is the biggest predictor of success, with odds waning as you get older. To that end, I suggest seeking help from a doctor based on the following timeline:
Under age 30: Trying for up to a year is fine, but don’t skip your annual gynecology exam
Age 30-34: Think about seeing your OB/GYN after 9 months for a fertility evaluation
Age 35-39: 6 months is a good time to get an checked out
Age 40-41: 3 months or so, followed by a work up from a fertility doctor (REI) is the way to go
Age 42+: Best not to delay, head to the REI as soon as you decide you’d like to get pregnant
Red flags: Certain conditions warrant seeking care sooner without delay as well. If you have ever been diagnosed with endometriosis, PCOS, low ovarian reserve or have painful, irregular or absent periods, it’s best to check in with your doctor at the outset of TTC.
Don’t forget the sperm! Whenever fertility is taking longer than desired, sperm is responsible for 40-50% of the time! Infertility among couples is not just an egg thing, so be sure to get the swimmers checked out sooner than later!
Holistic Health and Fertility
Getting enough support on your road to a baby is key to managing the ups and downs that can arise along the way, Working with an integrative fertility specialist offers so much more than supplement and nutrition advice. Holistic fertility specialists can help you optimize your health through techniques to help balance your nervous system, your hormones and your digestion. Periods can often be regulated, and ovulation can be supported. And perhaps most importantly, an integrative fertility specialist provides a safe space to work through the fears and stressors that can bubble up, and help you determine when it’s time to seek more support. At Mother Nurture Wellness, we use acupuncture, herbs and supplements in our west LA clinic, and we offer comprehensive online courses and 1:1 coaching for anyone seeking support virtually.
We look forward to hearing from you soon!
Use code: KULA15 to receive 15% off our Training To Conceive Courses: https://virtual.mothernurturela.com/ttc-training-to-conceive
Laura began her career in holistic wellness after studying Traditional Chinese Medicine with an emphasis on fertility and obstetric care. After graduating summa cum laude from Emperor’s College, she founded Mother Nurture Wellness, a Los Angeles-based women’s health practice specializing in fertility optimization, pregnancy, and postpartum care. As an integrative health professional for over 20 years, Laura has helped thousands of families grow by creating a custom roadmap that targets each individual's needs from nutrition, supplementation, herbal medicine, acupuncture, meditation, mentorship, and beyond. In 2015, Laura co-authored Feed Your Fertility, A Guide to Cultivating a Healthy Pregnancy with Chinese Medicine, Real Food and Healthy Living.