It is more common for me to hear of a friend having fertility issues than being able to get pregnant. Not sure why, possibly because of our toxic environment or the food we eat, or perhaps family planning has been postponed so women can pursue their careers. Hearing of a friends struggle to get pregnant or hold a pregnancy has become so common, and unfortunately, never surprises me.
Before I start giving you advice, let me say that I am not a doctor, nor do I call myself a fertility specialist. I have had plenty of experience in this area, and would call myself an avid researcher in the subject. Maybe it’s because of my obsession with all things health related, or my almost unhealthy desire to have everything in life perfect and planned, whatever the reason, I have done extensive research on how to get pregnant and how to stay pregnant.
I’ve always know that I wanted to have a big family. I am slightly obsessed with kids, to the point where I would rather hang out at the kids table at parties than chat with adults– weird, I know. And, like I said before, I am an avid planner. Dallas and I talked about when we’d like to get pregnant, which was January 2016. So, being the planner that I was I decided to visit my doctor and naturopath to make sure everything was healthy 6 months prior to trying, so when I was ready to start trying, my body would be ready too. I know everyone is different, but the following are common imbalances/practices that when properly treated can help with fertility. SO, if you are thinking about getting pregnant, or have been trying for 6 months – 1 year and have not been able to get pregnant, here is a checklist for you:
1. Make sure that your thyroid and iron are at a healthy level: I am a huge advocate for taking control over your health, and making sure that your body is functioning optimally. It is so common for women to have iron deficiencies, and an unbalanced thyroid and not even know it. If you visit your general doctor, they will write you a free requisition form, and you can have your iron and thyroid levels checked. Ideally, for pregnancy you want your TSH levels to be between 0.5- 2.5. Iron deficiencies have shown to aid in infertility and miscarriages, so make sure that you are supplementing iron prior to getting pregnant.
2. Visit a naturopath and check your Progesterone levels: Progesterone is a key hormone that plays a major roll in ovulation and getting pregnant. If your progesterone levels are low, you may not be ovulating – which you obviously need in order to get pregnant. Make sure to supplement progesterone if your levels are low, and talk to your doctor about supplementing progesterone during your first trimester to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
3. Start supplementing folic acid: All doctors will recommend that you supplement folic acid prior to becoming pregnanct since folic acid helps prevent birth defects in the spinal chord like spinal bifida, and in the brain such as anencephaly.
4. Acupuncture: It is crazy to me how many friends have told me that they were unable to conceive until they started getting weekly acupuncture from a Chinese Medicine Doctor. Acupuncture can increase fertility by reducing stress, increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs, and balancing the endocrine system. Most fertility specialists will recommend their IVF patients to get regular acupuncture. It also is proven to help decrease the risk of miscarriage since it stimulates blood flow to the uterus.
5. Make sure your body is at a healthy body fat percentage: This is something most people don’t like to talk about, but it needs to be addressed. One of the reasons I do not recommend for women to compete in fitness competitions during reproductive age is because it is not healthy for your body to be under a certain body fat percentage. I am not going to quote a specific number, because everyone’s body is different. If you stop getting your period regularly due to dieting or intense exercise, this is your body telling you that it is not at a healthy body fat % and that you need to slow down. If you are at reproductive age and want to conceive, as a woman your caloric intake should not be any lower than 1500 calories daily.
6. Eliminate stresses in your life: This may sound basic, but stress can be one of the primary factors for infertility. When you are stressed, your body releases the hormone adrenalin, which is not ideal for conception. Adrenaline inhibits us from utilizing the hormone progesterone, which is essential for fertility. It also causes the pituitary gland to release higher levels of prolactin, which also causes infertility to occur. So make sure to cut out different stresses in your life, that could be working less, taking time for yourself, hiring a house cleaner, do whatever you need to do to stay ZEN!
7. Ask for help: I know it can be scary to think that infertility may be an option for you, but the more proactive you are about your health and your hormones, the easier it will be to reverse any deficiencies or issues that may arise. If you have been trying to get pregnant for over a year, talk to your doctor and ask to be referred to a specialist.
8. Be your own advocate: I know that doctors typically find know it all’s annoying, but I don’t really care. I’ve seen too many doctors and have been referred to too many specialists that have not taken my health or my baby’s health as seriously as I would like them to. Do your research, gain knowledge, and come to your doctor with specific questions (and solutions if you have any). The first time I was pregnant I went to a walk-in-clinic, and my TSH was at 8.0. Like I said earlier, the healthy level for pregnancy is a TSH of .5-2.5. My doctor did nothing, (he said that my thyroid was looking a little off but that’s okay). I trusted him, and miscarried a few weeks later. Not to say that my hypothyroid was the cause of my miscarriage (though some doctors and naturopaths think it is), I wished he addressed it right away. Doctors are not all knowing, and not all doctors specialize in fertility. Do your research, ask a million questions, and be confident that you will be your babies BIGGEST advocate.
9. Supplementing baby aspirin: If you are not pregnant, this doesn’t really apply to you yet. I have had 2 miscarriages and 1 still birth, and was later referred to an OB/GYN who is the biggest advocate for supplementing baby aspirin in early pregnancy to reduce the risk of miscarriage. According to my doctor, there has been plenty of research indicating that taking 81mg of baby aspirin daily can reduce the risk of complications in pregnancy. Make sure to talk to your doctor before going ahead with supplementing baby aspirin.
10. Be open to other avenues of family planning: I would love to tell you that if you follow the above 9 steps you will get pregnant with a healthy baby. Unfortunately, fertility is not that easy and there are so many different factors that are involved in creating a human inside of your body. Thankfully, we live in an age where there are SO many options for starting a family. As difficult as it sounds, I would have the conversation with your spouse about being open to other options if natural fertility is not an option for you. Explore your options, do your research, and I encourage you to find like-minded women who have experienced similar struggles as you. You are NOT alone, and there are so many women out there who are looking for support, just like you! X
Hope my suggestions helped! If you have any questions please feel free to message me and I’d love to help you in any way that I can.