It's the New Year and many of us are thinking of resolutions. However, many are also in the unfortunate position of trying to have a baby, and experiencing difficulties. It's a hard time for those in that situation, and I fully understand the emotions that go with it, having been through this myself. After having my children, there was only one path that I could follow so I left the City after 20 years, and became an acupuncturist, specialising in fertility. These are some of my tips that I would like to share with you.
Make sure you are having sex at the correct times. Most women ovulate between Day 12 and Day 16, depending on your cycle (Day One if the first day of your period). You can buy ovulation predictor kits but it is important to have plenty of sex on a regular basis. Some studies have indicated that the day to have sex which leads to the highest conception rate is two days before ovulation.
To coincide with ovulation, you should experience a stretchy and slippery egg white discharge at the time of ovulation. The sperm uses this discharge as "stepping stones" into the uterus and therefore it is essential to ensure this is happening. If the discharge is thick and pasty, it can block the pathway to the uterus (this is where acupuncture is extremely effective). It is also important for the woman to orgasm after the man, if possible. The contraction of the uterine muscles that comes with an orgasm will assist the sperm in getting further into the uterus.
Both partners should get checked by the doctor - the woman should have her FSH and LH levels monitored by a simple blood test to make sure she is producing the correct hormones and the man should have a semen analysis. In over 50% of infertility cases, the man has a low sperm count or low motility, yet it is the woman who undergoes all the tests, treatments, etc. Sadly, I treat a huge number of women for infertility where the man experiences difficulties, yet they refuse to see me. Sorry about this guys, but please remember there is no shame in this and its best to get it looked at as soon as possible. Please be fair to your partner and help them out.
Also, when having a blood test, the female should ask her doctor to check her iron and thyroid levels. I cannot tell you the amount of patients that I have seen after a failed IVF and their pulse indicates a deficiency. If your body is low in either, it is extremely difficult to maintain a pregnancy.
Booze and caffeine are an absolute no no when fertility is an issue. A woman can have three units a week and a man six units, but absolutely no more. As for caffeine, no coffee and only one cup of tea a day. You can have unlimited herbal tea, but no decaffeinated products as they are highly processed which can block the body's natural ability to achieve a healthy equilibrium. Superfood nutritional supplements can be purchased online (try Herbs Hands Healing in Norfolk) which are packed with algaes, vitamins and minerals and really help in producing a good, high quality egg. Additionally, Pregnacare or some other form of pre-natal vitamin is also highly recommended.
It is important to see a qualified acupuncturist regularly to help treat any underlying issues that can affect fertility. The British Acupuncture Council has a list of all their members and you can find a practitioner close to you.
Make sure you eat protein regularly to keep your blood sugar levels stable. A handful of nuts, some hummus or avocado will do the trick. If your blood sugar levels are not stable, this will cause your insulin levels to fluctuate which can put undue pressure on your liver and pancreas.
Make sure you what you eat is organic - especially meat and fish and avoid farmed salmon (almost all salmon is farmed unless otherwise stated), and keep tuna and mackerel to a minimum. Lots of beans, quinoa, green vegetables and organic free range chicken is the best and try to have plenty of foods rich in zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium.
In the world of Chinese medicine, it is always suggested to avoid dairy products as it can be phlegm and damp forming, which can cause blockages in the reproductive areas. Try to substitute with almond milk or rice milk. Also, avoid plastics as much as possible and if your hair is coloured, switch to organic hair colouring. There are plenty of hairdressers who use only organic hair colouring (I can recommend Rococo on Webb's Road in Battersea). Remember, what goes on your scalp goes into your body and regular hair colouring is a chemical.
Much has been written about the benefits of exercise when you are undergoing fertility problems. However, avoid high-level cardio exercise such as running and aerobics and switch to gentle walking and yoga. If you practice a high cardio exercise regime, your body will produce adrenaline which puts a huge strain on your body as it has to process the adrenaline and not focus on the task of reproduction.
Avoiding stress is also important. Try to practice regular meditations (mindfulness or manifesting meditations). More and more studies are showing the benefits of regular meditation and it is important to practice some form of relaxing technique.
Keep the lines of communication open with your partner. You are both going through this together, so it's important that you share your feelings with one another.
If you practice all of these tips as I mention above, you will be giving yourself the best possible chance for a successful and healthy pregnancy - good luck!
Melanie Hackwell, BSc (Hons), Lic. Ac., MBAc, RTCM practices at Feel Good Balham, Neal's Yard Covent Garden and Concept Fertility Putney