The festive season and New Year often heralds a time for change and for many couples, this may be the phase where they might be thinking about starting a family. Here Dr Venkat from the Harley Street Fertility Clinic explores how you could give your fertility a kick-start during the season of Good Will.
Get some exercise; the benefits regular exercise has on your general health are plentiful. Dr Venkat adds; "Exercise lowers your blood pressure, lessens anxiety, treats depression and encourages sound sleep - all of which is helpful if you're trying for a baby." That said don't overstrain your body, try for an optimum 30 minutes exercise a day and keep at a stable, healthy weight to increase your chances of conceiving.
Monitor your alcohol intake; Dr Venkat recommends that during the festive season in particular, it is important to monitor your alcohol intake. Although there's no harm in enjoying a drink or two, it's important to be vigilant and not overdo it. There's strong scientific evidence that too much alcohol can reduce fertility in both men and women. For men drinking too much can reduce testosterone levels, leading to loss of libido. It can also damage the quality, structure and motility of sperm. For women, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can impact ovulation and menstrual cycles, which is essential for conception. If you don't want to miss out on the holiday spirit, there's no harm in sticking to two drinks with some water and avoid the risk of a horrendous hangover the next morning to boot!
Stay hydrated; "As a nation we are all dehydrated", says Dr Venkat. Although it's very simple advice, making sure you drink at least two litres of water a day will help improve your chances of conception. Adequate water intake helps enhance the quality and amount of fertile cervical fluid. Healthy cervical fluid is essential for conception as this protects sperm cells, and assists with their journey towards the egg. It also helps to keep sperm cells alive for several days. So reach for a refreshing glass of cold water to stay at optimum hydration levels.
Feast on sprouts. Neema Savvides nutritionist at Harley Street Fertility Clinic says that this controversial 'Christmas veg' is a fertility superfood. "They are bursting with folic acid which is essential for boosting fertility in both men and women. This vitamin rich source also increases sperm levels and helps line the womb with the right of nutrients raising sperm survival chances. Another benefit of this folic rich food is that it also helps to decrease the risk of miscarriages and birth defects.
Intimacy; Get intimate with your loved one at least three times a week advises Dr Venkat. After ovulation, an egg is only viable for about 24 hours, so if you are waiting until you ovulate to have intercourse, chances are you are going to miss the opportunity to get pregnant that month! Since sperm can also live in your reproductive tract for 3-4 days, having sex two to three times a week, means that when an egg is released there will be sperm waiting. "I tell my patients to have regular intercourse, meaning 2-3 times a week generally starting after your period stops if you want to maximise your chances of getting pregnant."
Winter sun; If you have the chance - escape for some winter sun, however, if this is impossible Dr Venkat suggests that one of the easiest way to get your daily dose of Vitamin D is to get outside and go for a walk. Increasing your Vitamin D intake is essential for increasing female fertility. You can also improve vitamin D levels by adding foods such as oily fish and eggs to your diet if sunshine is a tad scarce suggests nutritionist Neema Savvides.
Spruce up your roast veggies with some beetroot. Neema Savvides explains that " this beautiful red vegetable increases blood flow to the muscles and contains nitric oxide which dilates blood vessels allowing a rich supply of oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood to flow to the uterus and ovaries. This 'opening' of the arteries allowing blood to flow more freely is also the reason why drinking beetroot juice regularly may help lower blood pressure and improve brain function; some research has shown improvement in memory before specific tests. A delicious way to use beetroot baby beetroot is to roast it with some butternut squash/ or sweet potato, drizzle with a little rape seed oil and scatter with fresh thyme, and cook for about 40 minutes.
Break the smoking habit; and if this is too difficult at least try and reduce your intake. Dr Venkat affirms that; "Smokers are more likely to have fertility problems and a heavy smoker's risk of fertility problems is increased even more." When you smoke, more than 7,000 chemicals spread through your body, which hinder ovulation, damage eggs and sperm motility. Ask your GP to refer you to a Stop Smoking Service if you need additional help.
Watch your diet; Although there's no denying the utter deliciousness of a roast potatoes, too many starchy carbs can cause a surge of insulin in blood sugar levels, which is particularly bad for women who have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). Neema Savvides advises not to completely forgo the potatoes, but mix them up with various root vegetables such as sweet potatoes (which is packed full of fertility friendly vitamin C) parsnips, beetroot and squash to add a colourful and nutritional boost to your Christmas dinner.
Try and relax. For many people, Christmas is often a stressful time of year. Instead of getting wound up, try using the time to focus on family, friends and loved ones. Or enjoy some time off work - relax or pursue your hobbies.
Snack on nuts. Nuts are bursting full of fertility boosting properties and are also delicious . Neema comments that ; "Chestnuts are one of the best sources of beta carotene which is crucial for enzyme production for egg fertilisation. Beta carotene is also essential for the healthy growth and development of the foetus. Chestnuts are also super rich in vitamin-C, which is known for enhancing sperm quality and protecting the DNA within it from damage, making conception more likely. Last but by no means least, they also contain hormone balancing fatty acids and magnesium with is particularly good for women." If Chestnuts don't do it for you, walnuts are an equally fantastic alternative- eating around two handfuls of walnuts a day improves sperm health says Neema.
Have a check-up; there is no harm in seeking a fertility MOT to see whether you think you might have a problem getting pregnant, it may even be worth getting it checked out before you start trying. Irregular periods, a family history of fertility problems or thyroid issues can in some instances highlight potential problems. Why not give you and your partner peace of mind by having an MOT and get ready for the year ahead!