12 Reproductive Health Awareness Days for Your Organisations Event Calendar -image

12 Reproductive Health Awareness Days for Your Organisations Event Calendar 

Over the last five years in the UK alone, 1 in 5 employees undergoing fertility treatment left their jobs due to insufficient support from their employers—and a further 1 million women left their workplaces because of debilitating menopausal symptoms. These are just a couple of the stats that highlight the growing importance of workplace reproductive health benefits as an integral part of employee wellbeing.  As the adage goes, knowledge is power and one of the best places to start is ensuring your employees have ample access to educational resources surrounding their reproductive health.  Awareness days offer purposeful opportunities to provide employees with education and celebration over a range of important issues. This can in turn foster your organisation’s culture whilst making your employees feel seen and supported.  This 2024, why not build some of the following key female reproductive health-focused awareness days into your internal events calendar?  2024 Calendar of Reproductive Health Awareness Days 1. International Women’s Day When: March 8th 2024 What: A globally recognised campaign that celebrates women’s achievements social, economic and political achievements whilst raising awareness for gender equality.  2. National Endometriosis Action Month When: March 2024 What: A globally recognised month of action for the 1 in 10 people assigned female at birth who suffer from the reproductive health condition endometriosis.  3. National Infertility Awareness Week  When: April 21st – 27th 2024 What: A UK-focused awareness week highlighting the challenges, mental and physical, faced by those struggling with infertility. 4. Black Maternal Health Week When: April 11th – 17th 2024 What: A globally recognised week to amplify Black female voices and raise awareness for the historically higher maternal mortality rates in Black women.  5. Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week When: 29th – 5th May 2024 What: A global weeklong campaign dedicated to awareness around mental health struggles before, during and after pregnancy.  6. National Women’s Health Week When: May 12th – 15th 2024 What: A UK-focused weeklong campaign encouraging women and girls to make their health, physical and social wellbeing a priority. 7. Fibroids Awareness Month When: July 2024 What: A globally recognised month to raise awareness about uterine fibroids that affect around 2 in 3 women.   8. Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month  When: September 2024 What: A globally recognised month to support those who’ve been diagnosed with or indirectly affected by ovarian cancer.  9. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Month When: September 2024 What: A globally recognised month of action for the 1 in 10 people assigned female at birth who suffer from the reproductive health condition PCOS.  10. Menopause Awareness Month When: October 2024 What: A globally recognised awareness month focused on breaking the stigma surrounding menopause, including World Menopause Day on the 18th of October. 11. Baby Loss Awareness Week When: October 9th – 15th  What: A UK-focused week-long event dedicated to supporting those who have suffered pregnancy or infant loss.  12. National Fertility Awareness Week When: October 30th – 5th November What: A UK-focused weeklong campaign initiated to raise awareness about fertility issues, treatments and reproductive health education.  What next? Embedding reproductive health awareness into an organisation’s event calendar is an imperative step toward fostering a supportive and inclusive workplace culture. The alarming statistics revealing the impact of insufficient support on employee retention underline the urgency of addressing these issues.  By incorporating key awareness days and campaigns, such as International Women’s Day, National Endometriosis Action Month, and Menopause Awareness Month, employers can provide educational resources and celebrate the diverse aspects of female reproductive health. This not only promotes a sense of acknowledgement and support for employees but also contributes to a workplace environment that values the holistic well-being of its people.  At Hertility, we’re shaping the future of the workplace by supporting companies to become Reproductively ResponsibleTM. One way that we do this is through a range of CPD-accredited educational workshops that focus on female fertility and reproductive health. Ultimately, our aim is to change attitudes around reproductive health, both for individuals and in the workplace, and to encourage everyone to be proactive by tracking their reproductive health. We’re calling this the Reproductive Revolution! If you’d like to take proactive steps in this direction in 2024, get in touch – benefits@hertilityhealth.com. 

What are the Five Main Factors that Affect Fertility in Women?-image

What are the Five Main Factors that Affect Fertility in Women?

Embarking on your fertility journey can be both exciting and challenging. Understanding the various lifestyle factors that can affect fertility is crucial for individuals and couples. In this article, we’ll delve into the five main lifestyle factors that play a pivotal role in fertility, and how you can shape and optimise your lifestyle to support your reproductive health. First, let’s explore what fertility is from a biological perspective. Ovulation plays a critical role, marking the release of an egg from the ovary. For a pregnancy to occur, a healthy egg must meet healthy sperm (usually in the fallopian tube) where the egg gets fertilised. Plus, the uterus (womb) must be in optimal condition so the fertilised egg can implant and grow into a healthy baby. To get pregnant and have a baby, many biological factors come into play. When one or more of these factors fall out of sync, that’s when you might face difficulties with fertility. Lots of couples conceive without any issues, but it’s important to know the facts. 1 in 6 couples face fertility struggles, so if it’s taking longer than you’d hoped, know that you’re not alone. The earlier you know what’s going on inside, the earlier you can take action to support your future fertility goals. Age and Fertility Unfortunately, the ticking of the biological clock is a reality that every woman and those assigned female-at-birth (AFAB) face. For a pregnancy to occur, you need healthy eggs. From a biological standpoint, the younger you are, the healthier your eggs will be. As you age, the quality and quantity of your eggs (known as your ovarian reserve) decline. While an Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) test can help you to understand how many eggs you have left, it can’t tell us the quality of the eggs we have. Women and those AFAB are born with all the eggs they’ll ever have. Each menstrual cycle, you lose an egg, and once you hit your late thirties, that number has decreased dramatically, and it brings with it a host of hormonal changes. Collectively, it reduces your ability to become, and often stay, pregnant. And it’s not just about your egg count either. After the age of 35, there’s a higher risk of pregnancy-related complications and negative health outcomes for the baby. There’s also a higher risk of miscarriage, high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes. Plus, chromosomal conditions like Down’s syndrome are more common. It’s not just a woman’s problem either. Despite misconceptions, ageing affects male fertility too. From age 40 onwards, the sperm quality and sperm function decreases with significant implications to pregnancies and births including increased time to conception and increased risk of miscarriage. Lifestyle Choices and Their Impact Think your fertility is out of your control? Think again. While there are aspects of fertility that are beyond our control, there’s a lot we can do to support our reproductive health. Through lifestyle choices, we can impact the quality of our eggs and contribute to a healthier reproductive environment. Eating a well-balanced, nutritionally rich diet, getting regular physical exercise, managing stress, getting enough sleep, limiting caffeine to less than 200mg a day (one small cup of coffee), and stopping or reducing smoking and excess alcohol can contribute to improving your fertility. This is because your lifestyle choices directly impact your hormones, and hormonal balance (involved in regulating your menstrual cycle) is crucial to a successful conception, pregnancy and healthy baby. Eat a Fertility-Friendly Diet Being underweight or overweight can affect your ability to conceive because your hormones are often out of whack. Eating a Mediterranean diet—one that’s based on plant foods like fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains with a moderate amount of dairy, fish, meat and eggs—can support your fertility. Discover a fertility-friendly meal plan, and fertility nutrition shopping list to support your healthy diet. Plus, when you’re trying for a baby and in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, taking prenatal supplements like folic acid can help prevent major birth defects by supporting neural tube development.  Get Regular Physical Exercise Getting regular physical exercise is healthy no matter where you are in your fertility journey, but be wary of overexercise. Too much vigorous physical activity can stop ovulation, cause irregular periods or for them to stop altogether amenorrhea because of hormonal imbalances in important hormones that control your menstrual cycle. An absent period is often a sign that something’s not quite right, so it’s worth speaking with a healthcare professional if you’re worried. Limit Smoking and Alcohol Smoking, alcohol and recreational drug use are associated with an increased risk of miscarriage and complications during conception and pregnancy. Cigarette smoke contains chemicals that can disrupt your hormones and impact your fertility. It’s also been linked with early onset menopause. There’s limited evidence to know how vaping affects fertility (although early studies suggest it could affect the ability to implant and result in lower birth weights) but if you’re trying to get pregnant, not vaping is safer than vaping. The lack of information doesn’t mean it’s safe, but by stopping, you’re being exposed to fewer chemicals. Get help to quit smoking in the UK with the NHS. Excess alcohol consumption is not only associated with hormone imbalances, there is no safe level of alcohol that can be consumed during pregnancy as it can lead to adverse health effects for the baby.  In women and those assigned-female-at-birth, disrupting your hormones can affect your menstrual cycle causing irregular periods which can affect ovulation, reducing your chances of conceiving. As well as its impact on our hormones, alcohol negatively impacts our general health which can lead to knock-on impacts on our fertility making it harder to become and stay pregnant, as well as increasing the risk of foetal conditions and birth complications. Protect Against STIs Left untreated sexually transmitted infections can lead to fertility issues because they can lead to scarred or blocked Fallopian tubes, which can increase your risk of an ectopic pregnancy. The only way to protect yourself […]

The Ultimate Guide to Fertility and Pregnancy Nutrition-image

The Ultimate Guide to Fertility and Pregnancy Nutrition

Having a healthy diet and active lifestyle is vital for good health, however, there is never a more important time to optimise your nutritional health than whilst you are trying to conceive and whilst pregnant. During both stages of TTC (trying to conceive) and pregnancy, there are many questions asked in regard to pregnancy nutrition. Some questions you may have might include ‘Which foods increase fertility?’, ‘What are the best foods for pregnancy?’, ‘What nutrients are needed for pregnancy?’. Well, if so you have landed in the right place. We will dive deep into pregnancy and fertility nutrition, to help you understand what or what not to eat during this time, for optimal health for you and most importantly, your baby-to-be.

Thyroid hormones 101 – What can I do if my thyroid hormone results are high?-image

Thyroid hormones 101 – What can I do if my thyroid hormone results are high?

The thyroid is a small gland in your neck, but don’t be fooled by its size. It plays a vital role in the body and keeping it healthy. By producing important hormones, it can affect your heart rate, metabolism (how well and fast your body processes what you eat and drink) and even fertility. Sometimes the thyroid gland makes too much of these hormones, which can cause a thyroid disorder called hyperthyroidism. The thyroid gland is controlled by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, located in the brain.  The hypothalamus releases thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), which stimulates the pituitary gland to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which tells the thyroid how much hormone to produce. The thyroid gland produces 2 main hormones that can impact fertility – Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3).  Hyperthyroidism can be caused due to various reasons including underlying health conditions, certain medications as well as diet and lifestyle habits. Wondering what the symptoms and causes of hyperthyroidism are? You can read more about it here. Have you just recieved your report and are wondering what you can do to help balance your hormones then your are in the right place. Did you know? Most cases of hyperthyroidism in the UK are due to Graves’ disease or toxic nodular goitre.  What can I do to balance my hormones? Certain dietary and lifestyle modifications have been shown to promote healthy thyroid functioning If you are consuming large amounts of iodine in your diet or consuming supplements with iodine in them and have been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, you should consider limiting or avoiding consuming them to reduce iodine intake.  Foods rich in iodine include: Milk and dairy products (a glass of milk is around  just over half of the daily recommended nutritional intake), some fortified plant milks;; Fish (including white fish; haddock, cod, battered cod, fish fingers, crab); Eggs (2 eggs are around 1/3rd of your daily requirement); Bread; Fruit; Vegetables such as potato Seaweed is very concentrated and can contain excessive amounts (particularly brown seaweed such as kelp) Iodised salt Did you know?   Magnesium affects the body’s ability to absorb calcium. A magnesium deficiency may also worsen symptoms associated with Graves’ disease.  If you have or suspect you might have a magnesium deficiency, consider increasing intake of foods rich in it, including: Avocados Dark chocolate Almonds Brazil nuts Cashews Legumes Pumpkin seeds If you think your diet might not give your recommended levels, supplementation may also help improve the risk of hyperthyroidism. However, you must always consult your doctor before deciding to take any supplements. If you have or suspect you might have a selenium deficiency, consider increasing intake of foods rich in it, including: Brazil nuts; Seafood, such as shrimp, sardines, salmon, halibut, and tuna; Meats like beef steak, beef liver, ground beef, and ham; Eggs; Bread and cereal grains. If you think your diet might not give your recommended levels, supplementation may also help improve the risk of hyperthyroidism. However, you must always consult your doctor before deciding to take any supplements. If you have or suspect you might have a  Vitamin B12 deficiency, consider increasing intake of foods rich in it, including: Meat; Fish; Poultry; Eggs; Dairy Fortified products  If you think your diet might not give your recommended levels, a Vitamin B12 supplement may be necessary to restore levels to optimal levels. However, you must always consult your doctor before deciding to take any supplements. Did you know?   If you might be consuming excessive amounts of copper in your diet, you should consider reducing your consumption. Foods rich in copper include: Oysters Organ meat such as liver Spirulina Shiitake mushrooms Nuts and seeds such as almonds and cashews Lobster Dark chocolate Excessive sodium intake can also contribute to edema (swelling), which is common with Graves’ disease, which is why it is important to control salt intake. Hyperthyroidism can cause the bones to become weak and thin, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.  Ensuring your diet includes sources of Vitamin D and Calcium can help strengthen your bones.  Foods rich in Calcium include: Milk; Cheese and other dairy foods (some dairy products are fortified with iodine and may not be recommended); Green leafy vegetables – such as curly kale, okra Soya products with added calcium such as tofu or fortified soya milk or yoghurts Bread and anything made with fortified flour Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium from food more easily. Most of the vitamin D in the body is made in the skin through the absorption of sunlight. Foods rich in vitamin D include: Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel; Red meat; Liver; Egg yolks; Fortified foods such as breakfast cereals. If you think your diet might not give your recommended levels, you could consider a supplement especially for Vitamin D as we are not exposed to enough sunlight. However, you must always consult your doctor before deciding to take any supplements. Cutting down on smoking or stopping it altogether is a step you could consider. You can read more about how smoking affects other hormones here. Hyperthyroidism has been linked to an increased risk of developing mood disorders such as mood swings, anxiety and depression.  If you think you might be struggling with any of the following, you can try speaking to those you love and trust about your feelings. Sometimes being open about our emotions with people we know is not always easy, and you can always consider seeking professional help from a mental health professional.  If you are struggling to conceive and have just been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, you can read more about how fertility impacts your mental health here.  If you think you might be struggling with handling your emotions and stress during your fertility journey, our counsellor care pathway is here to allow you to express your emotions freely, help you make the right choices, and support you throughout your journey. If your medications might be impacting your thyroid hormone levels, your doctor will generally […]

7 ways your diet can help manage menopause symptoms-image

7 ways your diet can help manage menopause symptoms

As a woman progresses through the stages of menopause, it is very likely that body weight will fluctuate. Nutrition and diet can play a big role in managing menopause symptoms. Eating a healthy diet can help to reduce hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and weight gain. It can also help to improve energy levels and sleep quality and importantly reduce your risk of associated health conditions such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease which can result from low levels of oestrogen. During menopause, a woman’s body goes through a number of changes, including:

Stress and Periods: How Stress Affects Your Menstrual Cycle-image

Stress and Periods: How Stress Affects Your Menstrual Cycle

Stress is a natural part of life and impacts us almost on a daily basis. Whilst a small amount of stress can actually be good for us (believe it or not), chronic stress and burn out can end up negatively impacting almost all of our body’s processes—including our menstrual cycles. In this article we’re going to cover exactly what stress is, the science behind it, how it can impact our periods and some top tips for managing stress and mitigating its impacts.

Hormones and Smoking: How is it Affecting Your Health?-image

Hormones and Smoking: How is it Affecting Your Health?

It’s a well-known fact that smoking can have a negative impact on health, with both active and passive smoking being associated with multiple forms of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Despite this, in the UK, as of 2019, 28% of men and 22% of women aged between 25 and 34 years are current smokers, according to published health data in England (1)—and a whopping 175 million people assigned-female-at-birth (AFAB) smoke worldwide. But whilst smoking’s effects on the heart and lungs are fairly common knowledge, fewer people are aware that it can also influence the body’s hormones. But how exactly are hormones and smoking linked? We’ve explored the facts. Did you know? Studies have shown that nicotine therapy and attempts to quit smoking may be less successful in AFAB individuals (2). Does smoking affect hormones? Despite lack of public awareness, there is plenty of research that shows how smoking can impact and even wreak havoc on our hormonal health. The chemical components of cigarette and cigar smoke can disrupt the normal functioning of our bodily systems, including the endocrine system. The endocrine system is a network of glands which influence the production, secretion and regulation of hormones throughout the body, such as the hypothalamus, thyroid, adrenal gland, and even the ovaries.  This disruption might lead to lasting effects on all kinds of hormonally regulated processes, including sexual function and reproductive potential, our metabolism and even our sleep.  As mentioned, both active and passive smoking (also known as second-hand smoking) can cause these nasty effects, with some research even indicating that prolonged exposure and inhalation of cigarette smoke can even affect the onset of menopause (3). Did you know? There are over 4,000 substances in cigarettes that display reproductive toxicity. How does smoking affect different hormones? Smoking has been linked to abnormal changes and fluctuations in various hormone levels, including: Let’s take a look at each of these in detail.. Smoking and testosterone Studies have consistently shown that smoking increases testosterone in AFAB individuals, with those who smoke having higher serum testosterone levels in their blood than those who don’t (4).  This is because smoking is inherently pro-androgenic, meaning it has a positive effect on androgen hormones like testosterone. Increased testosterone levels can bring on side effects such as excess body hair growth (hirsutism), acne, greasy hair and skin, irregular periods and low libido. The main reason for smoking’s pro-androgenic effects lies with nicotine. As tobacco is metabolised, the nicotine within it produces a compound known as cotinine, which inhibits testosterone breakdown (17). However, it’s interesting to note that similar studies performed on ageing men have indicated that, over a long enough timespan, smoking can actually reduce testosterone levels in those assigned-male-at-birth (AMAB) (16). Smoking and oestrogen As well as being pro-androgenic, smoking is also anti-oestrogenic, which means it has a negative effect on oestrogen levels. Studies have shown that women who smoke have  lower progesterone and oestrogen levels in both their blood and follicular fluid (the fluid which surrounds the developing egg, important for egg growth) (2,5).  Smoking even affects the conversion of androstenedione to oestradiol by cells within the eggs (2). This switch is mainly driven by the effects smoking has on the production of these hormones.  As well as negatively affecting oestrogen production and metabolism by your liver, smoking increases the levels of a hormone called sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) which binds to oestrogen—preventing it from performing its essential functions around the body. Symptoms of low oestrogen can include low libido, fatigue and negative mood changes. Smoking and gonadotropins Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH) are both gonadotropin hormones. These are hormones released from the hypothalamus (a part of the brain) to regulate the menstrual cycle and induce ovulation.  Unsurprisingly, smoking has been found to affect gonadotropin levels as well. Studies have shown that habitual smokers tend to have higher levels of FSH and LH in the first half of their cycle and during their periods, than non-smokers (6,7).  Disrupted FSH and LH levels can lead to problems with both fertility and menopause. Smoking and Anti-müllerian hormone Anti-müllerian hormone (AMH) is produced by granulosa cells within the ovarian follicles. It’s used as an indicator of ovarian reserve, sometimes referred to as egg count. Research has shown that smokers generally have lower AMH levels. One study in particular found that current smokers have  44% lower AMH levels than non-smokers (8), indicating that smoking can be directly toxic to the eggs within the ovaries. Another study showed that, in smokers, the fluid produced by the granulosa cells (known as follicular fluid) also contains increased levels of harmful nicotine toxins (9). Did you know? Chemicals derived from cigarettes and smoking have even been detected in the cervical mucus (10). Smoking and thyroid hormones Cigarette smoke has been found to have both inhibitory and stimulatory effects on thyroid hormones. Both active and passive smoking have been linked to decreased levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and increased levels of free thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) (11,12).  Because the thyroid gland plays an important role in the regulation of many different bodily functions such as growth and development, disruption in thyroid level can have huge knock on effects all around the body. The thyroid can also affect fertility.Smoking is consequently a known risk factor for thyroid-related disorders, especially Grave’s disease and Goitres (13,14). Smoking and prolactin Prolactin is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain and is most commonly associated with milk production and altering breast physiology, but it also has a number of different roles throughout the body.  Chronic long-term smoking has been found to be associated with decreased prolactin levels (14), which can cause irregular menstrual cycles, difficult breastfeeding and negative mood changes. Smoking and cortisol Smoking has also been linked to increased cortisol levels in the blood. It also affects hormones involved in the production of cortisol (2), which can disrupt the regulation of its levels.Cortisol is a hormone released by the body in reaction to stress, leading to what […]

Alcohol and Fertility: Drinking While Trying to Conceive-image

Alcohol and Fertility: Drinking While Trying to Conceive

If you’re trying to conceive, or beginning to think about starting a family, chances are you’ve probably recommended to stop, or at least cut down, drinking alcohol…  Not exactly the news most of us want to hear, but unfortunately alcohol consumption can affect our fertility (in both women and men) and therefore, our chances of conceiving. Although all alcohol can affect fertility, new research has indicated that in those assigned-female-at-birth, both the timing of alcohol consumption, in relation to where we are at in our menstrual cycles, and the quantity we drink can determine how bad it’s negative effects are.  But do we need to cut the vino out all together? Or is there space to find a happy medium? Let’s take a look at exactly how alcohol and fertility are linked and what the effects of drinking are at different stages of the menstrual cycle and conception.   Check your fertility Can you drink while trying to get pregnant? Does alcohol affect fertility? Female fertility and alcohol Why does alcohol affect fertility? Male fertility and alcohol Hormone tests for fertility FAQs Can you drink while trying to get pregnant? Any form of alcohol consumption may impact our ability to get, and stay, pregnant.  Less is known about alcohol’s effects on fertility and chances of conception than about its harmful effect on pregnancy, but overall the NHS currently recommends that alcohol should be avoided by women who are actively trying to conceive. This is to keep any possible risks to a baby that might be conceived to a minimum, as we may not know that we’re pregnant until a few, or more, weeks into a pregnancy.  If we’re drinking and do become pregnant, we may risk unintentionally exposing the baby to alcohol. Since there is no known safe level of alcohol for a developing foetus, the safest approach is to avoid it.  Additionally, as we mentioned before, alcohol will also affect our ability to get pregnant in the first place—so if we’re trying to conceive, it’s also best to reduce our drinking to a minimum. Does alcohol affect fertility? In short yes—any form of alcohol consumption has been found to affect both female and male fertility. Some studies suggest that even low to moderate alcohol consumption, which is classed as two drinks or less per day, can be associated with reduced fertility in both men and women.  However, there have been some recent studies that suggest in women, timing of alcohol consumption can play a part in determining its negative effects on our ability to conceive. Let’s take a look at female fertility and alcohol a little more closely… Female fertility and alcohol A recently published study by the University of Louisville was the first of its kind to investigate alcohol consumption’s effects on fertility during different phases of the menstrual cycle. Whilst researchers observed a significant association between heavy drinking and a reduced likelihood of conceiving at all points during the menstrual cycle, light to moderate drinking varied significantly.  The study found that when participants drank in moderation, around 3-6 alcoholic drinks per week, during the luteal phase (the second half of the menstrual cycle, after ovulation), it resulted in a 44% reduction in the chance of conceiving compared to non-drinkers.  However during the follicular phase (the second half of the menstrual cycle, before ovulation) and during ovulation, only heavy drinking was associated with a reduced chance of conceiving. Light and moderate drinking during these phases did not impact the participants chances of conceiving compared to non-drinkers. So what does this mean for the average person? Basically, if we’re in the first two weeks of our cycle and we’re trying to conceive—it might be safe to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. However, everyone’s cycle is different and we will all ovulate at different times—literally no cycle is exactly the same.  If we’re trying to conceive and in the last two weeks of our cycle, it’s probably best to steer clear of the booze all together. Why does alcohol affect fertility? Although the exact cause isn’t known, it’s been suggested that alcohol disrupts hormone levels, which in turn, can have knock-on-implications for our fertility.  Studies have shown that alcohol intake is associated with an increase in levels of oestrogen, Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and  Luteinising Hormone (LH), in addition to a decreasing our progesterone levels. In those assigned-female-at-birth, disrupting just one of these sex hormones can disrupt the menstrual cycle and our ability to ovulate, thus reducing our chances of conceiving.  High oestrogen levels can also lower the chance of implantation—which is when a fertilised egg or developing embryo attaches itself to the lining of the uterus. If implantation fails, no pregnancy will occur.  Aside from its effect on our hormone levels, alcohol also negatively impacts our general health—which can lead to knock-on impacts for our fertility, making it harder to get, and stay pregnant, in addition to raising the risk for foetal conditions and other birth complications. Male fertility and alcohol Despite most conversations centering on female responsibility when it comes to fertility—it’s important to remember that male fertility is also affected by alcohol consumption.  Similarly to those assigned-female-at-birth, alcohol also disrupts the normal balance of hormones in men—including reducing testosterone levels, which again becomes more pronounced with heavy drinking over a longer period. Does alcohol affect sperm? A study of 1221 men in Denmark found that sperm quality decreased in men who reported drinking more than 5 units (around 3 small beers) of alcohol a week. This decrease in sperm quality became even more pronounced in men who reported drinking over 25 units of alcohol in a typical week (around 10 pints of beer). Can a man drink alcohol while trying to conceive? Although alcohol intake in men when trying to conceive will not harm any possible pregnancy that may occur, as mentioned above, it will likely affect their sperm quality, and thus, their sperm’s ability to fertilise an egg. Tips for reducing your alcohol […]

16 Lifestyle Tips to Help Boost Fertility-image

16 Lifestyle Tips to Help Boost Fertility

1. Follow a Mediterranean style diet Whilst there are no specific guidelines for a recommended fertility diet, the Mediterranean diet, known for its abundance of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish and healthy fats, is associated with improved fertility in both women and men. It is rich in antioxidants which have been shown to protect sperm and eggs from DNA damage and oxidative stress. A study involving 15,396 participants, which looked at how different diets affect fertility, showed that sticking to the Mediterranean diet improved birth and pregnancy rates significantly, with a 91% higher chance of success. This diet is also high in fibre and rich in vitamins and minerals that support fertility and pregnancy. Think lots of veg, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, olive oils, avocados and oily fish. Oh, and make sure to make your plate colourful to boost your antioxidant intake, which we’ll go into next. 2. Eats foods high in antioxidants Eating a diet rich in a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables can provide a wide range of antioxidants that support fertility and overall health. Foods high in antioxidants include fruits (such as berries, apples, and citrus fruits), vegetables (such as broccoli, spinach, kale, and carrots), nuts, seeds, and whole grains. 3. Increase intake of plant-based proteins In general, you should focus on lowering your intake of red and processed animal meats and focus on adding plant-based protein sources into the diet, such as fertility-friendly and micronutrient-rich beans, lentils, peas, soya beans, and chickpeas to support healthy ovulation. Plant-based protein sources are high in antioxidants and nutrients, such as iron and fibre, which are really important during pregnancy.  Low iron levels can add to your tiredness or even could cause iron deficiency anaemia. Iron deficiency during pregnancy can increase the risk of pregnancy complications. It is also important to keep your iron uptake up postpartum too, to replace any iron lost at birth.  You can switch your animal meats out for plant-based proteins such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu and nuts and seeds and you’ll also find some protein in whole grains such as quinoa  If you are opting for plant-based meat alternatives (‘fake meats’), such as Quorn, a choose a brand that is not ultra-processed and low in additives 4. Cut down on sugar Cutting down on sugar can be beneficial for fertility due to its impact on reproductive health, including hormonal balance, insulin sensitivity, and inflammation. Limit sugary foods and high glycaemic index foods  (i.e. cakes, biscuits, fizzy drinks, energy drinks, sweets, white rice etc). Check the labels for high sugar content as sugar can cause spikes in insulin which is associated with poor egg quality and sperm production and could affect implantation A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2018 found that women who consumed two or more servings of sugary drinks per day had a 50% higher risk of ovulatory infertility compared to those who consumed less than one serving per month. Excess sugar consumption can interfere with normal ovulation and menstrual cycles. Reducing sugar intake and opting for a balanced, low-glycemic index diet can help improve insulin sensitivity and overall reproductive health. 5.  Take pregnancy supplements Folic acid: Folic acid is an important supplement during pregnancy because it decreases a risk called neural tube defects (a defect that can occur during the development of the baby’s brain and spine). If you are currently trying to become pregnant, it is advised to take at least 400 mcg of folic acid supplement every day for 12 weeks prior to conception and for at least three months after conceiving. Some people are at an increased risk of their baby having a neural tube defect and so it is advisable to speak with your doctor as they may recommend and prescribe you a higher dose.  Prenatal Vitamins: Prenatal vitamins typically contain a combination of various vitamins and minerals that are important for both maternal and fetal health. While folic acid is a main component of prenatal vitamins, these vitamins usually contain a range of other nutrients as well, including iron, calcium, vitamin D, and other essential vitamins and minerals needed to support maternal health and the baby’s development during pregnancy. Tip: More often than not, doctors will suggest taking prenatal vitamins instead of just folic acid supplements because they cover a wider range of needs for both mum and baby’s health. However, it’s essential to consult with your doctor to determine the most appropriate approach for your unique needs.  6. Vitamin D for pregnancy  A previous study has shown that both men’s and women’s vitamin D levels impact fertility and IVF results. It showed that Vitamin D supplements reduce risks for mums and babies, might prevent bone problems, and play a role in fetal development.  How much Vitamin D should I take? It is recommended that all adults at all stages of life should supplement with 10 micrograms a day of Vitamin D. This is particularly true if you are trying to conceive, or you are pregnant so be sure to supplement right through from the preconception period to breastfeeding.  Prenatal vitamins often contain vitamin D, but the amount can vary between different brands. While many prenatal vitamins include vitamin D, it’s not uncommon for them to provide less than the recommended daily intake.Whether you need an additional vitamin D supplement will depend on various factors, including the dosage of your prenatal vitamin supplement, sun exposure, and your doctor’s recommendations. To determine if you should take a separate vitamin D supplement along with your prenatal vitamins consult with your doctor and determine the above factors. 7. Vegan supplements If you’re on a strict plant-based diet, speak to a healthcare professional about supplementing with at least 10mcg of vitamin B12, 150 mcg of iodine and omega-3 PUFAs since you can only get these micronutrients from animal products. You’ll also want to make sure you’re getting enough selenium, so consider supplementing with 60 mcg per day. Lots of these nutrients […]