Friday, 24 September 2010 11:30
When we’re young, most of us focus so much on not getting pregnant, we don’t think to wonder if we’ll be able to when we want to. But infertility is more common than you think, striking one in eight U.S. couples. Whether you’re trying to become pregnant now or hope to conceive down the road, there are some simple, science-backed steps you can take today to help enhance your fertility naturally. These tips work for every woman—whether you’re contemplating kids or your family is complete, like mine—because the health benefits extend way beyond boosting your baby-making abilities. Oh, and did I mention they might even enhance your love life? Now, that’s something to get excited about!
*Practice, practice, practice!
Weekly sexual intimacy appears to regulate your monthly cycle, as well as delay the decline of estrogen as we get older, both of which can enhance fertility, according to research by Winnifred Cutler, Ph.D., founder of the Athena Institute in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania. More estrogen is also linked to increased bone density, a healthier cardiovascular system, lower “bad” cholesterol, higher “good” cholesterol and a milder menopause. After all that, what are you waiting for—consider this permission to get busy!
Having a body-mass index greater than 25 can increase the likelihood of a whole host of health troubles, including polycystic ovary syndrome, which disrupts your menstrual cycle—and may derail your plans for getting pregnant without complications. Aim for a BMI between 18.5 and 25; calculate yours at Self.com.
You know smoking stinks for your lung and heart health—and now studies show that it can also raise your risk for early menopause. Toxins in the cancer sticks can disrupt ovulation, but the good news is that quitting today can help preserve your fertility. For new ways to kick the habit, talk to your M.D. or visit SmokeFree.gov.
*Hit the hay
Some infertile women have been shown to have low levels of leptin, a hormone that affects hunger and weight regulation. Leptin levels drop if you fall short on zzz’s, so try to log 7 to 8 hours tonight and every night.
Chemicals in home products can impair fertility. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are flame retardants in some tech toys, plastics and fabrics, and a study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives reports that women with high PBDE blood levels took twice as long to conceive as those with lower levels. The chemicals may alter thyroid function and disrupt sex-hormone levels. PBDEs leach out and linger in dust we breathe and touch, so use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and wash your hands often to rinse away any residual toxins.
*Ace your exams
Sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammation and scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can lead to infertility. Practice safe sex, of course, and see your ob/gyn annually to monitor your reproductive health.
*Don’t rule out ice cream
All you ice cream lovers, take heart: Full-fat dairy foods (like cheese, ice cream and whole milk) may help you get pregnant, a study from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston finds. A fat-soluble compound in dairy may up your odds of conceiving. Pass the spoon!
Once recommended only for pregnant women, folic acid (400 micgrograms a day) is now considered good medicine for all women of childbearing age, says Mark Gapinski, M.D., an ob/gyn at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Illinois. We use the B vitamin to make and maintain new cells in skin, hair, nails and throughout the body. Found naturally in lentils (360 mcg per cup) and leafy greens like spinach (260 mcg per cup), folic acid prevents miscarriage and birth defects.
By Lucy Danziger
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