While I may have just announced that I am expecting twins early in 2016, the truth is I am no fertility expert. In my case it appears to be a stroke of luck, the wish of the universe along with a family history of twins, likely to be linked to a faulty MTHFR gene, rather than my diet or exercise regime (it should also be said this happened even though a fertility doctor told me for $500 I had no eggs left 3 years ago). Specialist medical doctors with many years of experience and those working within tertiary fertility units know far more about the science of making babies than a dietitian or health expert should ever profess to. But in my private clinic I do see a lot of women who are having fertility treatments or trying to maximise their chances of falling pregnant naturally. Based on this, this is what I know:
1. Weight issues can play a significant role
Carrying extra weight can increase insulin levels over time. For some individuals, this can trigger or exacerbate the ovulatory issues associated with PCOS which can make natural conception challenging. Such a medical condition should not be managed by a naturopath or nutritionist. It needs to be actively managed by an experienced GP or endocrinologist who is up to date on the medical management of PCOS and the significant role insulin has in driving pro-inflammatory conditions in the body. So if you have PCOS, irregular periods or ovulatory issues, please make sure that insulin resistance is not an underlying factor.
2. Weight loss helps
Now I am not saying that you need to get as fit and lean as possible to conceive, in fact such significant stress on the body can work in reverse but anecdotal experience working with my PCOS girls who are medically managed has shown that even a 3-5kg weight loss can positively impact fertility. O if you are carrying extra weight, it can pay dividends to drop a few, the right way to naturally improve hormonal processes in the body.
3. Stress and energy levels are related
If you are chronically stressed, sleeping less than 6 hours a night, are gaining weight and feeling anxious, it is a good idea to have your bloods reviewed with your GP to ensure that stress is not impacting your body. While a small amount of stress is good for us, feeling chronically overwhelmed and tired is not, and can lead to hormonal disturbances which can indirectly impact fertility. So if you know you are burning the candle at both ends, get yourself a good GP for a thorough check up.
4. Gut issues can indicate bigger issues
Just a few weeks back I saw a 28 year girl who had been actively undergoing IVF for several rounds. After assessing her diet and having blood tests, not only did I pick up that she has chronically low Vitamin D levels but she had coeliac disease – a condition that left unmanaged could make conception impossible as the body fights against itself on a daily basis. So if you have unexplained bloating, constipation and other somewhat unexplained gut problems and are trying to fall pregnant, please see a dietitian who specialises in gut disorders and try to get to the bottom of it.
5. Sometimes there is no reason
As humans try and engineer lives more and more, we are constantly reminded of the things we have no control over including conception and fertility. Unfortunately there are some of us who do have medical issues that have prevented us from reproducing; some of us have left it too late and then there are some who conceive naturally at 46 or 48 years old. We will never know or be able to control all the outcomes but we can tick the basic boxes, seek the right medical advice and in some cases hope and pray for the best because you just never know, for better or for worse. And that is the wonder of life.