Real stories: How I increased my fertility and fell pregnant with PCOS naturally
When I read this blog post by Brigitte Warne from @pcos_to_wellness, I instantly wanted to share it with you. There is SO much information about the way food and lifestyle can help with fertility it can be overwhelming. But Brigitte's account is not only super inspiring but full of helpful and easy to implement information.
(And for those who aren't at a place where fertility is on your radar, fertility doesn't just have to be about baby-making. Fertility is about so much more. It's about your overall health, because ladies, our menstrual cycle is a vital sign, so this is a great way we can support our hormone health.)
Thanks Brigitte for letting me share your beautiful story. Enjoy! :)
How I increased my fertility and fell pregnant with PCOS naturally
First off, let me start off by saying that no matter what you have heard, it is possible to fall pregnant with PCOS. #truth
In fact I was told point-blank by my doctor that due to my PCOS I wouldn't be able to fall pregnant naturally.
Well, if you follow me on Instagram @pcos_to_wellness you will know that in March last year I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy Flynn. And YES, despite what my doctor told me he was conceived 100% naturally. (ahhhhhhhh my heart fills with joy and pride every time I say that!!!).
Now, it is no secret that fertility issues are becoming more and more prevalent, and sadly PCOS is the number one cause of infertility in women in the world. (Not a great statistic I know, ekkk!)
I know that infertility and trying to conceive can be incredibly stressful, BUT it is soooo important to remember that there are MANY things we can do increase our fertility, regulate our menstrual cycle, and even increase the quality of our eggs in the hopes of increasing our chance of falling pregnant.
In fact according to research, food and lifestyle changes alone can actually help to boost fertility by up 69%. THAT'S ALOT!!
So whether you are just starting to think about having a family, are currently undergoing fertility treatments, or you have been trying to conceive for some time, please don’t lose hope.
There are soooo many things you can do to help increase your chances of falling pregnant, no matter what path you take!
So here it is!
A list of of all my favourite fertility-boosting tips (as well as few things to avoid!) to help you on your way to optimal fertility…and hopefully a little miracle baby of your own!
Choosing organic foods is one of the first and foremost steps I took to helping to increase my fertility.
Pesticides (and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals) are often found on/ in many of our foods and are known to disturb normal endocrine functions.
These chemicals can have a negative impact on fertility.
On top of this pesticides contain a special chemical, known as “Organophosphorous”, which is a powerful neurotoxin. Exposure to this neurotoxin may cause damage to an unborn baby’s brain and nervous system development.
Organic foods also have many other benefits such as being rich in antioxidants, which act as a barrier against free radicals, and are necessary for cellular health and enhanced egg and sperm health.
So if you have the option, always try to opt for organic- your body (and your future baby) will thank you for it. I also stick try to stick to organic, whole food, plant-based diet as much as possible.
Improve blood flow & oxygenation
Healthy eggs and female organs require oxygen-rich blood flow, so it is so important to get that blood flowing and moving through your body to avoid congestion and stagnation (which can hinder your chances of optimal fertility)
Your blood flow can decrease if you do not exercise regularly, drink enough water etc.
Some great ways to improve your blood flow and oxygenation around your body include:
- Drink at least 8 glasses of water every day.
- Exercise regularly: walking, hiking, yoga, pilates, swimming and so forth.
- Get fertility or abdominal massages
- Apply warm heat packs to your abdominal area
- Fertility acupuncture
Take care of your gut health
Studies had found that dysbiosis caused by poor diet lead to an increase in gut permeability. This can lead to toxins being leaked into the bloodstream which can affect the immune system, lead to the interference of insulin levels and affect normal egg and sperm development.
A study by Tremellen and Pearce (2012), found that leaky gut and the inflammation response was a common cause of PCOS. Insulin disruption was the most common cause of menstrual disruption and problems associated with normal ovulation, hormonal imbalances and fertility issues.
There are several things you can do to help support your gut health including:
- Reduce the consumption of refined sugars
- Increase water consumption (0.033xkg of body weight)
- Eat foods containing healthy bacteria such as natural yoghurt and fermented foods
- Chew your meals slowly
- Take a pregnancy-friendly probiotic
Support your liver
Our liver plays a vital role in keeping our hormones balanced. It is needed to break down and remove excess hormones from your body. Unfortunately, if your liver is all blocked up from the excess toxins it is exposed (these can be through foods, environmental aspects, endocrine-disrupting chemicals and even toxic beauty products) then its ability to function optimally is compromised and thus cannot remove excess hormones (particularly estrogen) at a normal rate.
Some ways to help support your liver include:
1. Increase fibre intake which helps to remove excess hormones and toxin our bowels
2. Reduce alcohol, processed foods and caffeine
3. Reduce exposure to xenoestrogens and endocrine-disrupting chemicals
4. Eat foods that cleanse your liver. ie cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, avocados, and turmeric
5. Consider taking a liver support supplement or herbs that help to support the detoxification process.
Include anti-inflammatory foods
Anti-inflammatory foods (including turmeric, colourful veggies, dark leafy greens, blueberries, pineapple, celery, beets, cruciferous vegetables, wild salmon (if you eat meat), avocado, coconut oil, fermented vegetables and probiotic foods etc) are known to help lower inflammation and can help to improve your fertility!
Excess inflammation is known to be a root cause of a variety of imbalances in the body, including having a serious impact on your fertility. Several reproductive disorders such as PCOS are often accompanied by chronic inflammation, which can significantly reduce your ability to conceive and maintain a healthy pregnancy, so make sure you try to include anti-inflammatory foods into your diet!
There is extensive research showing that acupuncture can help to reduce stress and release feel-good endorphins, regulate your menstrual cycle and improve blood flow to the ovaries, uterus and endometrial lining. Many TCM practitioners also believe it can enhance your overall fertility and thus increase chances of falling pregnant. So if its something you have considered make sure you do your research, find a great practitioner and make sure you let them know you are trying to conceive.
Get to know your Cervical Mucus (CM)
Just before ovulation, your cervical mucus becomes clear and slippery, like an egg white. This creates the best environment for sperm to travel through the cervix – it’s your body’s natural way of telling you it’s the best time to get busy and try to make a baby!
After ovulation, your cervical mucus changes again, becoming thicker with white or yellow colouring, making it harder for the sperm to get through to the cervix.
Learning how to track your CM is a fantastic and easy thing to do, and something I would highly recommend if you are trying to fall pregnant.
Eat good fats
Healthy fats such as Omega-3s are vital for your reproductive system and help in regulating hormones, promoting ovulation, increasing cervical mucus and improving blood flow to the uterus.
Eating food high in good fats, like avocados, can act as nutrient boosters for your eggs!
Studies have also shown that consuming a certain quantity of monounsaturated fats in the form of avocados during the IVF cycle increased the success rate by three and a half times, compared to women who didn't consume the same quantity of monounsaturated fats.
Without fats our hormones can not function, so make sure you consume enough each day is paramount for optimal hormone health!
Take a good quality prenatal vitamin
Prenatal multivitamins help ensure your body is getting all of the nutrients it needs to facilitate healthy egg development.
Look for vitamins made from 100% whole food as opposed to synthetic multivitamins, as well as having the nutrients in their most bioavailable form.
Although most prenatal's contain up to 40+ vitamins, here are a few of the essentials (that are not always in every prenatal, or in the right forms) to get the most out of your prenatal vitamin:
Methylated folate (L-5-MTHF): Due to a common genetic mutation (known as the MTHFR) affecting more than 60% of the population, many women can not readily absorb synthetic folic acid. The methylated version of folate is one step further down the metabolism process, making it easier for the body to absorb. You’ll need at least 600mcg daily.
DHA Omega-3: DHA/EPA omega-3 fatty acids are necessary building blocks for brain and eye development. Aim for at least 1400mg of total combined omega-3 fatty acids.
Choline: Is critical for brain development and nervous system function. Approximately 90 to 95% of pregnant women consume less choline than the daily recommended amount of 450mg, and it’s often not found in most prenatal supplements.
Iodine: Requirements for this essential mineral also greatly increase during pregnancy and postpartum, and are necessary for optimal thyroid and hormone health. Make sure your prenatal has at least 150mcg.
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol): Vitamin D3 is essential for maternal well-being and baby’s immune function, healthy cell division, and bone health. The best way to get Vit D is through a little safe sun exposure, otherwise seeking out a supplement with at least 600 IU of vitamin D.
Antioxidants: Antioxidants can also help boost fertility as they actively shield your eggs against radical damage. Free radicals can damage your eggs down to the cellular level, impacting your ability to get pregnant and carry out a healthy pregnancy.
Folic acid improves the health of eggs, so experts always recommend consuming folate-rich foods. Foods rich in folic acid include beef liver (if you eat meat), white rice, asparagus, spinach, black-eyed peas, avocado, broccoli, brussels sprouts, romaine lettuce and broccoli. Bok choi and kale also contain calcium and magnesium, helping your body to make efficient use of progesterone and oestrogen.
It is important to note here that many women with PCOS are often deficient in folate so you may want to look at supplementing with methylfolate as I mentioned above.
Read more about why this is important here.
Herbs for fertility
I am a huge believer in medicinal herbs, and honestly think they were a huge part of my PCOS, fertility journey.
So much so I created Cysterhood tea, which combines all my favourite hormone balancing, detoxifying and fertility boosting herbs.
Some of my top herbs for fertility are :
Alfalfa leaf - Known to help the body detoxify for optimal hormonal balance and prepare the body for conception. High in vitamins and minerals. Helps in reducing vaginal atrophy and dryness.
Raspberry Leaf - Known for its ability to help increase fertility. It is thought to be effective in clearing out any congestion and blockages in the ovaries and uterus, to keep everything moving and functioning.
Spearmint leaf- Great for women with PCOS who have high androgen levels as it is scientifically proven to help lower testosterone levels and helps to increase Luteinising Hormone (LH)Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) by around 15%.
Nettle leaf- HelpS to support liver function and process hormones effectively, and helps to reduce excess male hormones such as DHT.
Eat a bigger breakfast
I know fasting is very on-trend these days, but when it comes to fertility eating a substantial and balanced breakfast is needed to provide your body with sufficient energy to keep your endocrine system in a balanced state. Some studies have even shown improved ovulation and fertility in women who regularly ate a larger breakfast.
Stress impacts your body in so many ways, including egg quality and ability to conceive. When you are regularly stressed out your body produces prolactin, cortisol and other hormones that can deter your body from regular ovulation and hence its ability to successfully conceive. Easier said than done, I know! But if you can, find time each day to do something for you. This might be a walk outside, a massage, seeing a friend, going to a yoga class, meditation, go offline for an hour, have a bath etc.... I fell pregnant while on a holiday so I will be the first to say I think stress plays a huge role in our ability to conceive.
And don't forget, it is OK to take a break from trying to conceive!
Be open with your partner about how you are feeling, and get informed about your options. Knowledge is power and will help you feel more in control of your situation.
Yoga for fertility
Studies show that yoga can help reduce stress, which as we know greatly affects fertility.
Some experts also believe that specific poses can help increase the chance of falling pregnant by increasing blood flow to your pelvis, stimulating hormone-producing glands, and releasing muscle tension.
Some of my favourite yoga poses for fertility are:
- Fish pose
- Goddess pose
- Legs up the wall
- Frog pose
- Butterfly pose
Remember, it can take time.
Many women who are experiencing hormonal imbalances (including PCOS) and are having trouble getting pregnant are often told by their doctors that there is nothing they can do because their eggs are not ‘healthy’, or are “too old” and are left feeling like there is nothing they can do to help this.
HOWEVER what many women do not realise (and is often not explained to them) is that fertility and egg health CAN be improved, but it will take time.
In fact, when it comes to egg health it is going to take at least 90 days.
This is because it takes 90+ days before an egg reaches full maturation, so throughout this time, the egg can be affected by both healthy and unhealthy influences.
It is really important to remember that even if you do everything you can to improve your fertility, it still may take 90+ days for the effects to start working - especially if increasing your egg quality is what you are working towards!
So please, don’t give up hope until you have given your body time!
Now that we have discussed things that can help to improve fertility, here are some things you may want to consider avoiding for optimal fertility:
Soda: Artificial sweeteners present in soda can cause inflammation and metabolic changes, both causing fertility issues. On top of this, their packaging may also contain some toxic chemicals that should be avoided
Trans fats: Trans fats can lower fertility due to their potential to cause inflammation and insulin resistance. Excessive consumption of trans fats may damage your blood vessels and even decrease sperm count and quality.
Extreme diets: Extreme diets are often lacking in nutrients, or way too high in others. Extreme diets can place a large amount of stress on your body and can have the potential to interfere with ovulation/fertility. A well-balanced plant-based diet rich good fats, protein and fibre in the diet that helped me to fall pregnant and keep my hormones balanced.
High-glycemic index foods: High-glycemic index foods result in sugar spikes leading to inflammation, hormonal imbalance and disturb ovulation. Therefore, avoiding such foods is a good idea to increase your fertility.
Excess alcohol: Alcohol consumption has been linked to infertility and excessive alcohol consumption should be avoided if trying fall pregnant.
Pasteurized Dairy: Pasteurized dairy promotes the prostaglandins that trigger inflammation. However, if cutting it out completely is too much for you may be able to tolerate goat cheese, milk kefir, or yoghurt (plain & organic).
Too much caffeine: Caffeine, can interfere with fertility has been linked to an increase in the chances of miscarriage. Limit or eliminate coffee intake to ensure optimal fertility.
Industrial oils: Watch for these in processed foods that are high in omega 6 and are highly inflammatory and should be avoided. These can include soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, sesame oil and rice bran oil.
I hope this post is helpful and gives you some positive inspiration when it comes to increasing your fertility and falling pregnant.
As always, please remember this is my journey, and what has worked for me.
If you are considering making any big changes to your diet/ lifestyle, or you not sure which herbs/ supplements are right for you please consult with your health practitioner first.