By Jessica L. Molleur
In the recent news, there has been a lot of conflicting information on the role of diet, exercise, stress, and fertility treatments for patients trying to conceive. Eat ice cream, don’t eat ice cream. Exercise more, exercise less. The truth is that a cookie-cutter treatment plan effective for all patients doesn’t exist. As an acupuncturist and integrative medical professional, I stress this point to all of my fertility clients so that they can begin assembling a supportive team that will help them customize a treatment plan. It’s important to find health care practitioners that will do the same for you so that you can discover your fertility formula. In the meantime, here are my suggestions for the Top 10 Things You Can Do to Boost Your Fertility NOW!
- Read a Book: It’s time to brush up on what you know about your body, sex, fertility treatments, and conception. That’s right-twenty years later you still need to take sex education. Although this time, you can do it the privacy of your home. Several wonderful books have been published about the above topics. A few favorites include Christiane Northrop’s Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and Randine Lewis’s The Infertility Cure. So, get out of those crazy fertility chat rooms and educate yourself. What you learn about your body will serve you for a lifetime and on your path to becoming a parent.
- Take Your Temperature: A basal body temperature (BBT) chart is a powerful tool. It involves taking your temperature every day at the same time and tracking the results. Your BBT chart will help you maximize conception, predict ovulation (or lack there of), and rule out various endocrine-related issues. To learn more about BBT charting visit www.tcoyf.com or pick up Toni Weschler’s book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility.
- Ask for Help: As you likely have discovered, it takes a lot of energy to create a baby and you literally can’t do it alone. My clients braving single parenthood will tell you that there are more people out there willing to help than one would ever imagine- even neighbors who are surprisingly good with time-sensitive injections. Your partner or village can act as your appointment coordinator, cook (see #5), workout partner (see #6), or hand-holder. You just need to begin by asking for their help.
- Do the Math: You may have read in fertility-related pieces that you need to “aim for a healthy weight”. Research has shown that women with a normal Body Mass Index (BMI) are the least likely to have difficulty conceiving. If you’ve never been a fan of math, visit: www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi and the website will help you calculate your BMI. It may be time to consider #5 if your BMI is out of range or if you are not ovulating and your BMI is at the low-end or high-end of normal.
- Find a Nutritionist: I feel that the book, The Fertility Diet: Groundbreaking Research Reveals Natural Ways to Boost Ovulation and Improve Your Chances of Getting Pregnant by J. Chavarro, W. Willett, and P. Skerrett was pivotal in clarifying specific diet factors to improve fertility. As you may have read, you should be eating less sugar, more foods of color, better sources of essential fatty acids, more vegetarian sources of protein, and possibly ice cream. Exhausted by this list? This is why you may need a nutritional counselor to help customize a nutrition plan and work out the real-life logistics of eating a healthier diet in a burgers- and-fries world. Additionally, if weight issues (see #4) bring any twinge of emotion, it’s time to get support and resolve the emotional underbelly of your dinner plate.
- Move Your Body: Once you have a good nutrition program, it’s time to move your body. Research compiled in the The Fertility Diet book has also shown that incorporating vigorous exercise (running, swimming, cross-country skiing etc.) for 30-minutes, 3-5 days per week, improves rates of conception. If your BMI is above average, experts estimate that you may need 45-60 minutes, 3-5 days per week. But don’t overdo it- too much exercise can work against conception if your BMI is low or below normal. If this is the case, choose moderate forms of activity less than the recommendation until you maintain a healthy weight.
- Try Acupuncture: Since 2000, studies have been showing that acupuncture regulates the endocrine system, increases the rates of IVF/ICSI, reduces the rates of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancies, and increases the rates of live births. Did I mention that it’s also good for stress? To find a licensed acupuncturist in your neighborhood, visit www.nccaom.org and ask about their women’s health and infertility experience. When you do become pregnant, acupuncture can help you with nausea, back pain, breached presentation, and inducing labor if necessary.
- Find an OB/GYN: This may seem like an obvious “to-do” but so often we pick a health care provider based on what our insurance plan offers, geographical convenience, or who happens to accepting new patients. Your relationship with your OB/GYN is one of the most important long-term relationships that will affect your health. Do your homework- ask nurses, physicians, coworkers, and friends for good referrals. Ask a few interview questions and don’t be afraid to “shop around” until you find a great fit.
- Get Counseling: Did you know that there are counselors specializing in fertility-related issues? Many fertility clinics offer individuals and couples free or reduced-cost services. Ask your circle of peers for a good referral before becoming isolated in the process and interview the therapist. Regardless of where you are in your journey, having the extra support can be crucial in helping you manage the physical and emotional demands of infertility.
- Join a Support Group: Connecting with a group of peers with a shared experience can provide you with great insight, an occasional laugh, and a form of support that goes beyond words. RESOLVE New England offers over 20 groups in our region. Support groups also exist in non-traditional formats such as Facebook pages, Meet-up groups, and Twitter handles.
Jessica L. Molleur, Lic.Ac., DNBAO is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and massage therapist in Massachusetts and California. She will be co-leading a workshop at the 2015 RNE conference. Jessica holds a Masters of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine from the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, CA. Her training also includes a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of California at Davis, CA. She is a National Diplomate of Acupuncture, Oriental Medicine and Chinese Herbology through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Following her acupuncture licensure, she became a Diplomate of Acupuncture Orthopedics. This orthopedic specialty certification is held by fewer than 300 acupuncturists in the United States. Areas of specialty include women’s health, infertility, and sports medicine. She is the owner of OMBE, an integrative health center located in Copley Square in Boston, MA. The eco-friendly center offers acupuncture, chiropractic, life coaching, massage, naturopathy, nutritional counseling, personal training, Pilates, and yoga.