12 festive fertility boosters
The festive season and new year often heralds a time for change, and this may be the time you're thinking about starting a family
Dr Venkat from the Harley Street Fertility Clinic has all the top tips on how you could give your fertility a kick-start during the Christmas season:
1. Get some exercise
There are so many benefits regular exercise has on your health. It lowers your blood pressure, lessens anxiety, helps with depression and encourages good sleep – all of which is helpful if you’re trying for a baby. That being said, don’t overstrain your body. Try for an optimum 30 minutes exercise a day and keep at a stable, healthy weight to increase your chances of conceiving.
2. Monitor your alcohol intake
Although there’s no harm in enjoying a drink or two, it’s important not to overdo it. There’s strong scientific evidence that too much alcohol can reduce fertility in both men and women. For men, drinking too much can reduce testosterone levels, leading to loss of libido. It can also damage the quality, structure and motility of sperm. For women, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can impact ovulation and menstrual cycles, which is essential for conception. If you don’t want to miss out on the holiday spirit, there’s no harm in sticking to two drinks with some water - and you'll avoid the horrendous hangover the next morning, too!
3. Stay hydrated
Although it’s very simple advice, making sure you drink at least two litres of water a day will help improve your chances of conception. Adequate water intake helps enhance the quality and amount of fertile cervical fluid, which is essential for protecting sperm cells and assisting their journey towards the egg. It also helps keep sperm cells alive for several days.
4. Feast on sprouts
Neema Savvides, a nutritionist at Harley Street Fertility Clinic, says this controversial ‘Christmas veg’ is a fertility superfood: "They're bursting with folic acid, which is essential for boosting fertility in both men and women. The vitamins found in sprouts can increase sperm levels and help line the womb with the right nutrients, raising sperm survival chances. Folic-rich food also helps decrease the risk of miscarriage and birth defects."
Get intimate with your loved one at least three times a week, advises Dr Venkat. After ovulation, an egg is only viable for about 24 hours, so if you are waiting until you ovulate to have intercourse, you could miss the opportunity to get pregnant that month. Since sperm can also live in your reproductive tract for 3-4 days, having sex two to three times a week means that when an egg is released there will be sperm waiting for it.
6. Winter sun
If you have the chance, escape for some winter sun. Or, if this isn't possible, one of the easiest way to get your daily dose of Vitamin D is to get outside and go for a walk. Increasing your Vitamin D intake is essential for increasing fertility. You can also improve vitamin D levels by including foods such as oily fish and eggs to your diet if sunshine is a tad scarce, suggests Neema Savvides.
7. Spruce up your roast veggies
Neema Savvides explains that beetroot can have the benefit of increasing blood flow to the muscles. It also contains nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels, allowing a rich supply of oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood to flow to the uterus and ovaries. This ‘opening’ of the arteries allows blood to flow more freely, which is also the reason why drinking beetroot juice regularly may help lower blood pressure and improve brain function. A delicious way to use beetroot baby beetroot is to roast it with some butternut squash or sweet potato, drizzle with a little rapeseed oil, scatter with fresh thyme, and cook for about 40 minutes.
8. Break the smoking habit
Or at least try and reduce your intake. Smokers are more likely to have fertility problems, and a heavy smoker’s risk of fertility problems is increased even more. When you smoke, more than 7,000 chemicals spread through your body, which hinder ovulation, damage eggs and sperm motility. Ask your GP to refer you to a stop smoking service if you need additional help.
9. Watch your diet
Although there’s no denying the utter deliciousness of a roast potatoes, too many starchy carbs can cause a surge of insulin in blood sugar levels, which is particularly bad for women who have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). Neema Savvides advises not to completely forgo the potatoes, but mix them up with various root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes (which are packed full of fertility-friendly vitamin C), parsnips, beetroot and squash to add a colourful and nutritional boost to your Christmas dinner.
10. Try to relax
For many people, Christmas is often a stressful time of year. Instead of getting wound up, try using the time to focus on family, friends and loved ones. Or enjoy some time off work, and relax or pursue your hobbies.
11. Snack on nuts
Nuts are bursting full of fertility-boosting properties. Chestnuts are one of the best sources of beta carotene, which is crucial for enzyme production for egg fertilisation, and essential for the healthy growth and development of the foetus. Chestnuts are also super rich in vitamin-C, which is known for enhancing sperm quality and protecting the DNA within it from damage, making conception more likely. They also contain hormone balancing fatty acids and magnesium. If chestnuts don’t do it for you, walnuts are an equally fantastic alternative, and eating around two handfuls of walnuts a day can improve sperm health.
12. Have a check-up
There's no harm in having a fertility MOT to see whether you think you might have a problem getting pregnant. It may even be worth getting it checked out before you start trying. Irregular periods, a family history of fertility problems or thyroid issues can in some instances highlight potential problems.