by Dr David Knight MBBS MD MRM CMan FRANZCOG
The most important factor affecting a woman's fertility is her age, however health plays a pivotal role in a women's ability to conceive. While some health conditions, including endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome will impact a women's ability to conceive, for those with no prior health conditions having a balanced diet and regular moderate exercise to maintain a healthy weight is encouraged to give the body its best possible chance of conceiving.
Top tips for good health:
- Consume a balanced diet (rich in fibre, folate, lycopene and fruits and vegetables), while minimising the consumption of highly processed foods.
- Polyamines (found in fermented foods) are essential for growth and cell proliferation and to help keep the body healthy. Increasing polyamine consumption is important as we get older and lose our ability to produce the enzyme.
- Following a Mediterranean diet, that is not calorie restricted and high in vegetable fats like nuts and olive oil is linked to decreased all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
-There is no documented scientific evidence that shows the consumption of organic foods increases fertility.
- Evidence now supports the consumption of soy products to increase chances of conceiving. A recent study showed women who consume more than 20mg of soy isoflavones a day, have twice the background pregnancy rates compared with women who consume minimal amount of isoflavones. The compounds are amongst the most potent naturally occurring plant antioxidants and have been shown to concentrate in the fluid in the follicle growing the egg.
- Moderate physical activity can increase the ability to conceive. However, excessive exercise can negatively alter energy balance in the body and affect the reproductive system.
Debunking popular fertility myths:
1. Timing of sex or -trying' – having sex on the day of ovulation does not increase the chances of conception. In fact, it may decrease a woman's chances as many wait for ovulation before having sex, which may cause the to bypass their most fertile window. Instead, I tell my patients to have regular intercourse 2-3 times per week starting after your period stops and NOT monitor ovulation or use temperature graphs.
2. Coital position affects the chance of conception – Regardless of the position taken, sufficient sperm are deposited in the net of the womb and are able to begin their journey towards the egg.
3. Potency is improved by 'saving up' semen through infrequent intercourse - Abstaining from sex in order to accumulate sperm so that more are deposited during sex will not increase your chances of achieving conception. In fact, the stored, older sperm may be of inferior quality and even hinder the newly produced, healthier sperm from reaching the egg.
4. Lubricant makes it easier for sperm to slip, slide and get inside - Most lubricants change the pH or acid balance inside the vagina, and that in turn may affect sperm motility and ultimately prevent, or at least reduce the chances of a pregnancy occurring. Using natural vegetable products, such as olive oil, is less likely to cause sperm any serious problems.
5. Low level libido, failure of female orgasm inhibits conception - A woman does not need to achieve an orgasm in order to conceive. Continually trying to ﬁnd the right time to have sexual intercourse may place a strain on a couple's lovemaking and this in turn may hinder their chances of getting pregnant!
Lastly, it's very important not to forget the impact of the male partner in the fertility equation! The good news is that following a healthy diet provides outcomes that apply to men just as much as they do for women. Consumption of food rich in fiber, folate, lycopene and fruits and vegetables increase sperm quality and ample antioxidants are highly beneficial for overall fertility.
Dr David Knight, MBBS MD MRM FRANZCOG CMan MASRM
Dr Knight is a Medical Director, Fertility Specialist, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Demeter Fertility. With a history of innovation, he is a pioneer of Mild Ovarian Stimulation in Australia and one of Australia's most experienced fertility specialists.
He achieved the first Australian pregnancy using the new Double Stimulation approach, and has developed the Over40s Program, an extension of his two decades of work with dietary and supplements effects on human reproduction. Committed to a patient-centred approach, he's a leader of a state-of-the-art clinic that continually strives to maximise patient well-being. Dr Knight is proud of the IVF success rates that he and the Demeter Fertility team are able to achieve, especially for those women over 40!