Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse (or six months if the woman is aged over 35). It affects millions of men and women across the world and stats show as many as 1 in 8 couples find themselves unable to conceive. Fertility expert, Emma Cannon, explains how a few simple lifestyle changes may lead to positive change.
If you’re trying to conceive but find yourselves struggling, there are a few things you can do in your life that might make a difference. Diet plays a big role in fertility and often when couples are having problems conceiving – if a woman suffers from irregular and/or painful periods, or a man has issues with his sperm, for example – I would look for ways to address this by making adjustments to their diet.
I once had a patient who had failed four cycles of IVF due to the male factor. She and her husband were at the end of the road and sperm donation was the next step but she told me that her husband was like a radiator in bed. I removed all heating foods from his diet: coffee, spices, chocolate, red meat and alcohol and treated him with herbs and acupuncture. Four months later, they had IVF again and were successful – after nine years of trying. Improvements like this are normal in clinic yet patients are amazed. Give the body the right conditions and many health issues improve.
When you see patients, you see how wrong people get it: they put a teaspoon of turmeric in their smoothie yet continue to smoke 20 cigarettes a day. That isn’t how this works. People think they can live how they want and then ‘go on a detox’ and it’ll all be okay. But this is about making long-term sustainable changes. If you’re looking after your body in all ways, then a detox can be good – and I do believe in giving your system a rest every so often as it helps the healing process – but quick-fix solutions don’t encourage balance, which is what I am interested in.
When you see patients, you see how wrong people get it: they put a teaspoon of turmeric in their smoothie yet continue to smoke 20 cigarettes a day. That isn’t how this works. People think they can live how they want and then ‘go on a detox’ and it’ll all be okay.
Alongside exploring your diet and how it can be balanced out and made healthier, the next thing to look at, though this may seem strange, is your sex life. You would be amazed how little sex busy couples have, or they are having it at the wrong time.
Lifestyle plays an important role and it needs breaking down in more detail: how many hours do you work; where are the stresses (although some stress we can avoid and some we can’t)? I always get patients to ask themselves which stresses in their life are of their own making? We are all guilty of this. Change your diet if it will help and is central to the issue, but not if it will add more stress.
I always get patients to ask themselves which stresses in their life are of their own making?
And finally, I believe obsession and anxiety and fear are really big problems. The headlines in the papers put fear into the heart and wombs of women over 30 everywhere, so I give women a strategy and a plan to relax. Most have been going along aimlessly month after month so this immediately manages their stress levels.
Most of my patients have acupuncture. For me it is a brilliant way to get the body functioning optimally, it calms the mind, and there is a growing body of evidence regarding acupuncture and fertility. As well as improving blood flow to the ovaries and endometrium, it balances the hypothalamus and releases endorphins, which help the patient feel safe and relaxed – both vital to conceiving.
Protecting people and supporting them emotionally is a huge part of what I do. They have my number and I am accessible – but I also give people tools to help themselves.