23 May Vegan Fertility
Thinking of becoming pregnant? Concerned about vegan fertility ?
Make sure your diet is up to scratch, says Gently Vegan’s Shonagh Walker, who grilled one of Australia’s leading fertility specialists, Dr. Raeywn Teirney, on all you need to consider when trying to conceive on a vegan, vegetarian or pesco-vegetarian diet.
Does following a plant-based diet improve your chances of conceiving?
It’s a question many of us are curious about. “As a doctor, I would traditionally recommend that anyone trying to conceive eat a balanced diet from all five food groups,” answers Dr. Raewyn Teirney, founder and creator of the holistic, vegan fertility kit, Conceive Please. “However, I fully respect and acknowledge that everyone has their own reasons for and beliefs associated with what they eat and certainly the clean-eating associated with a plant based diet will help. With this in mind, I’d say that yes, you can definitely fall pregnant and enjoy a healthy pregnancy if you’re on a fully plant-based diet, vegetarian or pesco-vegetarian – you just need to ensure both the man and the woman in the couple are getting their RDI of essential nutrients.”
Fare for Females
For women trying to conceive, the most important nutrients are folate, vitamin B12 and iron. “Folate-rich-foods include broccoli, leafy-greens like spinach, chick peas, lentils and beans,” says Dr. Raewyn. “You’ll find plenty of B12 in fortified-soy products like soy milk, tofu and tempeh and some breakfast cereals. Iron can be found in lentils, soy foods, grains, buts and seeds, but it’s important to include vitamin C to support its absorption. It’s also vital to get plenty of zinc, which you’ll find in the aforementioned foods, as well as wholegrains and complex carbohydrates such as oats and wheat germ.” Of course, antioxidants are of utmost importance, too, so reach for plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables and superfoods like spirulina, which can be added to smoothies or juices.
On the Menu for Males
“If men to want to improve the health and performance of their sperm, they firstly need to ditch processed foods as much as possible (this actually applies to us all),” says Dr. Raewyn. “This is especially true of processed meats like salami and sausages, which are not only really fattening and full of bad cholesterol, they are really detrimental for sperm health and fertility. Men also need to be eating lots of varying vegetables and fruits, preferably raw, as they are most nutrient-dense before cooking.” The exception here is tomatoes and capsicum, both of which are high in lycopene, which intensifies in these foods when cooked. “Lycopene is tremendous for sperm health and it really helps speed up its performance.”
Guys will go great if they get their RDI of zinc, vitamin E and their Omega 3 fatty acids, too, adds Dr. Raewyn. “The latter two can be found in nuts like almonds, walnuts and brazil nuts as well as flaxseed oil.”
Best for all to Avoid
Whether you’re trying to conceive or not, but especially if you are, Dr. Raewyn advises to avoid eating red meat more than once a week (for those of you who are still transitioning), smoking cigarettes, taking marijuana or illicit drugs in any form and the excess consumption of alcohol. Avoid processed foods and be mindful of how any prescription medications you might be on could affect chances of conception (chat to your GP at length about this).
“If at any stage you’re in doubt, see your GP, dietician, nutritionist or naturopath to discuss healthy and top-quality supplements to assist in conception as well as a healthy pregnancy and birth,” stresses Dr. Raewyn
When Things Become a Bit Stressful
We get it. Trying to conceive can become stressful, frustrating and somewhat clinical if it doesn’t happen for you straight away. Ovulation testing and timing of intercourse can really take the romance out of love making. To help you out, we’ve complied some tips advice on remaining relaxed, staying positive and keeping the romance alive in your relationship through the process of trying to fall pregnant.
1. Have more sex
Sounds self-explanatory, right? But the experts are suggesting it’s not just about having sex during times of ovulation. A recent study by Reproductive Resource Center – Kansas City IVF, suggested that having more sex outside the typical ‘fertility window’ may potentially increase a couple’s chance of conceiving. The theory is that it has to do with the relationship between immune system function and fertility.
In short, the immune system is designed to attack a foreign invader. The thinking is that in the case of sexual intercourse leading to pregnancy, that ‘foreign invader’ might conceived by the immune system as sperm or even the development of a foetus.
It might sound a bit far-fetched, but the study suggested that it might well be to the body’s advantage to get familiar with sex, and sperm, and the biochemical array that is produced as the result of sex. This then suggests that the immune system learns this is a safe and healthy activity, that these ‘invaders’ aren’t a threat, and will back off if anything results from intercourse. So, by having sex during non-fertile times, it may well pave the way for an immune system that supports conception.
2. Communication is key
How to spice up your love life in order to increase the urge to have sex? “Communication and moving the focus away from spontaneity would be valuable,” advises Sexual Health Counsellor and psychologist, Serena Cauchi (serenacauchi.com.au). “It is common for men to appear emotionally distant during these periods as they frequently keep feelings internalised. Often men do not have the same outlets to discuss their feelings as women do. It’s important for a couple to maintain and/or foster communication and to be sensitive to the issues each other may be experiencing. It may be beneficial to keep discussions with your partner about infertility to 20 minutes or less periods. This way you can prevent discussions of infertility and conception from dominating the space between you.”
3. Make your relationship the number one priority!
“Engaging in romantic and mood enhancing activities, like some of the exciting interactions you may have experienced earlier in your relationship, is a good way to maintain or recapture intimacy whilst trying for a baby,” advises Cauchi. “Where possible, try to foster sexual intimacy ‘outside of the bedroom’. Make date night a priority and explore other forms of intimacy like massage, taking a bath together, watching erotic movies and passionate kissing. Try and schedule some of these evenings away from ovulation and schedule time to see each other to have fun! Think of and engage in the activities that make you enjoy each other’s company. Planning for intimacy, particularly outside of ovulation, is a good tool to maintaining emotional closeness. It is important that a couple trying to conceive or even undergoing IVF remember to have love-making encounters, rather than solely baby-making encounters, and to remember that communication during this time is key.”
4. Consider Counselling
“It’s likely both parties in the couple are feeling frustrated if conception isn’t happening as quickly as you’d hoped,” says Cauchi. “The partner with potential fertility problems is likely to be feeling devastated, while the other may develop feelings of resentment and frustration. These feelings can negatively impact the relationship and need to be discussed openly and honestly and by doing so with a highly trained, professional third party can help you through extremely tough times.”
5. Don’t focus on the final act
“Too often, when trying for a baby, lovemaking becomes all about penetration only and all romance goes out the window,” notes Cauchi. “Concentrate on other sexual and sensual acts like kissing, touching massage and extended foreplay. It will make a huge difference in your relationship and bid for a baby.”
6. Get plenty of quality sleep
“Nobody wants to have sex when they’re super tired, so ensure you get plenty of sleep and you’re eating well, as well as getting regular exercise,” says Cauchi. “Side note: the fitter you are, the more you will feel like having sex, so perhaps you and you partner could adopt a ‘couples exercise routine, too. Exercise and fitness elevates your mood and if our mood is enhanced, you’re more likely to want to engage in love making.
Beauty and Lifestyle Director Shonagh Walker