Understanding Fertility Basics
Whether you’re looking to become a fertility coach or you’re doing research for your own fertility journey, it’s important to have a strong foundation of knowledge to best support a healthy pregnancy. A Google search can easily lead you down a rabbit hole with information from unqualified people. And the amount of information available can quickly become overwhelming.
I’ve compiled some of the foundational basics of fertility in one place that can act as a compass for your journey, regardless of where you are on the path.
The Basics of Fertility
Support Egg & Sperm Health
The overall health of eggs and sperm are integral for getting and staying pregnant. Fortunately, there are ways you can support healthy eggs and sperm without medical intervention. Before incorporating any of these upgrades to your lifestyle, it’s important to check with your medical provider to ensure they are a good fit for you.
Both sperm and egg health can be supported with a diet rich in folate (from foods like leafy greens, beans, and whole grains), B vitamins (from foods like grass fed beef and free range chicken), Vitamin D (from salmon, eggs, and natural sunlight), and melatonin (from tart cherry juice). Though you can get these vitamins from a supplement, I always recommend a food first approach. However, I often recommend supplementation of CoQ10 for sperm and egg health. Finally, it’s important to limit exposure to toxins, especially BPA and phthalates, which are often found in plastics. I encourage the people I work with to use glass or stainless steel when possible, especially for drinkware and when cooking, storing, and reheating food.
Understand the Female Cycle
The female cycle is so much more than just a monthly period. In fact, a woman’s cycle is broken down into four phases that all play a role in fertility. This is a simplified version of what occurs during each phase.
Follicular Phase (7-10 days): This phase occurs after menstruation and involves an egg ripening or maturing in the ovaries.
Ovulation Phase (1-4 days): In this phase, a mature egg (sometimes more than one) is released from the ovary into the fallopian tube.
Luteal Phase (10- 14 days): Right after ovulation, the body enters the luteal phase. If fertilization has occurred, the zygote begins to make its way to the uterus for implantation. If not, menstruation will occur.
Menstrual Phase (3-7 days): The lining of the uterus is shed and bleeding occurs for those who are not pregnant.
Know the Signs of Fertility
Our bodies are constantly in communication with us. We can learn a lot just by tuning in to the signs our bodies are giving. This includes signs of fertility!
Basal Body Temperature: A basal body temperature is the body’s lowest temperature attained during rest. This can be taken with an oral digital thermometer (I love this one!) immediately after waking. It should be taken around the same time each day for the most accurate charting.
The body’s temperature dips before an ovary releases an egg. Temperature will then rise and stay high until menstruation or continue to stay high if there is a pregnancy. Charting over time (there are apps for this!) will help you notice patterns in your ovulation window (usually between days 12-15 of your cycle).
Cervical Mucus: Cervical mucus is used to help transport sperm and keep it alive on its journey to fertilize an egg. The consistency of a woman’s cervical mucus varies throughout the cycle. During ovulation, the mucus resembles an egg white consistency, which is ideal for a sperm to swim to meet an egg.
Cervical mucus may not always be ideal for fertility, but can be improved with an alkaline diet (lots of fresh produce, legumes, nuts and seeds), hydration (at least 64 oz per day), Omega 3s (try incorporating chia seeds, flax, and fatty fish) and Vitamin E (from foods like almonds and sunflower seeds). Seed cycling can be especially helpful for supporting healthy cervical mucus. You can learn more about this here!
So, there you have it! The very basics of fertility that capture so much of what’s going on “behind the scenes.” Though the journey to conceive can feel complicated, I find that going back to these basic principles can make everything feel much more manageable. You can find more trusted resources for fertility on my podcast (be sure to check out this episode on busting fertility myths!) and on Instagram.
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