The hard work is worth it

Changing your habits is HARD– it’s hard to change what you eat, to make time for regular exercise, and to prioritize your well-being. But it’s absolutely worth it!

So many patients with infertility tell me they feel powerless and hopeless.  I want to empower you to believe that there are some things that you can do to boost your fertility. And it starts with taking care of yourself.

Your weight is very important for your health and your fertility. So important that we have discussed it here, here, here, and even here. It’s a recurring topic on the blog because it’s important and it is, unlikely your age, something that you can change.

A study was recently published that the hard work that is needed to lose weight is worth it. Women who consumed fewer calories and started exercising were much more likely to lose weight, ovulate on their own, and get pregnant compared to people who didn’t make these changes.  A combination of fewer calories by reducing fat and refined carbohydrate intake, and increased aerobic exercise is the cornerstone of healthy weight loss.

 

What you can do

  • Do something, ANYTHING for exercise 30 minutes, 5 days a week.
    • Consider using a fitness tracker or pedometer like FitBit
    • Schedule your workouts when nothing will interrupt your session. Make your fitness a priority.
  • Take a closer look at your diet and what you can cut out easily. Consider an app like MyFitnessPal.
    • Start by eliminating refined carbohydrates found in juices, sodas, and sweets
  • Don’t get discouraged. Any step is a step in the right direction.
  • Talk to your doctor for more information about local support groups and fitness programs in your area.

Vitamin D: why you need more of it

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We are learning more and more about the important role that Vitamin D plays in terms of our fertility. We have previously discussed the role of vitamin D and your sleep/wake cycle in terms of optimizing your health. Recent studies have added to this to demonstrate just how important Vitamin D is when trying to conceive.

Vitamin D may improve your ovarian reserve, a marker of how many eggs women have compared to others their age. Vitamin D may help support your ovarian function.

Similarly, women with higher vitamin D levels, are more likely to conceive than women with low vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D may also be important for treating hormone imbalances, particularly if you have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). If you are undergoing fertility treatments like IVF, Vitamin D may even help decrease your risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) and prevent dangerous complications from OHSS.

Why not consider taking a vitamin D supplement to boost your fertility naturally?

 

What you can do:

  • Ask for your vitamin D level to be checked annually when you are trying to conceive
  • Consider starting a supplement of at least 2000 IU of vitamin D to help support ovarian function
  • Target a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level of >50 nmol/L to enhance your fertility

Keeping plastics out of your kitchen

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We have previously reviewed the negative impact that chemicals in plastics may be having on our health and fertility. One of the best ways that we can reduce this exposure is in our kitchen. When food is stored or heated up in plastic, the dangerous chemicals can leach into the food that we ingest. These chemicals can then interact with our endocrine system and cause disease.

When I first started considering my exposure to plastics, it felt like an impossible uphill battle. By starting in my kitchen, the task of reducing plastic exposure felt more manageable. I started by removing all plastic storage containers and making sure that we do not heat up food in plastic.

Here is a quick article that I thought I would share to help reduce your plastic exposures at home in the kitchen. I hope this helps you find reasonable solutions for limiting your plastic exposure in your home.

Are hand sterilizers making you “sterile?” The impact of triclosan on ovarian health

At a recent trip to Target, I realized just how many things are labeled as “antibacterial.” But what is antibacterial, anyways? And why do we need it?

“Somehow, through marketing or misinformation, we’ve been led to believe that if we get rid of bacteria, we’ll improve our lives and our health. In fact, the opposite is probably true” –Dr. Martin Blaser  In fact, to date, there is no evidence that washing your body and home with antibacterial products does any good compared to old fashioned soap, water, and scrubbing!

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Triclosan is an anti-bacterial compound added to personal care products like soaps but it is also added to plastics found in toys and medical devices. Triclosan is so common that the majority of people in the US population are exposed to this chemical; triclosan exposure is real and widespread.

Breaking news this week reveals that triclosan may target the ovary and make it harder for a woman to conceive.  This group investigated whether ovarian reserve, a marker of how many eggs a woman has and how she might respond to fertility treatment, was different in women with high levels of exposure compared to those with lower levels of exposure. They found that antral follicle count, a marker of ovarian reserve, decreased as the triclosan levels increased. Perhaps even more concerning was that this relationship became even stronger in lean and young women, suggesting that this may contribute to reduced natural fertility and could lead to a need for fertility treatment at a younger age.

Other studies have found similar concerning results: women with higher levels of triclosan exposure take longer to conceive when compared to women with lower levels of this chemical. Triclosan is also associated with lower oocyte yield in couples undergoing IVF. Similarly, triclosan has been found to disrupt implantation of a pregnancy and alter placental function, leading to pregnancy complications in animal models.

The good news is that the FDA is banning the use of triclosan in antibacterial soaps, effective next month (September 2017). Way to go FDA! Thank you! Unfortunately, manufacturers can still add this chemical to dish soaps and toothpaste.

What you can do:

  • Reduce your exposure. Avoid purchasing anything labeled “antibacterial”.
  • Use bar soap and water, instead of hand-sanitizers.
  • Avoid toothpastes that include triclosan, such as Colgate Toothpaste
  • Read here if you want to learn more about triclosan and how to reduce your exposure

 

 

Be Kind to Yourself

One of the best parts of my job, is getting to know individuals and hearing their “story.” I love learning about occupations, interests, and their goals for a family. I spend a lot of time listening to my patients so that I can fully grasp all that my patients have been through leading up to their visit with me.

I have to be honest: I’m saddened by how hard my patients are on themselves. There is so much unnecessary blame and justifying in fertility. For example, a common thing I hear can be something like the following: “I love coffee, but after trying to conceive for so long I gave it up. I miss it but I’m willing to give up anything in order to prove that I’m ready for a family.” Does this sound familiar to you? First off, you can drink coffee. Secondly, please try to be kind to yourself.

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Research suggests that kindness and mindfulness will not only help you cope with fertility struggles, but may even improve your outcomes. Unfortunately, this important step is often overlooked in many fertility clinics. I try to address the potential benefits these practices may have with my patients.

As a self-diagnosed perfectionist, I will be the first to admit that I have very high expectations that I set for myself. When I fail to meet a certain goal that I’ve set for myself as a physician or a mom, I beat myself up about it. My advice to you: try kindness instead. Pretend a friend told you the exact same story. How would you react to your friends’ tribulations?

Life is stressful and that won’t change, even once you get pregnant. We can’t control the stressors in our life but we CAN control how we react to them. So please, consider being kind to yourselves and help me support you through this fertility journey.

Common chemicals in shaving cream and soaps tied to poor semen quality

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Men are often unaware of how their personal care products may be limiting their fertility potential. Several studies have focused in on a common ingredient called parabens. This is a commonly used preservative in shaving creams, soaps and cosmetics–and is known by a variety of names including “methyl-parabens and propyl-parabens.”

Another study has now found that this chemical can not only disrupt healthy hormone levels but actually contribute to potential sperm damage. Specifically, they found a higher incidence of sperm with abnormal shapes (called teratospermia”) as well as a higher incidence of sperm DNA damage.

Since shaving involves scraping the skin–this daily activity provides a very unhealthy opportunity to absorb this hormone-disruptor. So consider switching to products that are “parabens-free” or certified organic.

Coffee, Tea and Fertility: time to re-evaluate an outdated concept

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As both a physician and researcher, I have come to realize that it is much more difficult to dispel a popular belief that is wrong than it is to prove a new finding. A classic example is the popular notion that coffee and tea are harmful for women trying to conceive. Both are drinks created from small trees/shrubs—coffee is made from the seed (not bean) of the plant Cofea Arabica whereas tea is made from the leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis. Interesting, both are now known to have a growing number of health benefits. In fact, both—when served unsweetened—regularly appear after water as the “second healthiest beverage” to consume in moderate quantities of 3 to 4 cups per day.

Both coffee and tea contain various plant produced antioxidants as well as health promoting polyphenols and flavonoids. Coffee has been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and tea is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. Both are linked to a longer life expectancy. In fact, in 2016 the Nurses Health Study demonstrated that moderate coffee consumption may even protect DNA—potentially slowing the effects of aging and possibly even optimizing fertility. So where does the negative reputation of these beverages come from? I link this myth to obsolete observational studies and the concerns that they raised about caffeine consumption.

Here’s what the current information shows:

 

Bottom line is that these low calorie, plant based beverages may have some health and fertility boosting benefits. Any risk from them is not associated with mild to moderate daily consumption.

Stay informed,

~Robert

Robert Greene, MD, FACOG

Conceptions Reproductive Associates of Colorado