NATURAL FERTILITY by Kirsten Alexander

Being in tune with our bodies, following the moon and noticing daily body changes can determine our fertility days. Here's how to do it.
GO WITH THE FLOW For women trying to get pregnant, there's probably nothing more stress-inducing on the planet than the failure to do so. If you want to optimise your fertility, taking better care of your body is a good first step; but what else can you do to improve your odds of having a baby? There are a number of factors that impact on fertility and your chance of having a healthy pregnancy and baby. Attention to the moon, your lifestyle and changes in your body can improve fertility and your chance of having a healthy child. YOUR FERTILE WINDOW Knowing when you are most fertile and making sure you have sex during the right time can improve your chance of getting pregnant. The best time to try and conceive is during the 'fertile window' of the menstrual cycle; this is different for different women. Pregnancy is technically only possible during the five days before ovulation, through to the day of ovulation. These six days are the 'fertile window' in a woman's cycle, and reflect the lifespan of sperm (5 days) and the lifespan of the ovum (24 hours). The probability of pregnancy rises steadily until the two days before and including the day of ovulation. At the end of the 'fertile window', the probability of pregnancy declines rapidly and by 12-24 hours after she ovulates, a woman is no longer able to get pregnant during that cycle. Knowing when ovulation happens is critical when you want to get pregnant because the window of opportunity to conceive is fairly small every month. If all this seems too complicated, an alternative is to have sex every two to three days. That way all bases are covered without getting too technical about when the chance of conceiving is greatest. Keeping a menstrual calendar can be helpful for most women, even those not thinking about pregnancy. The goal of keeping track of your periods is to determine the length of the menstrual cycle and extrapolate the probable timing of ovulation. There are many tools available to help you in keeping a menstrual calendar. A quick Google search will reveal countless online calculators and mobile apps you can use. Alternatively, you can go with less technologically advanced methods, like marking a calendar on the first day of your period, or wearing a bracelet with beads that you can move according to where you are in your cycle. Though met with scientific scepticism, some studies have shown that peak rates of conception and ovulation appear to occur at the full moon or the day before. By nature, women are lunar. Is it coincidence the lengths of our menstrual cycles are synced up with the waxing and waning of the moon? If your menstrual cycle is a regular 28 days, you'll likely sync up with the moon's cycle and menstruate around the new moon, and ovulate around the full moon. The idea is, if a woman's hormonal cycle is in sync with the moon, the time between the new moon and the full moon is when oestrogen increases, ultimately culminating in ovulation at the full moon. While your body may not already be in harmony with the moon, there are particular things to keep in mind, and practices that can help regulate your cycle. REGULATING CYCLES When nutrition and sleep levels are chronically low, your body will prioritise survival over reproduction. For improved hormonal function, the goal should be to keep blood sugar as steady as possible. A 'real food' diet made primarily from whole foods is ideal, with limited amounts of highly refined grains and sugars. It's a great idea to include high-quality protein at every meal and snack, and plant foods like vegetables and fruit should make up the bulk volume of the diet. Healthy fats should be consumed at each meal as well. Calorie intake can be an even greater predictor of menstrual cycle function than a woman's body fat percentage. Science has shown the conscious restriction of calorie intake in an effort to achieve or maintain a certain body weight is a risk factor for menstrual cycle disturbances. You can use a calculator to estimate your daily calorie needs based on your current activity levels. You may be surprised to find that you're eating much less than your body needs, which could be negatively affecting your menstrual function. On top of adequate calorie intake, for many women, a moderate carbohydrate intake is important for regular menstrual function. A range of 20 to 50 percent of calories from carbs is ideal for improving fertility, depending on your primary underlying issue. The ideal body fat percentage for recovering menstrual function varies among individuals. Most health professionals agree that the level of 'essential' body fat in women is about 12 percent, so if you are lower than that, you absolutely need to gain fat to recover normal body functioning. Exercise is important for fertility, and the trick is to develop a workout schedule that allows for enough, but not too much, movement. Intense exercisers often have very low body fat, which can diminish hormone levels and prevent the uterus from building up a lining. Avoid exercise styles that make you anxious or overly stressed emotionally, which could exacerbate the physical stress of training. Your fitness activities should be enjoyable and make you feel better about yourself when you leave. It's no secret that stress impacts your menstrual cycle and your chances of falling pregnant. While occasional stress might throw off a single cycle, chronic stress actually changes your hormonal profile and can have a long-term impact on menstrual function. Adding regular stress management techniques to your daily routine is a crucial part of regulating your menstrual cycle. Regular meditation and yoga are two of the easier mind'body practices that can get you feeling better fast. Having regular bowel movements and a healthy digestive system is crucial to good hormonal function. There's a two-way street between hormonal balance and gut function. To rebalance your gut flora, increase your consumption of fermented foods, as well as vegetables of all kinds. Both starchy and non-starchy veggies contain components that help feed beneficial gut flora, and fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, and kombucha provide live gut bugs that can help boost the diversity of your gut flora. Be sure to work with a professional if you need extra help normalising your digestive system. Sleep and sleep disturbances are increasingly recognised as determinants of menstrual function. The underlying cause for this is the disruption of the circadian rhythms, which drive the cyclical nature of hormone release and are primarily disrupted by inappropriate light and dark signals. To get your circadian rhythms on a normal pattern, avoid bright and artificial light at night and get plenty of sunshine during the day. Set a regular sleep schedule and go to sleep well before midnight. Our modern environment is full of chemical toxins; in our food, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and in cosmetics and hygiene products we put on our bodies. Many of these chemicals have the ability to affect our hormones. While we can't completely avoid these hormone-damaging toxins, we can significantly reduce our exposure to them. Being conscious of the cosmetics, products and food we choose will go a long way in helping to avoid unwanted toxins. BE NATURALLY YOU Learning about yourself and the way your body works will go a long way in alleviating unnecessary stress during this important time. You are genetically engineered to bring life into the world so get in touch with your body, your flow of energy and your environment in preparation. As women, we must honour our yin nature in order to 'go with the flow' ' in body, mind and spirit. DID YOU KNOW: Women are born with between one and two million immature eggs in their ovaries? Most of these follicles die as women grow up, and only about 400 ever mature. TOP 6 ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS TO AVOID: 1.     Pesticides: found on non-organic fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy and unfiltered tap water 2.     Formaldehyde: found in air fresheners, deodorants, floor polish, upholstery cleaners 3.     Bisphenols: found in plastic containers and can leach into food and water. 4.     Organic solvents: petroleum based liquids found in household products, electronics, car repair, health care, photography, agriculture, printing, construction and cosmetics and many more. 5.     Dry-cleaning chemicals 6.     Paint fumes Occasional exposure to one or the other toxic chemical is not of concern. What is of concern is accumulation of these chemicals over a long period.

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