Mamahood & Me

Lifestyle Factors

Lifestyle Factors

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Choosing to eat food that will supply you with all the nutrients your body needs is just one element of a healthy wholistic lifestyle.

Incorporating other changes can help give the highest possible support for conception. The following are other factors that will all help towards a healthy pregnancy.

 Sleep

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Research has shown that quality and quantity of sleep can affect fertility.

During the hours you are sleeping the body is managing a host of activities including removing toxins, repair, and regulating hormones. One important hormone released while the body sleeps is melatonin. Not only does melatonin play an important role in when we wake and sleep, it is critical for optimal female reproductive hormone function. As good sleep affects all the key fertility hormones, a lack may lead to difficulty in becoming pregnant. Women who average a healthy amount of sleep each night, about 7 – 9 hours, had FSH levels (a hormone that is essential for reproductive processes) as much as 20% higher than women who averaged six or fewer hours per night. This relationship existed regardless of a woman’s age or BMI.

With the advent of the technological age, the body can become very confused from light pollution and this affects sleep cycles and melatonin production. In general it is recommended that women sleep between 7 and 9 hours each night. There are a few things that can be done to help improve quality & quantity of sleep:

  • Sleep in a darkened room, i.e with blackout blinds or curtains.

  • Try to have a cut off point when phones are turned off. The blue light from smartphones suppresses melatonin hindering the brain's ability to register it’s time to sleep. If you need to look at your laptop later in the evening (sometimes we have to!) then try f.lux - a software that adjusts the light from your computer with the time of day. 

  • Try to make your bedroom a bit of a sanctuary, with no computers or TV screens. Indulging in a really good book is a great way to wind down and get to sleep. 

  • Drinking a relaxing drink that contains lavender, valerian, limeflower or camomile an hour or so before bed can help you unwind and sleep (remember to empty your bladder before going to bed!). Pukka teas have a great selection. 

  • Magnesium helps improve our sleep, so having an Epsom Salt bath in the evening where magnesium can be absorbed through our skin, can be added to your evening ritual. 

  • Alcohol and caffeine interrupt our sleep cycles, so avoid alcohol completely if you can and try not to have caffeine after 1pm. Don't forget caffeine is found in chocolate too! 

  • Feeling less tired, more energised, and waking before your alarm clock are all signs that you are getting enough restorative sleep. 

Minimising Stress

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Stress releases hormones such as cortisol, which will affect the balance of hormones in the body and this includes the hormones that play a part in conception. In some cases this can lead to suppressed ovulation in women, and reduced sperm count in men,with lower libido in both parties. Stress can come from a number of factors, work issues, money, time restrictions, social pressures and day to day concerns.

There is a great analogy about stress which involves thinking of the brain as a jug filling up with water -  at some point you must stop and release the water. The same can be said for your stresses and worries,  at a certain point you need to stop and release them or it may become very difficult to deal with even the smallest of tasks. How this is achieved is different for everyone, but here are some suggestions:

  • Everything seems a little easier when we feel energised, so start with trying to achieve that magic 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

  • There are many great apps out there now that can help with relaxation or even teach the basics of yoga. Have a look and see if any of these interest you and can help reduce your stresses, or have a look and see if there are any classes locally where you can also meet likeminded people.  

  • Find time to take regular walks somewhere you feel happy and comfortable. That could be in a local park, the beach, forest or countryside. Taking walks not only contributes to the amount of exercise we are getting each day, but it also helps boost our mood through the release of endorphins. 

  • We all have days when we feel a little low. However if you are feeling overwhelmed perhaps at work or home, or you have a lot of stresses in your life, it can help to write down these worries and concerns or even speak to a professional. 

  • Positive time spent with friends and/or family can be a great stress reliever. 

Fast releasing sugars such as white bread, cakes, sweets and fizzy drinks stimulate the release of cortisol. On the contrary recent research suggests that eating high quality proteins and wholesome carbohydrates actually has a calming effect on the body, reducing the stimulation of cortisol. Nutsseedsbeans and lentils already contain both carbohydrate and protein and are therefore good anti stress foods.  

It is, of course, still possible to conceive whilst the body is stressed. But for a happier and altogether more enjoyable experience of pregnancy and childbirth, it makes sense to remove as many every day stresses as you can. It’s all about preparing yourself for a gentle transition into parenthood!

Body Weight

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Excess fat cells in the body can upset the hormonal balance of oestrogen and progesterone,by producing more oestrogen than is required. This disturbed balance of the two hormones can cause the progesterone hormone not to work properly in the body and ‘hold’ the pregnancy in the womb.

Similarly, if there is too little fat in the body, the hormonal balance may also be out of kilter.

Higher levels of male hormones are sometimes seen in female athletes who train very intensively and have a low body fat percentage, despite appearing perfectly healthy they may have trouble conceiving due to an absence of ovulation. When a very low body weight is created through calorie restriction the result can be a deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals which may prevent a pregnancy being successful, in addition it can cause menstruation to cease (amenorrhea). 

A healthy body weight can be achieved through a balanced diet. Help with this can be sought through a nutritionist.