Misconceptions About Fertility
The Five Misconceptions About Fertility
By Dr Amanda Waaldyk, Angea Fertility, Acupuncture & Yoga
There is a misconception surrounding exercise and conceiving.
Most of the women who walk through Angea’s doors are highly stressed, over-exercised individuals. Their bodies are literally screaming out “nourish me, please be kind to me”. Most of these women believe that a lot of exercise is healthy for them and that no exercise at all is not. This is true, to a certain extent, but when it comes to fertility, the exercise regime needs to change.
The human body is designed to move and no exercise should leave us feeling tired, sluggish and unmotivated. For the most part, the things that keep the body healthy also support fertility. Exercise regulates body weight, but also balances hormones, increases self-esteem and helps manage stress levels, all influencing reproductive health.
When we exercise intensively, all our blood gets diverted away from the uterus to support our extremities and feed our big muscle groups, such as our quadriceps, when in fact we need all the vascular blood flow to go directly to the uterus.
Interestingly, in Western medical books the uterus is described as a “non-essential organ”. However, when it comes to making babies it is the most essential organ. In Chinese Medicine, the uterus is called “zi gong”, which translates to “The Women’s Palace”. The uterus is the essence of our female reproductive system.
After you menstruate you can increase your intensity in exercise. However, after ovulation we recommend easing off the intensity and keeping it simple and nurturing. We need to nourish and feed an embryo if we wish to create potential for implantation and life. Gentle exercise such as walking, restorative yoga, fertility or Yin yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong are the best forms of exercise post ovulation.
It can sometimes be very difficult to get your head around not exercising the way you’re used to. What you need to remember is that to become a mother, we need to learn to nourish and look after ourselves before we can look after a child.
1. I THINK MY PERIOD COMES EVERY 28 DAYS...
As women, we can spend most of our fertile years trying not to fall pregnant. As a result we have lost our connection to our bodies. There are even period apps on our phones that can tell us how long our cycles are or when our periods are due to arrive and finish.
Understanding your menstrual cycle is the first step to understanding your fertility.
A normal menstrual cycle is considered 28 lunar calendar days.
Even though we talk about a 28-day cycle, only 15 per cent of women actually have a 28-day cycle.
For many women their cycle can vary between 24 and 35 days.
Each and every woman is unique and carries her own menstrual pattern. However, put a group of women on a retreat together and it is not unusual for them all to start menstruating together, even it their period isn’t due for weeks!
There are four phases in the menstrual cycle.
Each phase relates to a dynamic change within the female body.
With each phase different hormones are triggered and this causes the body to respond in different ways. Modern physiologists describe the menstrual cycle in terms of hormones made by the ovaries (oestrogen and progesterone) and their actions on the follicles, the tubes, the endometrium (lining) and the uterus. In Chinese Medicine we talk about the involvement of Qi and blood with the influence of Yin and Yang.
The ability to conceive starts with the pituitary gland, located beneath the brain, stimulating the reproductive system with two hormones: follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).
FSH and LH are chemical messengers from the pituitary to the ovaries. The ovaries carry the lifetime supply of eggs. Each egg is encased in an ovarian follicle.
On average each woman will ovulate around 487 times during her lifetime.
2. HAVING HEAPS AND HEAPS OF SEX AND FOLLOWING THE GREEN TIME ON MY PHONE WILL GET US PREGNANT
As discussed above, knowing your body and menstrual cycle is key to conceiving.
Let’s step back a little so you can understand what goes into calculating the “best time” to have sex.
When I was 15 my Mum took me to see a natural fertility specialist. The natural fertility specialist sat me down and we went through my menstrual cycle. What she taught me has been so valuable in connecting with my menstrual cycle and knowing my body. I knew when to have sex and when to avoid sex. I have followed this principle my entire life and did the same when conceiving both Winnie and Fredrick. I now have the best job in the world, which is teaching woman to connect back to their bodies and cycles.
The million-dollar question is, when is the best time to have sex?
The answer of course should be simple, but sometimes it’s not. It doesn’t help when there is so much information about when to have sex that your head becomes swamped and confused with an overload of information.
I am going to share with you what I have found to work based on a 28-day cycle. This is part of my Angea Method!
As discussed previously, we know that each woman’s cycle length is different. From personal experience within the clinic and my own journey, timing is of the essence. This is why it is so important to understand your own menstrual cycle. Following an app will not always give you the correct timing.
After your period has finished you want to be having sex regularly, but not every day as some people believe. Sperm get just as tired as we do! It is important that your partner’s sperm regenerates before you ovulate. Have sex a few times in your follicular phase.
Secondly, and equally as important, you want to have sex around your fertile 48-hour window.
The fertile window is only open for a 24-48hr period!
Optimally we want to capture the release of the egg down the fallopian tube. What we need to understand is, if your partner has poor sperm morphology or motility then we need to preserve his sperm for the right time of ovulation.
On a 28-day textbook cycle, you would ovulate on day 14.
TIP: Have sex on days 13, 14, 15 and 16.
3. CAN HAVING AN ORGASM HELP YOU CONCEIVE? TRUE!
Having an orgasm will help stimulate blood flow to your uterine lining, nourishing your follicles and your endometrial lining.
The importance of the orgasm dance.
It is important to orgasm on the day of ovulation. What happens at the time of an orgasm is really magical. When our cervix is stimulated, it scoops down and picks up more semen. This speeds up the process and lessens the risk of the sperm dying out in the ocean of conception. An orgasm picks up those swimming sperm and gives them a definite advantage. The sperm’s long journey from the cervix up into the fallopian tube can be a faster process upon orgasm. Bring on the pleasure I say!
There is no delicate way to say it, but if you can’t orgasm through penetration you need to finish the job off yourself. This can be messy but also satisfying at the same time. It is very important to become familiar with your body and be comfortable exploring yourself if you want to enhance your chances of conception.
Sperm can live in the vagina for up to five days if the environment is hospitable. If your body is highly acidic because you have been eating and drinking the wrong food, you will find your cervical mucus will repress this ability and in most cases the sperm won’t survive.
This is why what you eat and drink throughout your cycle is so important and why it is imperative to have sex on the days of ovulation!!
4. MY SPERM IS AWESOME
The truth about men’s sperm.
I wanted to raise awareness on this topic as it has affected many of my clients recently. It takes two to tango!
The data is finally out about the quality of men’s sperm. The truth is male factor infertility is on the rise and the quality of men’s sperm is on the decline.
In 2010, the World Health Organization published and revised its reference values for semen analysis. In fact, it lowered its reference values, determining that the quality of men’s sperm is decreasing. What’s more concerning is the value for determining sperm morphology has changed rather substantially. This is definitely not a good thing when it comes to fertilizing an egg.
It takes around 70 days for sperm (spermatozoa) to develop. The good news is that men are constantly producing new sperm. The not so good news is that because of the long development and maturation time of sperm cells, events in a man’s life such as binge drinking can have a far-reaching effect on the quality of his sperm. To be realistic you need to give yourself three months of clean living to produce what I call “healthy or improved sperm”.
What happens in the magical testes is really quite amazing. Men produce individual sperm from a cell called spermatogonium. The spermatogonium then divides to produce spermatocytes, which then develop into spermatids. The next process is really important when it comes to having good swimmers! Take note: the spermatids then develop their tails and then gradually acquire the ability to move by beating their tails. The spermatids then eventually develop into mature spermatozoa, otherwise known as sperm. This maturation process takes a whopping 60 days and then the sperm take another 10-14 days to pass through the ducts of each testicle and their sperm-maturing tube, the epididymis, before leaving the body in the semen during ejaculation. So you can see that it takes almost three months to produce new sperm.
5. WHEN I STOP THE PILL MY PERIOD WILL COME BACK STRAIGHT AWAY
At Angea we see a lot of women who are under the impression that when they stop the pill their period will return the following month. In some cases this is true, but for some women it may take a few more months for things to return to normal.
The body has its own natural rhythm and cycle and when we take the pill it inhibits our hormone receptors and disrupts this natural process. The pill’s synthetic hormones convince the body that an egg has already been released.
Essentially, the pill contains oestrogen and progestin hormones, which function to decrease the follicular (FSH) stimulating hormone and the release of the luteinizing hormone (LH). This prevents the egg from being released but also thins the endometrial lining.
If you have been taking the pill for a long time, our endocrine (hormonal) system can be completely unbalanced. It can also be masking other conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis.
At the clinic we recommend you have a pelvic ultrasound once you’ve stopped taking the pill. A pelvic ultrasound will help reveal the health of your uterus and also allow us to see what is going on hormonally, for example, the thickness of your lining, if there are any cysts, etc.
Acupuncture is amazing at helping to regulate your hormones and return your cycle to its natural rhythm.
At Angea we see a range of women’s health conditions and fertility issues. We can help demystify any questions regarding your fertility or menstrual cycle. We teach women how to connect back with their bodies, mind and spirit. Come and visit us for some acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine or yoga.
Find out more about Amanda and her team at Angea Acupuncture and Yoga here. Nourish Melbourne Members, you save 20% off your treatments at Angea, plus you also save on all women's health yoga at Angea - including fertility and women's health yoga, prenatal yoga, post-natal yoga and Mum's and Bub's yoga.