Fertility is one of the top concerns for women today, whether they are in their 20s or 30s, or now even their 40s. According to the CDC, over 10 percent of American women have impaired fertility – that’s over 6.7 million women.
At Parsley Health we take a holistic approach to fertility, which means we focus on optimizing your body’s overall health before you want to get pregnant.
Think of your pre-fertility year as an amazing opportunity to improve your overall health and well being. Now is the time to focus on you, reset, identify and address underlying health issues, and find your highest expression of balance. There is no better way to head into pregnancy than that.
Here is the scenario I see all too often: A woman in her 30’s has been on the birth control pill for years—often a decade or more—and then goes off, expecting to get pregnant easily, because her OBGYN told her there would be no problem.
The problem is, a woman’s cycle doesn’t come back immediately (it often takes up to 6 months for your menstrual cycle to regulate after you stop the pill.)
Then, she may discover hormone imbalances that have been there all along, covered up by the false period the pill creates. She may have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), fibroids, endometriosis, PMS, ovarian cysts or a centrally suppressed cycle due to high stress levels.
I also see many women whose irregular cycles are caused by food sensitivities. I had one patient, a chef, who suffered from migraines and infrequent, irregular cycles. As soon as we cut gluten and dairy out of her diet, her headaches disappeared and her cycles normalized.
And then there are women who have structural issues like a blocked fallopian tube that needs to be opened surgically.
Understanding the root cause of infertility is a process, and optimizing the body for a healthy pregnancy takes time. Unlike what many doctors will tell you, it can take months or even a year to prepare. This is why I recommend women who are thinking about becoming pregnant in the next couple of years work with a doctor that focuses on holistic care, like we do at Parsley Health. I advise my patients looking to get pregnant to follow our pre-fertility program.
Here’s how it works.
Step 1: Test
At Parsley we test for nutrient deficiencies, toxins like heavy metals, genetics with implications for pregnancy like MTHFR, and of course hormones, including forgotten hormones like cortisol, DHEA, and insulin, which can have a much bigger impact on fertility than estrogen and progesterone. We might also recommend a genetics screen for common inherited diseases, which your OB can run as part of your annual visit.
Step 2: Eat clean and replenish
At Parsley we guide you through a 30 day elimination diet cutting out common inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, grains and sugar. Often women are shocked at how their sleep and energy change when they change their diet, not to mention they lose weight and their menstrual cycles become regular. We also help you restore nutrients you are low on like magnesium, B vitamins.
Step 3: Detoxify
Detoxification is a process that really begins month 2 of our program and can take as many as 3-6 months. It includes reducing exposure from heavy metals like mercury from seafood and metal dental fillings as well as using natural supplements like B-vitamins, liver-stimulating bitters, and even metal binders to lower the body’s total toxin burden.
I’ll also recommend resetting and refreshing your whole body with our popular 5 Day Reset.
Finally, it includes an environmental detoxification. Now is the time to get rid of cleaning products makeup and moisturizers with chemicals like phthalates and parabens, oxybenzone, BPA, and BPS. If you wait to stop using toxic products when you get pregnant, it’s often too late, because your body has already stored those toxins in your tissues.
Step 4. Relax
This is the time to focus on you and your overall health and wellbeing, not to fixate on getting pregnant like your life depends on it. Stress is one of the number one drivers of digestive issues, autoimmune disease, PMS and irregular cycles, and, infertility. If you are chronically stressed and anxious, not sleeping well and exhausted, you need to begin to learn stress management tools like mindful breathing, yoga and meditation. You’ll need these tools once you’re a mom more than ever so now is the time to begin to practice them. At Parsley, our health coaches teach you to meditate and give you resources that help you build relaxation into your daily life.
Step 5. Start your engines (aka your prenatal vitamin)
(And stop other unnecessary supplements). By now we are 6 or more months into the program on average, and you might be ready to start “trying” – a word I can’t stand because it adds stress. I prefer that you start “not, not trying” so that your conception feels effortless, not like another task the success or failure of which you will be judged upon! Anyway… supplements to keep are probiotics, magnesium, fish oil, and Vitamin D and in some cases other supplements as directed by your doctor for your particular situation. From there start a high quality prenatal, like the one we carry in-house at Parsley.
A good prenatal has the right kind of B-vitamins for you (the methylated kind if you have MTHFR genetic variations like I do), high quality sourcing of ingredients, and appropriate levels of key nutrients like DHA fatty acids which feed the baby’s growing brain, Vitamin A, Iron and Folic acid. Do not buy supplements at the grocery store, or take the samples your OB gives you for free – I can’t tell you how many women have shown me prenatals their OB gave them that contain toxic dyes and chemicals!