Don’t overlook the role of your metabolism in achieving a healthy pregnancy and baby
Up to 15% of couples are dealing with infertility. While people can’t control all the causes of infertility, they can control their lifestyle and diet. Metabolism, which is the biological process by which the body converts food into energy and other useful substances, has been shown to be directly linked to reproductive function.
But not to worry, making good choices when it comes to metabolism can prepare the body for conception and improve chances of a successful pregnancy. In this article, we’ll explore how metabolism works, its link to getting pregnant and easy ways to improve your metabolism to support fertility.
How does metabolism affect fertility?
In addition to converting food to energy, metabolism helps regulate body temperature, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Most of us think that the rate of metabolism is only important in gaining or losing weight. But research has also shown that disruptions in metabolism and metabolic hormones, such as insulin, leptin and ghrelin, have broader impact on the cellular level – with widespread effects on reproductive hormones.
One of the most common causes of infertility is disorders of ovulation, and disruption to a normal metabolism can cause ovarian dysfunction. Ovarian dysfunction leads to reduced or completely absent ovulation, which is required for fertilization of an egg, the first step in pregnancy. Reduced metabolism, commonly seen in women with obesity or PCOS, as well as increased metabolism, can both cause ovarian dysfunction.
In early pregnancy, a healthy metabolism is necessary for women to meet the increased energy and nutrient demands of a growing embryo and fetus. You really are eating for two! Failure to provide adequate nutrients to a growing pregnancy can possibly lead to a miscarriage or an infant who is small for his or her gestational age.
In women who do need fertility treatment, there is a strong link between metabolic health and outcomes. Women with a healthy metabolism are more likely to get pregnant after in vitro fertilization (IVF). This is likely due to a combination of optimal levels of the reproductive hormones and improved egg and embryo quality.
In men, research has shown a direct link between metabolism and testosterone levels and sperm development, concentration and motility. Moreover, men with lower metabolism often struggle with obesity, a contributing factor to erectile dysfunction.
All this to say, there is undoubtedly a tight interconnection between energy, metabolism and fertility. As scientists and fertility specialists work to understand it more completely, men and women trying to have a baby would do well to try to keep their metabolic health in a good place.
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What affects your metabolism?
Different people have different metabolisms as age and genetics play a large role. Luckily, there are many other factors of metabolic health that we have control over, including:
- Level of physical activity.
- Other medical conditions.
How to calculate your metabolism
A calorimeter is a device you breathe into that can calculate a Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) and Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). You can also do it yourself using the Mifflin-St Jeor formula to calculate BMR. Here’s the formula for doing that.
Related Reading: Fertility Diet & Pregnancy
How to improve metabolism to support fertility
When we’re stressed, the body releases a hormone called cortisol. Several studies reveal a connection between cortisol (stress level) and altered metabolism, which could lead to weight gain and changes in reproductive hormones.
Furthermore, stress disrupts sleep and your diet, both of which are very important in maintaining a healthy metabolism. Research suggests that stress management can also improve pregnancy rates in women with infertility. I know, easier said than done! But some strategies to control stress include meditation, fostering hobbies and seeking mental health counseling if needed.
Related Reading: RSC helps patients tackle emotional health
Consume fat-burning and antioxidant-rich foods
It is no secret that eating nutritious foods is essential to maintain a healthy metabolism and weight and to live a long and healthy life. But eating certain foods is also important when trying to get pregnant. Here are some helpful foods to add to your diet:
- More plant-based foods including whole fruits, vegetables and protein sources like tofu.
- Seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- More whole grains such as oatmeal, legumes and nuts.
- Foods (or supplements) rich in folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
Reduce carb intake
Reducing or eliminating processed foods, refined sugars and alcohol is essential to improving metabolism. These foods increase insulin and cortisol levels which can affect body weight and stress levels, therefore affecting reproductive hormone levels.
Increase strength and weight training
Strength training helps build muscle, which increases your metabolism. Even if you don’t feel like lifting weights, any moderate physical activity that gets your heart rate up and gets you breathing hard will have a good effect!
On the other hand, excessive high-intensity exercises may decrease fertility in some women. Vigorous exercise can overly increase your metabolism which can then disrupt normal reproductive function. When in doubt, speak to a doctor who can help determine the best regimen when trying to get pregnant.
Get a good night’s sleep
Sleep is intricately connected to various hormonal and metabolic processes in the body and is important in maintaining metabolic homeostasis. Research by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine has linked women with low quality sleep and lower rates of fertility.
When trying to conceive, it is important to maintain a healthy metabolism in order to improve the chances of success. While it can be difficult to squeeze in those extra hours of exercise or sleep, doing so can help build the family of your dreams.