In this article, we’ll explore key methods and lifestyle factors that can help you increase your chances of conceiving. We’ll cover the best apps for fertility, useful tips and most crucially how the environment and diet influence our fertility.
Fertility problems have increased dramatically over the past 2 decades and around 25% of couples have trouble conceiving. Interestingly, the most common cause of infertility is ‘unexplained’ which means that following a thorough medical investigation, doctors can’t identify the root problem. This is when a natural approach can come into play. To find the cause of fertility problems it is important to look at every aspect of your health, your emotions and your lifestyle.
Here at the London Clinic of Nutrition we’ll help you look at the bigger picture but will also dig deep and run some functional tests to see any inefficiencies. If you want to find out more, explore our fertility treatments here.
Key areas we would investigate during your visit:
- Hormonal balance: we would look at key sex hormones in both the follicular and luteal phases to identify any imbalances. Target hormones include Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), Oestrogen (E2), progesterone, Luteinising-hormone (LH, the main ‘ovulation hormone’), prolactin and testosterone.
- Vaginal and gut microbiome: if indicated we would investigate this area further by running a comprehensive gut and vaginal ecology test.
- Thyroid health: thyroid health is one of the most important areas to look at to improve energy and overall health. Poor thyroid function can profoundly impact fertility.
- Toxicity: there is a growing awareness that environmental toxins can hugely influence our health and investigating and addressing this area can improve fertility outcomes.
- Immune imbalances: an acute infection or chronic inflammation may also require further investigation.
- Nutritional deficiencies: many different nutrients are essential in the process of conception both in men and women, suboptimal levels of these nutrients can lower your chances of conception.
Are fertility apps accurate?
As all women are different and the time of their cycle may vary month to month there are quite a few confounding factors you need to take into considerations whilst using a fertility app. You may find that combining different methods will give you a more accurate guide.
Fertility tracking methods explained
- Fertility apps use the calendar-based method of tracking. You input the dates of your period and the app calculates your ovulation based on the assumption that you have ‘middle of the month’ ovulation. Some apps have more sophisticated algorithms which accept manually entered basal body temperatures (BBT), emotions, skin conditions, cervical mucus data or Luteinizing Hormone (Ovulation prediction kit, OPK) test results. Unfortunately, it is not an exact science – 70% of women don’t ovulate in the middle of their cycles  .
- Skin worn/Bracelet devices: A more modern application of the BBT method is to take several consecutive temperature measurements at various intervals overnight, and then download and interpret these measurements on an app. There are two issues with this method. Firstly, skin temperature tends to vary in opposition to core temperature changes associated with the release of progesterone. Secondly there is a high chance of ‘dropouts’ in the temperature signal because it’s difficult to maintain contact between the skin and sensor consistently .
- Core body temperature device: Is a medical vaginal sensor that monitors core body temperature. Monitoring core body temperature can give you a much more accurate and reliable picture of your cycle and your most fertile window as it essentially combines the data of BBT and OPK. This device comes out on top and will provide you with the most accurate reading and best fertility prediction .
Other potential issues
- Women with hormonal conditions such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) have varying cycles, making fertility apps less reliable. For example, some women with PCOS have persistently elevated levels of LH and may not ovulate each month.
- Women approaching menopause may start to ovulate less due to persistently high levels of LH, so BBT or fertility tracking may not be the most practical method for them.
- It can become ‘obsessive’, time-consuming and stressful which may be counterproductive to fertility. Stress should be at minimum when trying to conceive.
What is the best method to conceive?
With 1 in 7 couples experiencing fertility issues, there is no single best approach that will work for everyone. Each individual has their own unique situation. However, a few simple methods can help you get to know your body and recognise the best and most fertile period in your cycle thus improving your chance to conceive.
- Track your menstrual cycles: Getting to know your cycle is the single most important thing you can do when you’re trying to conceive. One cycle may be longer than the next, so using a fertility app may be helpful for tracking changes and identifying a pattern.
- Track your cervical mucous: Hormone fluctuations during your cycle cause your cervix to secrete a discharge called cervical mucus. It changes in appearance, texture and amount throughout the month based on your oestrogen levels. When cervical mucous becomes thicker and creamier and feels sticky and stretchy between your fingers, it’s usually a sign that you are entering your most fertile period. The discharge at the time of ovulation is clear and has a stretchy consistency similar to raw egg whites. This is the most fertile stage in your cycle.
- Properly timing intercourse can double the chances of conception but so many couples get the timing wrong. The fertile window is actually the 5-8 days leading up to ovulation, with peak fertility 2 to 3 days before ovulation.
- Get the frequency right and don’t overdo it: Have sex every other day in the most fertile window.
- Position: No particular sex position has been proven to improve the odds of pregnancy, what may help is getting the sperm as close to the cervix as possible.
- Gravity: Propping your pelvis or lifting your legs high after intercourse may help gravity to move the semen towards the uterus, increasing the chances of conception.
At the London Clinic of Nutrition, we pride ourselves as the largest functional medicine clinic in Europe. We recognise that fertility is a complex and sensitive issue so we offer a relaxing and caring environment for all of our clients. With our latest in-house testing we are able to investigate how dietary and environmental factors are affecting your health and provide you with expert advice.
Please feel free to get in touch for a Free 15 minute discovery call to discuss your health concerns and to match you with the most suitable practitioner.
What are the best fertility apps in the UK 2020/2021?
Understanding your biology can be particularly helpful if you’re trying to conceive. Thanks to the enormous growth of ‘femtech’ (female technology) over the past decade, there are now a number of great apps available to help you along the way. Here are this year’s best fertility apps:
OvuSense is a medical device that is backed up by 2 clinical trials and 6 peer-reviewed publications . It measures core body temperature using a clinically proven vaginal sensor. It gives you a 99% accurate full eight-day fertile window at the start of each cycle, making it easy to plan for the month. This device gets top rating and comes highly recommended by our female health specialist practitioners.
Clue is a period tracker app that helps you predict your menstrual cycle. The app can help you plan for pregnancy with its ovulation calculator and fertility predictions. You can also log your BBT and cervical mucus tracking for a more accurate result. Gets very good ratings for both android and iPhone and it’s free.
Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker is a simple and smart app that helps you track your period, ovulation and fertility using machine learning (AI). It notifies you of the fertility window and presents you all data in handy charts. Gets top rating for both iPhone and Android devices.
Fertility friend tracks both menstrual cycle and ovulation, predicts the most fertile days and creates handy charts and graphs. Fertility symptoms can also be logged such as your BBT (basal body temperature) and cervical fluid.
Period Tracker primarily tracks and predicts your period, but also highlights the fertile window, providing a ‘Pregnancy Chance’ every day. You can also record sexual activity, BBT and everything else related to trying to conceive.
Kindara helps to predict the most fertile days, chart ovulation and bodily changes, and it pairs with a wireless Basal Body Temp (BBT) Thermometer. Scores high for both types of devices.
Natural Cycles is a birth control app that identifies ovulation by analysing your BBT. It gives you daily updates on where you are in your cycle, your most fertile phase, when ovulation is predicted and when to expect your period. High ratings with both iPhone and Android devices and is free with in-app purchases.
Ava is a clinically proven fertility tracker watch. It helps you identify your unique 5-day fertile window and notifies you of your most fertile period up to 4 days earlier than OPK’s would. It seems to be more precise than the calendar method used by less sophisticated period-tracker apps.
Glow is an ovulation tracker that provides personalised reproductive health and fertility insights based on ovulation, period timing, and other health data, and it connects it to a huge community of other women also trying for a baby.
Eve is an app that helps you keep a log of sex, periods and symptoms to help track your cycle and improve your chances of conceiving.
How can I increase my chances of conceiving?
Fertility may be influenced by a wide range of factors in the environment and diet. All of these factors need to be addressed when preparing for a healthy pregnancy.
Get those bugs in order
- Gut-Hormone connection. Emerging evidence suggests that host-microbiome interactions are a significant piece of the puzzle in hormonal conditions. A subset of microbes, called estrobolome, within the gastrointestinal tract impacts the metabolism of the various forms of oestrogens and the balance of circulating and excreted hormone levels . Supporting gut health for fertility may not be that obvious but as over 70% of our immune cells are located in our gut, it makes sense to start here.
- Rebalance the vaginal microbiome. The composition of the vaginal microbiome plays a vital role in vaginal, reproductive and maternal health and its imbalance has been implicated in infertility and high rates of miscarriages . Taking probiotics with strains specific for the vaginal microbiome may be useful as it works to balance the vaginal flora, and help to maintain a more acidic pH to block adhesion of pathogenic bacteria to the epithelial wall .
We offer an array of gut and vaginal microbiome tests to identify if there is an imbalance, find out more here. Please feel free to get in touch for a Free 15 minute discovery call to discuss how we can support you and match you with the most suitable practitioner.
Detox your food cupboard
- Buy more organic produce. Exposure to pesticides, insecticides, PCBs and other chemicals may disrupt ovarian function and menstrual cycle in women and has been shown to reduce fertility in men .
- Support oestrogen detoxification. We have several detoxification pathways (sulfation, methylation, glutathione conjugation, glucuronidation) involved in processing oestrogen so it is vital that they are all supported to promote healthy elimination. The best nutrients involved are folate, B12, B5, magnesium, sulphur, and glucaric acid. Find out more about female hormones here.
- Minimise pro-inflammatory foods. Chronic inflammation can drive an ongoing stress response in a feedback loop and contribute to poor oestrogen metabolism and reduced sperm production. An ongoing infection or flare-up can result in increased oxidative damage in the body which then consequently lead to using up all of your protective antioxidants. Including a variety of plant foods will support overall vitality and fertility.
- Reduce caffeine intake and alcohol. Caffeine can increase the production of more potent types of oestrogen, and also decrease your ability to detoxify them effectively. Alcohol has also been shown to reduce sperm count and increase abnormal sperm .
- Improve hydration. Oestrogen and progesterone affect fluid balance, so make sure you keep well-hydrated, particularly in the second phase of your menstrual cycle (the luteal phase). Hydration also supports healthy bowel movements, crucial for excess oestrogen elimination.
Your practitioner will be able to provide you with a carefully created, personalised dietary plan. Book a complimentary consultation here.
Detox your house
- Avoid storing food in plastic containers. Xenobiotic chemicals with estrogenic activity such as bisphenol A (BPA), have been reported to have potential adverse health effects, altering reproductive health .
- Opt for natural and organic cosmetics to reduce your exposure to parabens, phthalates and other compounds that can adversely impact oestrogen signalling by interacting with two oestrogen receptors, leading to disrupted hormonal balance .
- Shop receipts. Surprisingly, shop receipts are very high in BPA. Research has shown that elevated BPA has an adverse effect on fertility and may negatively impact the success of IVF. Try and avoid touching them and wash your hands thoroughly after handling them .
Pause for self-care
- Stress Management. Acute or chronic stress has been shown to negatively influence fertility, pregnancy and birth outcomes . Therefore, it is paramount that supporting your nervous system is carefully tailored into your fertility protocol and we target stress in our approach.
- Exercise improves inflammation and supports blood sugar regulation which can benefit hormonal balance. A large amount of oestrogen is produced in excess fat tissue, so increasing weight-bearing exercise to encourage fat burning can be helpful. In a small trial, yoga reduced stress and anxiety linked to fertility treatments  and as such, it can be an integral part of your weekly routine
- Improving sleep hygiene by setting a regular routine and reducing blue light in the evenings could be helpful. Sleep is our golden opportunity for rest and repair, principally via the action of the sleep hormone, melatonin, which is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. It is also when our body is busy processing toxins as well as ‘used’ hormones. Improving sleep has been shown to improve oestrogen and progesterone balance, so make sure to optimise both the quantity and quality of sleep.
- Acupuncture has shown great promise in restoring fertility by improving sperm quality and ovary function and balancing the endocrine system and sex hormones .
It is important to work with an experienced practitioner to individualise an approach that considers your unique body, genetics and health status. At the London Clinic of Nutrition we combine industry-leading nutrition and functional medicine expertise, alongside the latest in-house testing, so we can attend to all your health needs in one trip.