How being overweight impacts fertility

One of my coaching clients was told she needed to lose weight by her specialist to increase the chances of falling pregnant while doing IVF. She’d come to me to help her shift the extra weight and boost her chances of having a successful transfer.

During our recent session I asked her if she knew the reason behind why she had to release the weight? She didn’t know, only that it would help.

I know for me, when I’m aware of why I’m doing something, I’m more likely to follow through and stay motivated. So if you’re also in the same situation as my client, then read on.

When we look at couples who use IVF to conceive, it’s been shown women who are overweight or obese have a lower chance of a live birth and significantly higher miscarriage rate than women with a normal BMI.

But this applies to everybody however you conceive your baby.

So why does being overweight and obese such a weighty issue when it comes to FERTILITY?

Being overweight impacts a woman’s chance of conceiving a healthy baby because it:

  • Causes hormonal imbalances
  • Triggers problems with menstruation and ovulation
  • Increases risk of complications with pregnancy such as a miscarriage, diabetes or premature birth

How?

When we have excess fat, these fat cells produce a hormone called leptin that can disrupt the hormone balance and impacts the menstruation cycle.

Another reason, in a study of 726 Australian women aged 26-36 years old, they found the women who were considered obese were significantly associated with having irregular menstrual cycle which was influenced by the high amount of insulin in the blood and decrease levels of sex-hormone-binding globulin (a protein that is responsible for regulating androgen and estrogen).

In other words, insulin can disrupt the hormone balance and impacts the menstruation cycle.

When your menstruation cycle is impacted, this reduces fertility as it’s difficult to track or know if or when you’re ovulating.

Now get this, excess weight and obesity also increases the risk of anovulation which is when no egg is release by the ovaries and if this happens, fat chances of you getting pregnant (mind the pun.) Women with a BMI above 27 are three times more likely than women in the normal weight range to be unable to fall pregnant because they’re not ovulating.

Now if you’re overweight or obese and are ovulating, the truth of the matter is that the quality of your eggs are also reduced!

Which explains why being overweight impacts a woman’s chance of conceiving a healthy baby due to increased risk of complications with pregnancy such as a miscarriage, diabetes or premature birth.

so what can you do about it?

According to IVF Australia, a “healthy BMI range is between 18.5 to 24.9 for young and middle-aged adults. Under 18.5 is considered underweight and over 25 is overweight. If a woman’s BMI is greater than 35, the risk of problems become more significant.”

If you suspect your overweight or obese and is affecting your fertility, then let’s find out what your BMI is:

Click here to calculate your BMI

overweight or obese?

It can seem a bit overwhelming to hear some of the facts on how being overweight and obese impacts fertility but there is good news.

If you have clicked on the link above to checked your BMI and realised that you fall in the category of being overweight or obese, you have the power to change this, just like my client is doing right now.

The good news!

According to IVF Australia here are a few things you can start doing now:

  • Stopping smoking, as it reduces fertility by around 40%, and also increases the risk of miscarriage
  • Reducing alcohol and caffeine intake
  • Optimising weight by following a healthy diet and exercise routine
  • For a female, taking folic acid, ideally for three months prior to trying to conceive, as it is one of the few nutrients known to prevent neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida
  • Managing known conditions, such as diabetes. This improves the chances of a healthy baby, and reduces the risk of miscarriage
  • Reviewing current medications and any implications for pregnancy with a GP
  • Understanding your menstrual cycle

As an Integrative Health Coach, my role is to support my clients to make those diet and lifestyle changes so they can start balancing their hormones naturally and increase their chances of falling pregnant.

If you feel you need support, then apply to book in for a free hormonal health and fertility assessment.

Photo by Negative Space

References:

The one thing that women overlook when it comes to getting baby ready

This week I’ve been working on putting together a workshop to help women who are wanting to increase their chances of falling pregnant.

There is a lot of things that women think about when it comes to getting baby-ready. We eat better, we might give up alcohol and start taking prenatal supplements but there seems to be one thing we tend to overlook.

Stress.

This workshop isn’t about 5 tips about managing stress.

Let’s face it, if you’re serious about wanting to conceive, a how-to guide on stress management isn’t going to cut it.

I’ve put this workshop as a tool to help you transform areas in your life in order to create space for a new baby.

You’re literally going to be doing some work in the workshop.

This workshop is to help women who want to fall pregnant by boosting their fertility and avoid stressing out during that dreaded 2 weeks waiting window before peeing on a stick.

Register now by clicking here.

Dr.Oz shares the benefits of Health Coaches in the healthcare system

“What role can Health Coaches play in the ongoing healthcare crisis in America? A very significant one, says Dr. Mehmet Oz, who recently sat down with IIN founder Joshua Rosenthal to discuss the issue.

Their probing conversation explored the different roles of doctors, patients, and Health Coaches in our current system, and how each can help contribute to a wellness revolution. Rather than overhauling the entire healthcare system, Dr. Oz says, Health Coaches should function as an added layer between doctors and patients, helping patients be healthier and doctors be better practitioners.

In fact, Health Coaches are essential in this equation, as most doctors don’t learn fundamental nutritional principles while in medical school—principles that can often serve as a replacement for medicine or invasive operations!

Today, 20% of Americans drive most of our healthcare costs, and these people “desperately need Health Coaching,” according to Dr. Oz. By focusing on this group, Health Coaches can not only help a large group of people lead healthier and happier lives, we can also take an enormous burden off of our economy and transform our society into one with a raised standard of nutrition and complete wellness.”

I’ve been told by my clients there is a lack of support and guidance around what to do about making improvements to their health and lifestyle at home when they have been given a diagnosis.

Often, coming to be because they have exhausted all other options and feeling fearful of the future.

I believe we can help many people before it’s too late. Alleviating the pressure on the healthcare system and the economic impact to a rise in preventable chronic illnesses.

When a patient goes to a medical centre to discuss a health issue such as trouble with sleeping, perhaps a persistent headache, infertility due to an irregular cycle or unable to shift excess weight, there is so much that can be done for people if they were referred to a health for ongoing support as an extension to the care a doctor provides.

I’m a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and have a private practice based in Western Sydney, offering health coaching virtually.

If you are a GP or Medical Specialist who would like to refer a client for health coaching, click here.

Click here to learn more about health coaching.

What are the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Some of the more commonly known symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) include:

  • Irregular periods or no periods
  • Excess hair growth on the face, stomach and back
  • Loss or thinning of hair on the scalp
  • Acne and pimples
  • Difficulty falling pregnant naturally
  • Easy to gain weight or trouble releasing the weight
  • and being a light sleeper or inability to get a good night’s sleep

But did you know that having PCOS also means you are also at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes? I’ll explain a little further why.

So firstly, what is PCOS?

There is a misconception that women with PCOS means they have lots of cysts on their ovaries but that is not necessarily the case.

Often women with PCOS have underdeveloped eggs within their ovaries, so when they ovulate, the egg they release might not be mature and result in irregular cycles making it challenging for women to fall pregnant.

PCOS is a hormonal condition that is caused by a higher production of insulin and androgens (a male type hormone) in the body that impacts the way the ovaries function.

Is there a cure for PCOS?

From what we understand about PCOS, the short answer is no.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t women who are thriving with PCOS and who have gotten pregnant naturally.

Here is one of my clients, Liza sharing her experience with overcoming PCOS and adulthood acne:

Merly changed my life. How? Well, let’s go back to 2012. Life wasn’t exactly as I imagined my life would be. At 31 I was newly married with multiple health issues including adult acne, polycystic ovaries, stress and dare I say extremely unhappy. You see my husband and I had been struggling for a year to get pregnant without success. Another pregnancy test with only one line… Then there was Merly. (more…)

Liza, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

So what’s with these hormones?

Earlier I shared how women with PCOS tend to have higher levels of insulin and androgens in their bodies. The androgens are responsible for things such as the acne and excess hair.

Many women with PCOS, about 75-95% are insulin resistant which means the cells won’t let the insulin to do its job, so you end up with too much insulin and glucose in the bloodstream.

Insulin’s job is to to help the cells use glucose as an energy source.

The problem with this, is higher levels of insulin in the body results in an increase of male type hormones being produced and it becomes a bit of vicious cycle with the immature eggs within the ovaries.

Not only does that impact fertility but it also becomes a contributing factor for women with PCOS to be a higher risk of developing pre-diabetics and type 2 diabetes.

Tell me some good news Merly!

It’s not all doom and gloom. The wonderful thing is PCOS symptoms can be managed through diet and lifestyle such as:

  • Exercising to feel good but also to help balance hormones by reducing the levels of insulin in the body and managing weight
  • Eating a balanced and nutritious foods aswell as developing a positive relationship to food
  • Maintaining a healthy weight range, simply by reducing your weight by 5-10% can help with regulating your cycle and increasing your chances of falling pregnant

To support you on your journey to balance your hormones naturally, you can download my free 7 day hormone cleanse click here.

Did you buy dried or canned beans during the Covid19 pandemic?

Over the past few months I would say a lot of people went out and bought dried or canned beans who usually didn’t buy or even eat them, was that you too?

I’m assuming it’s because people know they have a long shelf life and because everybody else went a little crazy with bulk buying the rice and pasta.

Next minute with all the food shortages from the Covid19 hysteria, you found yourself stocking up on on beans, they’re sitting in your cupboard and you’re wondering what on earth are you going to do with them.

Don’t worry, it’s a good thing and I’ll tell you why.

Creamy cannellinis, meaty garbanzos, sweet adzuki, tender pintos, and so many more beans are one of the most powerful, nutrient-dense plant foods around. 

Beans are packed with tons of fiber, as well as plenty of iron and protein. They are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients. Studies have found them to lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

So let’s not these bad boys go to waste. If you have no idea what do with beans, then read on this might be just what you are looking for.

Here are some ideas on how to use beans in your meals:

  1. Toss beans and diced veggies (such as celery, shallots and capsicum) with vinaigrette for a quick bean salad.
  2. Blend cooked beans with tomatoes, onions, and your favourite seasonings to create a yummy bean soup. 
  3. Top a green salad with 1/3 cup of your favourite bean.
  4. Puree beans with a bit of olive oil, a garlic clove, salt, and your favourite seasonings. Voila! A fast dip or sandwich spread.
  5. Include 1/3 cup of beans with your other favourite toppings next time you make stuffed baked potatoes or sweet potatoes.
  6. Add 1/4 cup pureed beans to your favourite pancake, waffle, muffin, or cake recipe. You’ll be surprised at how moist and springy baked goods are when baked with beans. 

Be sure to avoid canned beans with added salt or preservatives and rinse thoroughly once removed from the can.

I’m not one of those health coaches that love to create recipes but I’m definitely passionate about eating. Follow me on my Instagram to see what’s on my plate @merly_hartnett

Thriving with endometriosis

Living with endometriosis is a silent condition because it’s not visible to the outside world. A woman could look happy and healthy but inside she’s in immense pain. Having witnessed one of my best friends struggle with it, I know how debilitating daily life can be even for her who has a high pain threshold. The first time I saw her in agonising pain and curled up in a ball on the floor, I panicked and wanted to call the ambulance because it looked that bad.

Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue that lines the uterus also grow in other areas of the body and responds to the hormonal changes causing not only severe pain but for some women they can experience fertility problems aswell.

How can endometriosis affect fertility?

  • Scaring of the ovaries which may interfere with ovulation
  • Scarring can damage or block the fallopian tubes
  • Scarring can prevent a fertilised egg from implanting in the uterus
  • The hormonal imbalance that could interfere with conception or development of the embryo

For my best friend, her symptoms were consistent with what many women suffer from endometriosis such as painful, irregular and heavy periods where the duration of her periods was up to 7 days. She was always tired and suffered from chronic fatigue. It didn’t help that she had a stressful job. She was willing to do anything to feel normal.

Her doctor advised her that the next step was to have a laparoscopy. Before she had the chance to have the surgery, we started working together to make changes to her diet and lifestyle to help manage her symptoms. Fast forward now, Laura is the mum of two gorgeous boys. You can read her story here.

So when I met Merly I had been on the pill since I was 17 for bad periods! I had to take an anti-inflammatory prescription for a week out of the month as they were so bad! After 12 years on them, I developed a very bad stomach ulcer and was told I could never take another one again. I was frequently bedridden and it was very heavy lasting 7 days! (more…)

Laura – Thriving with Endometriosis

Although endometriosis is a condition that has no cure, I believe you can thrive whilst living with endometriosis by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

If you suspect you have endometriosis, see your health care practitioner who can refer to a specialist gynaecologist. As a Health Coach, my role is not to diagnose or treat but to work as part of your multi-disciplinary team to support you with making those diet and lifestyle changes.

Here are some tips to support you:

  • Aim to do about 30 minutes of physical exercise every day. If you haven’t been doing any lately, choose something that you enjoy such as dance class, yoga or walking. Start slowly and build up. You might only do a 10-minute walk around the block every second day for example.
  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep. That could mean giving up coffee (or other caffeinated drinks), creating a bedtime ritual like a hot shower and body massage or setting a rule of no technology after 7pm.
  • Finding creative ways to help manage you stress. Sometimes having a notepad next to your pad to write down to do lists or random thoughts, starting a gratitude journal, stretching, scheduling me-time, seeking help from a psychologist, counsellor or health coach or just incorporating some deep breathing exercises a sprinkled throughout the day.

For more tips to help balance your hormones, you can download my free 7 day hormone cleanse click here.

The daily meditation practice for women with no time

You’re probably reading this now because you already know the benefits of having a daily meditation practice or have heard that meditation could help you manage your stress levels but feel like it’s an unattainable goal. Even the phrase “daily meditation practice” already seems time consuming and daunting to say the least, right?

But what if I said to you that implementing this special daily mediation practice is going to give you more time?

Yes, you read that right.

Often when we are time poor, we’re usually overwhelmed, over-stressed and over-worked. Our focus and productivity wanes. our modern busyness of life leads us to be completely unaware how much we are wasting because we’re committed to keep on moving, even if we’re dragging our feet by lunchtime.

Why meditation?

It’s free but also meditation can give you more time.

How? Meditation allows you to focus your attention inwards, cutting out the unnecessary clutter that could be causing confusion and indecision. When you have clarity and dominion over your thoughts, confusion dissipates and a call to action is visible.

If you have only a certain amount of time in the day and during these times you are more productive, you then create more time and have breathing space for the more important things in life like being present with family.

An effective way to incorporate meditation is to adopt what I like to call is the heart-full minute.

  • Put your hand on your heart and take 5 deep breathes. The goal is to focus on feeling the heart beat on the palm of your hands whilst noting your breath going in and out. Feeling your heart pulsate in itself bring your back to life force that is you.
  • You don’t need to think nothing, it’s perfectly normal to have thoughts especially judgmental thoughts about if you’re doing the heart-full minute correctly or what you need to be doing straight after the meditation.
  • To bring your focus back, start noting your breathe. So as you breathe in, say in your head you’re breathing in and so forth as you breathe out. Noting is a great tool to bring your attention back to stillness when you catch yourself carried away with your thoughts.

You might think a minute isn’t that long but you’d be surprised. The heart-full minute can be done anywhere and anytime, so many opportunities such as while you’re on the toilet, waiting at the grocery line, breastfeeding or having a shower.

Do this enough times and you get the compounding effect that meditation will get easier and easier the more you do it.

Finding practical ways to reduce stress in your life is a great foundation to help you balance your hormones and boost your fertility. For more tips to detox your mind and body, you can download my free 7 Day Hormone Cleanse here.

The one thing to give up to reduce your risk of a miscarriage

When I was at university, I worked part-time at an Italian restaurant and drank a lot of coffee. I drank so much that I pretty much became immune to this delicious drug. I could drink easily 4 cups before bed and still go to sleep. Now I don’t know what the quality of my sleep was like but let’s just say, coffee didn’t keep me awake.

Since then, my love affair with coffee has made me become a bit of coffee snob and café maven. Before kids, when I drove past a new café, it was a must that the car was to be stopped to try out what was on the drip.

Now with kids pretty much attached to me 24/7 it’s sub-standard coffee on the go, although I’m hanging out for the launch a new collagen coffee (watch this space).

If someone said to me that coffee was bad for my health, well then we would have to come to some sort of compromise because hey, we need balance in our lives right?

Fortunately, the jury is out on that, as there are some pros for good coffee.

But if someone said to me that coffee increases my risk of a miscarriage, well that was an obvious coffee ban on the spot.

woman holding gray ceramic mug
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

I know what it’s like to have a miscarriage. Both of my boys were conceived after a miscarriage, so I get the heartache and the disappointment to learn that pregnancy didn’t progress.

Although I cannot fully comprehend how hard it would be to have a miscarriage one after another, I have worked with clients who have and helped them with their pregnancy to full term.

What’s interesting is many of my clients happen to also be coffee addicts too so as painful as this might sound for those who love coffee and are trying to get pregnant, I’ll share some information to soften the blow.

I think firstly it’s important to know that miscarriages are more common than we know.

We just don’t talk about it.

Around 60-80% of miscarriages happen due to genetic abnormalities because it’s the body’s design to ensure we are destined to have healthy babies. Especially in our modern-day culture, we don’t really share our pregnancy news until the 12-week mark.  

Having a miscarriage even in the first few months can be heartbreaking. I believe it’s important that women can feel safe to share within the inner circle of their pregnancy news so if it things don’t go to plan; they have a support network to comfort them during this venerable time.

In a study done by the Researchers from the US healthcare firm Kaiser Permante in Oakland, California, they found in their study that caffeine intake increases the risk of miscarriages. Now the study wasn’t talking about coffee specifically but coffee would be the biggest dietary source of caffeine. So if you’re not a coffee drinker, then consider other sources where you might be consuming too much caffeine, such as tea and energy drinks. Just drinking more than 200 milligrams of caffeine daily, increases the risk of a miscarriage twofold.

What we found was that if women have heavy caffeine intake — greater than 200 milligrams a day — they have double the risk of miscarriage than women that don’t have any caffeine.

Dr. Li a Reproductive and Perinatal Epidemiologist

But why?

Although it’s not clear how caffeine affects conception, what we do know is that caffeine crosses the placental barrier and can reach the developing foetus according to the study.

Some medical professionals speculate that caffeine can have an impact on the developing embryo in the uterus or even the maturation of the egg before conception even occurs.

The good news!

It’s not forever. Bottom line, it’s probably a good rule of thumb to completely give up caffeine when you’re trying to conceive and at least for the first trimester of your pregnancy to reduce any risk of a miscarriage. Hey, there is always decaffeinated coffee!

For more tips to get you pregnancy ready, you can download my free 7 Day Hormone Cleanse here.

What to do when you feel overwhelmed and stressed

In the past week, I have been feeling so overwhelmed with what is going in my life right now that I haven’t been present when I’m with my children. As I was breastfeeding my son to sleep at 7pm at night, my mind was racing when I should have been just enjoying the quiet peaceful moment of the two of us as he drifted off to sleep.

When I was pregnant with my second son approaching his due date, I was still working on the phone and attending the meeting with clients whilst wrangling a 2-year-old toddler. People would question when I was going on maternity leave and I would say I was going to work right until I popped. I had always been a good multi-tasker. I thrive best working under pressure. With my firstborn I figured since I was able to study, work, start a new business and raise a breastfeeding baby without the need to pump, I could do pretty much anything. There lies my biggest problem. The illusion that just because I could do everything, doesn’t mean I should do everything.

So leading up to the birth of my second son, I was doing just that, everything. Little did I know I had internalised a lot of my frustrations and anger, it would then erupt out of nowhere mostly directed at my husband, who was apparently supposed to be able to read my mind all the time! It was then my midwife gently said that sometimes the baby doesn’t come until the mother is ready. Here I was just doing my thang until the baby came. At no point did I consider maybe the baby is waiting for me. I know of other mums who took at least a week off, even up to a month to get into the nesting spirit and although that sounded wonderful, in reality, I think I’d rearranged the furniture a trillion times before the day was up.

Often when we are excellent masters of time, we often assume that we have everything handled even when we don’t. I had been terribly moody, getting very cranky at hubby for not seeing the obvious such as washing the dirty dishes. At the time, I had the hugest belly, so I was finding extremely difficult to lean over and wash the dishes but again, I never explicitly told him to help me even though he does our laundry and everything else, I just assumed he’d know about the dishes.

So what did I do?

I set my last day of work that Friday and took a big breath and wrote down a list of all the things that were floating in my head. Now you’re probably thinking, oh Merly a “To Do” list? Well not exactly. What you want to do is take away the mental load that is taking too much space and causing stress and anxiety because it’s just getting too heavy.

The thing with each item you write down, some might be something as simple as setting up your out of office email response, bulk cooking for the week or buying more bin bags to bigger stuff like paying the overdue mortgage repayments, getting the carpets cleaned before baby arriving or booking flights for Christmas. Regardless, how trivial or major the items are, they all weigh the same when their floating in your mind, hence the mental load can be overwhelming and stressful.

Writing a list is a great way to just dump the junk on paper so that you don’t have the pressure of having to remember. Even remembering the points is a mental load in itself! For me having a hubby who can’t read my mind, during our in-home date night over a cup of tea while our son was asleep, I’d run through the mental load list and delegate tasks that he was happy to do. It was wonderful because he had no idea that I had a trillion things on my mind and as a soon to be dad-of-2, he felt useful that he could do something to ease the pressure.

The following Wednesday, I gave birth to baby Axel.

Coming back to now, I realised as my baby boy started to snore, I did a commando crawl off the bed and went downstairs to write down my list.

When we feel overwhelmed and stress, this has a direct impact not only on hormones but also our immune system. With what is currently happening around the world, with many of us couped up at home, we need to do as much as we can to keep our immune system strong and healthy.

For more tips to start balancing your hormones, you can download my free 7 Day Hormone Cleanse here.

3 tips on eating mindfully

You are what you eat (absorb). Every human cell in your body is made of the building blocks of what you consume. I’m currently breastfeeding my son who is 4 months old and it amazes how chubby he is getting each day. However, as adults, we have autonomy on the food choices we make daily and at times we can be oblivious of what’s happening in our bodies on the cellular level. Other than getting fresh air and sunshine for vitamin D, the only other thing that we have complete control of when it comes to our health and wellbeing, is what we consume.

90% of our immune system is in our GIT (gastro-intestinal track) because it’s the most intimate way humans have a direct connection to our environment. For example, when a mother kisses her baby, her body is responding to any pathogens that are pickup from her saliva which sends a message to the body to change the composition of the breastmilk for antibodies for the baby to fight the infection.

I think the majority of us have weaknesses to certain types of foods like chocolate, cake, cookies and my personal favourite, cheese! This is not to say you have to give up on all your vices. It’s about incorporating more balance in your diet to literately build a healthy body and a strong immune system through the food you eat and supporting the microbiome that resides in your intestinal tract. After all, we are made up of more bacterial cells than human cells!

Here are 3 tips to help you become more aware of what you are consuming:

  1. Start to eat mindfully, as you chew your food, take your time. Make mental commentary on the flavour and texture. Even before you put food in your mouth, notice it’s colour and smell. Whether your eating smashed avocado on rice cakes or a doughnut, being consciously aware of what you are eating is the first step in acknowledging how food plays an important part in how you feel.
  2. Chew, chew, chew! We don’t chew long enough. I’m constantly having to tell my threeanger to stop shoving food down his throat and chew. Chewing is the first step in digestion. Give your GIT a helping hand. When your food is well chewed, it makes it so much easier for the rest of your body to break it down and nourish you.
  3. Takes breaks in between each mouthful. Families come together around the dining room table to connect and share food. It’s a wonderful opportunity to talk and share stories. Taking breaks between mouthfuls helps your body recognised when you are full. You’re less likely to overeat and again it’s better for your digestive health.

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