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.

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.

How to reduce everyday radiation exposure whilst pregnant

I was getting ready for the day and my husband was baffled with the layers of items I was putting on as I was getting dressed. I’m sure he was thinking if I was getting ready for battle. In a sense, I kind of was. Other than a bra and undies, I was wearing a radiation shielding belly band and a supportive pregnancy belt before I had even put any clothes on. Just in case your wondering, I’m 30 weeks pregnant.

Most people might be aware of pregnancy belts which are designed to support a growing belly and help reduce lower back pain but many might not know what a radiation shielding belly band is. Have you heard of it?

I definitely didn’t when I was pregnant with my first child!

As a work from home mum and running an online business, I spend a lot of time on my phone and computer. I was already concerned about radiation in our home, every night I turn off the WIFI and put my mobile phone on aeroplane mode charging in a separate room.

Now that I’m pregnant with my second child, I bought myself a radiation shielding belly band and blanket from Radia Smart and I use these two products every day when I learnt that a child’s head absorbs more radiation than adult, I can’t imagine the impact it would be for brain development for a growing fetus.

Everyday radiation is a health risk. As an OBGYN, I recommend my pregnant patients and those looking to conceive to minimize their exposure, and using a barrier from possible radiation sources is a practical way to do this.

Dr. Huai-Yan Ang, Obstetrician & Gynecologist

What is radiation?

Radiation is energy, it’s something we can’t see but affects us. A good example is sunshine radiation. Depending on the weather, time of year and day, it’s the effect on us varies on how the sun’s strength, distance to our location and how long we are in the sunshine for.

The radiation I’m most concerned about is the artificial radiation that is emitted by things such as mobile phones, laptops, computers, power lines, cell phone towers, wireless networking, cordless headsets and microwaves. I think we can all agree that mobile phones would be the number one source of everyday radiation particularly for the most part it’s always switched on and we carry it with us at all times. We pretty much do everything with our mobile phones, I know for me I use it a lot for navigation, as an alarm, timer when I’m cooking, banking and online shopping on top of using it for work and keeping in touch with friends and family.

Why is too much exposure is bad for our health?

Both human and animal studies report large immunohistological changes in mast cells, and other measures of immune disfunction and disregulation due to exposure to ELF and RF at environmental levels associated with new electrical and wireless technologies.

Dr Olle Johansson

What we know about radiation is that it has a biological impact on cell growth, DNA replication and brain function. I don’t know how many times, I’ve had to stop women placing their mobile phones in their bra, on their lap or anywhere near their reproductive organs and recommending them to go back to corded headphones. I guess this would also apply for men too, carrying their mobile phones in the front pockets and this latest obsession with smart-watches.

I think also we need to consider the impact of baby development in the first trimester when cell division is so critical. Reducing exposure needs to be taken into consideration even before conception occurs.

A joint study conducted by Denmark and United States surveyed the mothers of over 13000 children who were aged seven between 2005 and 2006, they found that mothers who had used a mobile phone while they were pregnant were 54% more likely to have children with behavioural problems, such as hyperactivity and difficulties interacting with other children. ¹

Photo by Bruce Mars

How can we reduce our everyday radiation exposure?

There are two main ways:

  1. Get rid of the source or significantly reduce the exposure to the source
  2. Use products that help reduce the exposure to the radiation.

With mobile phones, I prefer to use a corded headset or use the speaker function. The added benefit is that you don’t have to charge corded headsets! I always have my phone or tablet on aeroplane mode when my son is using it. So make sure you have pre-loaded games and movies ready to go. I don’t wear my mobile, it’s either in my bag or up high. I know when I hold my mobile phone for too long, the heat and radiation start affecting my arthritis so limited use is intentional when checking emails and social media.

Since my work life revolves around my laptop, I make sure I never rest my laptop on my body. I will only use this at a table or desk and if I haven’t got my radiational shielding belly band on, I’ll use my radiation shielding blanket.

RadiaSmart has a bundle deal I purchased that includes the belly shield and blanket. I would recommend to start using radiation shielding products before conception even occurs if you are trying to fall pregnant. You can use my referral code MERLY to get a $10 discount.P.S Join to my mailing list for more tips and support about hormonal health, fertility and pregnancy aswell as exclusive offers. Subscribe here

Self-care during pregnancy

Your mental health during pregnancy is just as important as your physical health if not more. I find if I’m not mentally well, it’s hard for me to have the energy and motivation to do the things that are good for me, like eating nutritious foods and engaging in fulfilling exercise.

For me, checking items off my to do list actually release oxycontin, the happiness hormone but sometimes I can get a little bit too carried away and next thing I discover is that I’ve said yes to too many things and I’m feeling more stressed than accomplished.

So it’s important that we check-in with ourselves on a daily basis and one of the most simple ways is, meditation. Meditation isn’t about sitting cross legged and saying ommmm and waiting for enlightenment. For many, it’s an opportunity to go inwards. To seek guidance from our own inner wisdom that often we neglect. Women’s intuition is a powerful tool that sometimes we overlook. When we scheduled 10 minutes day for some quiet time, it’s amazing what can happen. It’s very common to feel “too busy” to meditate but what you’ll discover that meditating actually helps you become more productive, intentional and focused. You actually get time back threefold!

Right now I’m 26 weeks pregnant and admittedly there are moment that I’d like to go and have a 6 week vacation to get away but for me that’s not quite that practical with all the things that’s going on in my life. However incorporating a few minutes to recentre and rejuvenate as part of my daily routine helps me feel happier and supports me to make healthier and better choices.

Here are some soul nourishing tips that you can implement straight away:

Enjoy eating without technology

For many women, we have a negative relationship with our food. Eating while watching a series, scrolling on our mobile phones or working actually robs us of the enjoyment of eating and it encourages mindless eating.

When I use to work on corporate, it was common to see women eating at their desk thinking that multi-tasking was going to save them time but does it really?

I know for me sleep is so important, I’ve actually made it a rule not to watch a series whilst pregnant, getting hungry at midnight and eating out the fridge only to find myself at 4am finishing a series then to be greeted by a toddler at 6am to start his day.

Take every opportunity to eat for quiet reflection or to catch up with your partner, friends and loved ones as a great way to refocus, connect and eat mindfully.

Do one task at a time

In the home when your pregnant, you might have this desire to start nesting and suddenly by the end of the day, you discover that you have created more mess! Although women are great at multi-tasking, it can also make us less efficient because we are devoting ourselves to multiple tasks at once.

Checking items off your to-do list actually releases oxytocin so even if you just have a list that says something like, do the dishes after every meal and complete 1 basket of laundry each day, it can be quite fulfilling.

Tip: Putting a timer on for 10 – 15 minutes and focusing on one area of the house a day.

Put your phone to bed

Not take your phone to bed! These days it’s hard to imagine living without our mobile phones, we use it to get to places, stay connected to the people we love and to research pregnancy and baby stuff! But at the end of a long day, adopting a “no phone in bed” policy can be key in getting a good night’s rest.

Sleep is essential for the energy to help your baby grow, so relaxing and unwinding and creating your own bedtime routine is so imperative to setting your body and mind for bed. The blue light from the phone screen and alluring desire to see what’s happening on social media, flicking through Netflix or checking your email just one more time can make it harder to fall asleep. So try putting your phone to bed charging in a separate room.

Do you have some tips on self care tips that helped you when you were pregnant?


Would you like help in incorporating self care in your life? Curious about how health coaching can help you make your own healthy changes? Let’s talk! Schedule a free maternal wellness and self-care assessment with me today.

Learn more about my training and my unique approach to health coaching.