Did you know that it takes four and a half months from the time the follicle in your ovary starts to develop to the moment where the egg it contains is mature enough for ovulation?

There is much you can be doing in this time that will influence the development of that egg.

Diet: We are what we eat. Optimal nutrition provides an optimal ovarian environment for the eggs during this critical maturation period. Chinese medicine recommends a wide variety of tasty fresh foods in season eaten in a relaxed manner. It is also important to heed more practical advice such as, eat plenty of protein, including vegetable protein, and fresh fruit and vegetables – organic where possible. Meat proteins that have been farmed with the use of growth promoters and hormones should be avoided, as should processed foods.

Caffeine: Even moderate coffee drinking (1 – 3 per day) can reduce fertility with high caffeine intake associated with infertility and increased miscarriage rates. Attempt to limit your intake to no more than 1 tea per day and 1 or 2 coffees per week.

Alcohol: Women metabolise alcohol far less efficiently than men with evidence to suggest even moderate drinking (5 or fewer glasses a week) can impede conception. Try to save alcohol for those special occasions, enjoying one glass savoured slowly!

Dairy: Regular rather than low fat products have been shown to benefit fertility when there is no difficulty digesting dairy products.

Supplements: To ensure you are in good shape for pregnancy with maximum nutrition available for your developing eggs, supplements which include Folic acid and other B vitamins, Vitamins C and D, omega 3 fatty acids, and minerals such as zinc, iron and iodine can be included. Please speak to your health care practitioner about dosage.

Weight: A BMI of 20 – 25 is associated with higher pregnancy and lower miscarriage rates than those above or below this range. If you are overweight losing a few kilos now could make a big difference to your ability to conceive naturally or with IVF.

If you are underweight increase your intake of calorie dense protein and low GI carbohydrates.

Talk to your practitioner how diet, acupuncture and herbs may assist.

Smoking: (including Marijuana) is toxic to the developing egg and can interfere with ovulation. It delays conception, causes early menopause, reduces live birth rates in IVF cycles and makes the uterus less receptive to embryo implantation. So you need to stop now! Acupuncture can help you with withdrawal symptoms.

Exercise: Regular exercise, doing something you enjoy, is beneficial. It increases energy, lifts mood, helps you sleep and to control weight. Conversely, exercising too much (4+ hrs/week aerobic exercise) has been shown to reduce IVF success rates.

Take the opportunity now to increase your fitness as during the first part of pregnancy you need to exercise with care.

Stress: Increased stress is associated with reduced numbers of follicles and poorer outcomes in IVF cycles. And even minor stressors can cause ovulation failure.

Regular acupuncture is effective in reducing stress hormones, relieving anxiety and depression and regulating ovulation.

Sleep: More than 40% of adults get less than 7 hours sleep a night with adverse effects on metabolism and weight control. Getting enough sleep is essential to maintain optimal hormonal regulation.

Fumes and toxic chemicals: As much as possible reduce your exposure to fumes and chemicals. Chemicals in the environment such as pesticides, insecticides, household cleaners and industry by- products have been shown to deplete follicle numbers as well as reduce egg viability and IVF success rates.