“Why Am I Not Ovulating? Part 2” | myMindBodyBaby
In part 1 of “Why Am I Not Ovulating?” we learned about the most common reasons why women do not ovulate. You can check this out here if you missed it. In part 2 we will cover additional lifestyle habits that support a healthy body and in turn, can support ovulation – through fitness and nutrition. Moreover, we will answer your burning questions that have been submitted to us from our amazing community of fertility warriors!
Let’s do this!
Supporting Healthy Ovulation with Food
We now know that the most common reasons women do not ovulate are PCOS, hyperprolactinemia, thyroid disease, obesity, being underweight, extreme stress, low ovarian reserve, and premature ovarian insufficiency. In part 1, I went into some detail for each condition, but what I really want to do now is really stress the importance of an overall clean diet.
Our bodies thrive and can repair and heal when quality nutrients are consumed. In this environment major systems can work more capably – toxins can be more easily removed, digestion and assimilation can occur more efficiently and hormones can often find equilibrium. Homeostasis can more easily be achieved when what is entering the body is as close to nature as possible.
What does this mean?
As a nutritionist, my philosophy has always been to eat as close to nature as possible. Lots of veggies and fruit, some lean organic proteins, beans, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats like avocado and olive oil. I aim to avoid foods from packages as much as possible and especially “foods” that contain ingredients I cannot easily identify. Grains are kept to a minimum (about once per day), water is plentiful and healthy sweets and treats are included once in a while (see below for 10 free guilt-free sweets and treats recipes).
If this sounds familiar it’s because it roughly follows the same guidelines as the “fertility diet”.
A study by Chavarro et al published a “fertility diet” based within the Nurses’ Health Study II population. This study found that women who followed the fertility diet had a 66% lowered risk of ovulatory infertility and a 27% lower risk of infertility.
This diet is characterized by:
- lower intake of trans fats
- more monounsaturated fats
- lower intake of animal proteins with greater intake of plant proteins
- high fiber foods
- low glycemic carbohydrates
- high-fat dairy vs low fat
- higher multivitamin use
- higher plant-based iron intake
Research has shown us that food DOES impact our health; subsequently, our hormones, and ultimately can affect our ability to conceive.
I’ve included links to a few articles below in which we have outlined additional key nutritional parameters for supporting your fertility.
Supporting Healthy Ovulation with Fitness
Regular, moderate exercise has been shown to help support fertility. It can help reduce stress, lower inflammation, and increase your metabolism and circulation – all beneficial in supporting fertility. For more detail on the benefits of fitness and your fertility check out this article we wrote. On the flip side, research has shown that women who leave a sedentary lifestyle have lower fertility rates. In women with PCOS, research has shown a beneficial impact of exercise on ovulation rates. Exercise can be maintained throughout your entire menstrual cycle, and many women find it helpful during their periods for helping reduce bloating, cramping, and other symptoms.
A word of caution: if you are proceeding with fertility treatments that involve medication to increase the number of follicles that mature you will need to modify your exercise regime as the follicles grow. Your ovaries will get larger accordingly and there is a risk of ovarian torsion.
Questions from our Community
Question: When is the best time to take an ovulation test?
Answer: For women trying to determine ovulation, it is ideal to be aware of and track the various ways your body signals impending ovulation. Please click here and read the section entitled “At home ways to identify ovulation” for a comprehensive outline of best practice.
Question: How many times do you need to have intercourse in the fertile window?
Answer: According to studies, there is no concrete number of fertile days that would apply to all women. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, “Our data suggest that the fertile period lasts about six days and ends on the day of ovulation”. This same study suggests that healthy couples do not need to limit the number of times they have intercourse within the fertile window “Our data provide no support for a recommendation that normal couples seeking pregnancy should limit the frequency of sexual intercourse”. With that said, after speaking with many women over the years about recommendations they were given, many have indicated they were advised to have intercourse every other day during the fertile window.
Question: How big are follicles when they release an egg?
Answer: For women undergoing assisted reproductive technology (ART) such as IUI, this study has suggested that “Follicles 12–19 mm on the morning of trigger administration were most likely to yield a mature oocyte”.
Alternatively, another study by Farhi et al, found that pregnancy rates are higher when the leading follicle was between 18-22mm.
Question: What foods are helpful for implantation?
Answer: I wish there was a magical food that did this but truth be told it’s more complicated than that. However, some of the key factors that influence implantation include balanced hormones, an anti-inflammatory environment, healthy progesterone levels (see the blog on Luteal Phase for more info on this), and so we need to make sure there are foods that support these things.
- Plant-based fats like avocado help provide that anti-inflammatory environment
- Beets, one study showed that “beetroot contains nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels allowing a rich supply of oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood to flow to the uterus…”
- Bump up your vitamin C foods- these include citrus, bell peppers, and broccoli. One study showed that women who take Vit C had higher levels of progesterone.
- Proteins like organic eggs and hemp also help to balance blood sugars and hormones. Both are vitally important for not only conception but also creating that optimal uterine environment.
Question: What are the best foods to have during ovulation?
Answer: During this time estrogen has peaked and will start to drop after Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) have surged. Progesterone will then be triggered to rise to hopefully support the implantation of an embryo. During this time we can support estrogen detoxification by increasing our intake of Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C) veggies, which include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts. For a description of what foods are awesome for progesterone production, click here.
Conversely, a study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that women who ate large amounts of sugary carbohydrates, trans fats, and animal proteins were more likely to have ovulatory issues. Instead consider substituting animal proteins for whole food, plant-based proteins like lentils, hemp hearts, and raw nuts/seeds. Reducing trans fats is simple – don’t buy processed foods. Examples include pastries, chips, and fried foods. Sugary carbs can be found in items like pop/soda, sweets and treats, flavoured yogurts, ice cream, and white flours (pizza, sandwiches).
Question: Can follicles develop but not ovulate or ovulate too late?
Answer: Each cycle multiple follicles will develop within the ovaries. Generally, just one egg will mature and that is the one that will ovulate. Is it possible to ovulate late in a given cycle. Yes, some causes of late ovulation include stress, breastfeeding, thyroid conditions, and PCOS
Question: Is pineapple core good for supporting implantation?
Answer: There is no literature to prove that women who ate pineapple core specifically went on to have more live births than those who did not consume pineapple core.
However, the pineapple core is rich in bromelain, an enzyme that helps to reduce inflammation in the body, including the uterus. Having low inflammatory levels in the body is super important for keeping the disease process at bay and for fertility purposes, encouraging implantation of an embryo.
Pineapple is also an amazing food for managing the PH within the body and vaginal canal.
Question: What’s the deal with seed cycling?
Answer: Seed cycling is the practice of eating certain seeds during specific times in a woman’s cycle. According to those who practice this, the idea is that certain seeds like flax and pumpkin help to boost estrogen during the 1st half (of a 28-day cycle) when this is on the rise and needed, and other seeds like sunflower and sesame help to boost progesterone during the luteal phase of a cycle.
It appears from the lack of literature that seed cycling is more antidotal in nature but that doesn’t mean it cannot be used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle to support hormonal balance.
Question: Does pomegranate juice help with ovulation?
Answer: Once praised for its fertility-enhancing benefits, today, there doesn’t seem to any hard evidence to prove that consuming pomegranates will help support ovulation. However, this fruit is absolutely loaded with antioxidants and micronutrients galore-both shown to support fertility potential! These micronutrients like Vitamin C, have powerhouse anti-inflammatory properties and are integral for overall health and supporting conception.
So while, pomegranates specifically aren’t the answer to your fertility woes, consuming them won’t cause any harm and in fact are amazing for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential.
Question: Birth control how does this affect your cycle after you stop taking it?
Answer: Many birth control methods use a combination of hormones to suppress ovulation.
As a result, once you stop taking it, many women will begin to ovulate again within a few weeks. Once this happens, you can get pregnant. Some women however do not see an immediate return of their periods. If this is the case, we recommend you consult with your doctor. Another holistic route that some women pursue is acupuncture to help regulate menstrual cycles.
Being a food nerd and clinical nutritionist for the past 11 years taught me a lot, but nothing like struggling with infertility for 2 long years. Since then, I’ve shifted my focus to helping those on their personal road to motherhood. I know the emotional and physical toll the process can take and now after having gone through a healthy pregnancy and delivery, I want to help you too!