*Eat.Plank. Live Podcast Recap: Episode #7- The Impact of Food and Fitness on Fertility Discussion With Dr. Geraldine Ekpo
The topic of fertility is particularly relevant for current times when we are all trying to find our way in the midst of a pandemic and develop life plans within great uncertainty
In a previous post, I shared how I started my podcast, eat.plank.live in March 2020. In episode 7, I spoke with Dr. Geraldine Ekpo, a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist. We spoke about the various forms of fertility treatments and the way fitness and food influence reproductive health. Going into this conversation, I considered my friends and how they were dealing with their unique reproductive journeys as COVID-19 is still changing so many aspects of our lives.
The Three Types of COVID-19 Reproductive Journeys
Single and Ready to Nest: These are the friends that were either casually or actively dating pre-COVID-19. They are in their late 30s or early 40s and looking for a life partner with the goal of conceiving children. The emergence of the pandemic created a significant challenge for them since finding a trusted partner to develop a relationship within a virtual world is nearly impossible and adds additional delay to an already time-sensitive goal.
Going into this conversation, I considered my friends and how they were dealing with their unique reproductive journeys as COVID-19 is still changing so many aspects of our lives.
Partnered and Trying: These are the friends that were actively trying to conceive with the help of a fertility clinic. The initial shutdown and disruption to an already emotionally and physically draining process were devastating for a lot of people. In the Bay area, some clinics shut down while others allowed couples that were already in the process to continue and paused on new patients. Again, in this case, time is of the essence.
Pregnant and Expecting: These are the friends that are already pregnant but experiencing their pregnancy in a pretty unconventional way. From the inability to throw baby showers to heightened diligence around doctor checkups (e.g., no visits allowed with partners or family) the need to social distance is an additional annoyance. Don't quote me on this but I believe I even read that babies are gestating longer in the womb because women are now less active due to working from home, limited travel, etc.
So, What Does Fertility Work Really Entail?
When people hear about fertility, myself included, they normally think of just IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). The intent of IVF is to help increase the efficiency of creating an embryo, and the process can take anywhere from three to eight weeks depending on the prescribed protocols. Genetic testing for embryos makes the process lean towards the longer end of the spectrum.
When people hear about fertility, myself included, they normally think of just IVF (In Vitro Fertilization).
Fertility preservation caters to the woman who is not yet ready to conceive or is facing possible medical treatment that could affect future reproduction. Available technology allows for the retrieval and freezing of eggs for possible future use. Unlike sperm, which is produced at every stage of life post-puberty, people with ovaries are born with all the eggs they will ever have. Additionally, the quality of those eggs and the ability to repair themselves degrade over time. Egg freezing provides the patient with the ability to preserve the retrieved eggs at a point in time.
Another form of fertilization treatment is IUI or Intrauterine Insemination. In this procedure, the sperm is inseminated into the uterus at the optimal stage of the cycle. This process is usually implemented when there is a concern with sperm motility (ability to move) or if the sperm count is low. This is a less invasive treatment option than IVF.
Food, Fitness, and Fertility Discussion With Dr. Geraldine Ekpo
As we pivoted the conversation to post-conception care and the impact on fetus development, I found it interesting that there are few well-designed studies on the impact of certain foods on fertility and the conception process, as it is difficult to truly isolate outcomes when there are so many factors in play that could be confounding. Additionally, there is historically less research done in reproductive-age and pregnant women due to the concern for potentially exposing a developing fetus to negative outcomes.. This makes perfect sense to me and just something I never really thought about. But research has found that, for men, consumption of marijuana can affect sperm quality and motility.
The major takeaway from my conversation with Dr. Ekpo is that moderation is the key to everything.
In terms of fitness, we first have to separate fitness from weight because they aren't necessarily correlated. I know several heavy-set women that run half marathons with ease. On the other hand, it seems that BMI (which is a body mass to height measure) can have an impact on ovulation as a high number or a low number can cause hormonal issues that interfere with the body's reproductive functions.
The major takeaway from my conversation with Dr. Ekpo is that moderation is the key to everything. Whether you're on your own fertility journey or know someone that is, you can check out the full convo on my podcast on Google Podcasts, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Stitcher to learn more.
Thanks all and be well!
WRITTEN BYAji Oliyide