Banal as they may be, clichés exist for a reason. My favorite? Life is a journey. And when it comes to reproductive health, the adage rings true. Thankfully, we’re seeing a significant shift in this area of wellness, with supportive resources and professionals carving out a space for women to feel empowered. With more functional medicine and holistic health care, we have a lot more power in our hands, encouraging us to take the lead in our own reproductive health. Of course, this also has to be met with an unfortunate dose of reality.
We’re at a pivotal and terrifying moment in our country’s history as it relates to women’s health. We still have a desperate need for communities where women can feel comfortable pursuing the best care possible. In other words? The call to prioritize our individual health and focus on reproductive health has never been more important. To know how we can best prioritize our reproductive health ASAP (like, today), I spoke with a range of health professionals for their best tips you can start practicing today, regardless of your family planning, future goals, or age. A brief disclosure: The purpose of these expert-backed tips is to inspire you to pursue the health care, future, and life that is truly for you. With that, here are expert-backed tips you can do today to improve your reproductive health.
1. Educate yourself
According to Jess Ford, a Los Angeles-based full-spectrum doula, education is the #1 thing we can do to improve our reproductive health. “For a long time, women haven’t been the priority in the health care system, so knowing all your options is key,” she said. Educating yourself is a common theme the experts I talked to all agreed with. Why? Education allows women to hold autonomy over our bodies and how we choose to exist in them.
Ford has many go-tos for trusted, accessible information. For one, Dr. Aviva Romm, author of Hormone Intelligence, offers a combination of natural medicine with a Western approach, specifically for women. Ford also recommended companies like Loom (a sexual and reproductive health education platform) and Tia (a holistic health care experience designed specifically for women) for accessible information and support.
2. Focus on diet
Food can influence essentially every part of our health—from our energy levels to our sex lives—and the experts I spoke with were adamant about putting what you eat at the top of your “prioritize now!” lists. “Food is a prime determinant of the health of both the egg and sperm, supports detoxification, and can help improve mental health,” explained Ami Chokshi, a fertility & IVF health coach (just to name a few benefits!).
But restrictive eating is never the answer. Instead, Sarah Bradford, the founder of LUNA Mother Co. and core rehabilitation specialist, said a few simple lifestyle changes are best. “Start by focusing on eating a high-fiber, whole foods-based diet, limiting caffeine and alcohol, quitting smoking (if applicable), and getting around 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.” She also recommended eating at regular intervals (every two to three hours) to help regulate blood sugar and hormone levels.
3. Work with your doctor to have a birth control or safe sex plan that’s best for your body
Birth control is a complicated topic, but you should find a doctor who will work with your preferences, body, and goals to find an option that’s best for you if pregnancy prevention is one of your current (or permanent) goals. “When I was growing up, I was only told there was one option, and we weren’t educated about the side effects. For me, this is why education is power,” Ford said.
Dr. Janine Mahon, a doctor of Chinese medicine, recommended tracking ovulation, learning more about your cycle, and paying attention to how you feel throughout the month (in addition to the birth control method you find is right for you). When you know your body (thanks to tracking your cycle and fertility awareness methods), you’ll learn when to take extra precautions during sex if pregnancy prevention is part of your goals. Bottom line: The birth control method that’s right for your best friend (or even your gynecologist!) may not be right for you. Work with your doctor to know all of your options, and form a safe sex plan that’s best for your body, future goals, and lifestyle.
4. Reduce pollutants
Thankfully, we’re collectively becoming more aware of the toll that toxins and pollutants can take, particularly as it relates to reproductive health. Chokshi especially emphasized the importance of limiting your exposure to toxins to protect hormonal health. To start, reflect on the products you use to clean your home, swap skincare and makeup products for cleaner alternatives, and select a few aesthetically pleasing (and air-purifying) plant pals to keep you protected. Oh, and the positive impact (both for health and the environment!) of replacing plastic containers with glass shouldn’t be overlooked.
5. Limit stress
Chronic stress has long been cited for its negative effects on our body, brain, and emotional well-being. But in this age of harrowing headlines and never-ending to-do lists, it’s imperative that we give our mental health the attention (and love) it deserves. Incorporate accessible habits that help reduce stress in your life. For me, this looks like consistent, joyful movement, pouring into my favorite hobbies, and shifting the focus from productivity to simply soaking up the joy of being a living, breathing human. Find what works for you and run with it.
6. Take care of your mental state when going through a difficult time with your reproductive health
Reproductive health challenges can be extremely emotional and intense, so the important part is seeking help (from a trusted loved one or going to therapy) and prioritizing your emotional well-being, whatever that looks like to you. “One of the most important things you can do when going through any reproductive health struggle is to shift from self-blame to self-compassion,” suggested Dr. Michaela Bucchianeri, a licensed psychologist and copy coach. “Instead of viewing your body as an enemy, try to remind yourself it’s doing the best it can in this moment.” Bucchianeri recommended building a mindfulness practice and limiting social media activity to support your well-being and avoid comparison.
7. Remember that you deserve care
Always know that there are loved ones who want to support and comfort you. Seek out a few close friends or family members who you trust to provide unconditional love, and seek professional support through therapy or support groups if you’re struggling. Bucchianeri also suggested finding a community of folks going through similar challenges to you, whether it’s related to fertility, endometriosis, etc. Even if you feel like the world is telling you otherwise, know that you deserve optimal wellness and health care, and you also deserve support, love, and help.