8 tips to improve your fertility
If you’re planning to have a baby, the chances are you’re looking for ways to maximise your fertility and make the process as stress-free as possible. Providing you don’t have any diagnosed fertility problems, most couples are able to get pregnant within six months to a year, and there are things you can do to improve your chances.
The importance of timing
Even if you and your partner have a clean bill of health, the first step is to keep track of your ovulation. Cycles can vary by up to seven days each month, and research shows that around half of couples could be trying to conceive at the wrong time. Try some at-home methods to get it right: check your basal body temperature (BBT) with a basal thermometer, use a fertility tracking app, or buy a digital ovulation test, to pinpoint your most fertile days.
Being either overweight or underweight can affect male and female fertility. For women, too many fat cells produce high levels of adverse hormones such as LH and oestrogen, which can interfere with ovulation, while overweight men may suffer from lower sperm counts and poor semen quality. In general, a healthy diet can make a big difference: cut down on refined sugars and carbs, avoid trans fats, and increase your intake of dairy, nuts, seeds, omega-3, fresh fruit, and veggies.
Exercise is vital to stay healthy; it balances hormones and blood sugar, keeps weight gain under control, improves your mood, and reduces stress. It’s best to avoid strenuous activity or starting a new regime; stick to moderate forms of cardio (nothing too intense) and strength building workouts, such as Pilates and yoga.
We know that nicotine is toxic, and it has a very damaging effect on cells. This poses a big risk to your health, your future baby’s health, and your chances of falling pregnant in the first place. When women smoke, it impacts their egg quality and womb lining. Smoking is also linked to miscarriage and birth defects. For men, it can affect sperm production and damage DNA. If either partner smokes, this can also harm the future reproductive health of their children.
Studies show that stress affects fertility; that can be work stress, personal upset, and even worrying about trying to get pregnant. Try and relax as much as possible, put measures in place to manage stress at work, and don’t underestimate the power of relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and yoga. The other problem with stress is that it can result in unhealthy behaviours, such as eating too much junk food.
Caffeine and alcohol
Avoiding alcohol altogether is recommended during pregnancy so it makes sense to cut it out now if you hope to fall pregnant soon. There is also evidence to suggest that too much alcohol can actually affect ovulation. When it comes to caffeine, staying below 200 milligrams a day is considered safe i.e. no more than two cups of coffee. Don’t forget that soft drinks and tea also contain caffeine.
We need to get enough good quality sleep to balance our hormones, and the link between poor sleep and infertility is gaining much more attention. For example, night shift workers are shown to suffer more from disrupted cycles and it can take them longer to conceive, as well as increasing the risk of miscarriage.
Address any red flags
When to have a child is a very personal decision but there are certain factors to be aware of, which could make it harder to get pregnant. For example, if a close female relative went through early menopause it is advisable to start trying for a baby as soon as possible. Similarly, with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), it is best not to delay things if you have the choice.