One thing seems to be certain these days, getting pregnant is a whole lot tougher than your junior high sex ed class led it out to be.
Whether you’re trying on your own or are in the midst of fertility treatment, as months go by, you’re bound to be looking for ways to increase your chances.
Fortunately, with a smart game plan and a little self-discipline, you can incorporate some important lifestyle adjustments that will increase your fertility, improve your chances of getting pregnant, and just might make you happier and healthier along the way.
Here are our top 10 tips to increase fertility.
Practice Mindful Meditation
Can you meditate your way to pregnancy? Not exactly, but practicing mindful meditation can certainly improve your conception chances. The goal of meditation is to relax the mind and quiet the body. Several studies link stress to lower conception rates. It can affect ovulation. And stress raises the body’s cortisol levels, which can create hormone imbalances.
Mindful meditation is when you’re 100% focused on the present moment. You acknowledge and accept your thoughts and feelings without judgment. By slowing down your thoughts and releasing negativity, you’re able to calm your mind and body. Really, it’s no surprise that a large-scale meta-analysis of many meditations confirmed that meditation reduces stress.
Mindful meditation techniques vary but usually include sitting comfortably and deep breathing for several minutes at a time. Many people use guided meditations or visualizations to help them harness the mind-body connection.
Knowing that studies link stress to conception rates and mindfulness helps calm your body and mind, it may not come as a surprise that mindful meditation has been shown to boost pregnancy rates.
Another study showed that women who used mind/body programs in conjunction with IVF lowered their stress and had higher pregnancy rates than subjects who did not participate in mind/body programs.
Turning off your phone and tuning into your body and thoughts can help you get pregnant. How this happens is complex, but scientists know that meditation releases DHEA, a hormone known to make cells (including eggs and sperm) live longer, and oxytocin, which improves happiness and your ability to cope with stress.
Eat High-Fat, Low-Carb
What you’re eating can also affect your fertility, your mood, and overall health. A diet high in sugar and carbohydrates increases inflammation throughout the body, including in and around the reproductive organs in both men and women.
Studies show inflammation is a leading cause of infertility. One of the best ways to reduce inflammation is through a high-fat, low-carb diet.
By reducing inflammation, you can improve egg quality, increase sperm quality, naturally improve your chances of achieving pregnancy, and help reduce the risk of complications during your pregnancy.
In addition to reducing inflammation, a Fertility Diet also helps balance hormones in the body, particularly those responsible for reproduction. Sugar, which includes all refined carbohydrates, is known to cause hormone disturbances like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which is a number one cause of infertility because it affects ovulation.
Get Some Sunshine
Mother Nature is also your friend when it comes to boosting fertility. Those rays of sunshine you get exposed to at the beach, sitting by the pool, or just walking down the street stimulate Vitamin D production in the body.
Most people know that Vitamin D is critical for building and maintaining healthy bones, but it also helps reduce inflammation, regulates our immune system, and has been shown to be associated with fertility and reproductive outcomes. The scary thing is that most of us get less Vitamin D than we should. Over 40% of people in the U.S. are considered Vitamin D-deficient.
As mentioned, studies suggest that women with low vitamin D levels may be less likely to have a baby even after assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures like IVF than those with normal vitamin D levels.
Furthermore, British researchers found that women with correct vitamin D levels were 34% more likely to have a positive pregnancy test, 46% more likely to achieve a clinical pregnancy, and a third more likely to have a live birth than women with low Vitamin D levels.
Ensuring your Vitamin D levels are at normal levels can help you conceive. A simple blood test can give you the answers you need and ensure you have enough vitamin D for optimal fertility.
Take Your Supplements
Even the most conscientious eaters may have difficulty getting the proper amounts and full complement of key nutrients from diet alone. Vegetarians, vegans, and followers of other restrictive diets need to keep tabs on their nutritional intake.
When you’re trying to get pregnant, whether you are a woman looking to improve your egg health or looking for male supplements to maximize sperm count, fertility supplements can help protect against common fertility problems and support your health throughout pregnancy.
Female fertility supplements can help combat many common causes of female infertility, including egg quality, diminished ovarian response (DOR), PCOS, and inflammation. Women can also use fertility supplements to support their health during and after pregnancy. Supplements can help to improve the health of your baby, his or her neurodevelopment and protect against metabolic issues.
Male fertility supplements, like Co-Q10, have improved sperm concentration, motility, and sperm count in men. Other studies have shown that supplementing with l-carnitine can increase sperm motility and morphology.
Men and women require different nutrients. Molecular Fertility offers a complete line of male and female supplements formulated by board-certified reproductive endocrinologists and other fertility specialists.
Each supplement includes a range of vitamins and minerals that have been scientifically proven to support fertility prior to conception, during pregnancy, and beyond.
While strenuous exercise for more than four hours a week has been shown to decrease conception rates, yoga for fertility has been shown to improve a couples’ chances of conceiving and may even help them conceive faster. Yoga helps reduce stress, can improve circulation, and balance your immune system.
The breathing exercises and mindfulness that are key components of yoga make it an excellent stress reliever. Yoga has been shown in studies to decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone. Bending, stretching, and holding different poses improve blood flow to all body regions, including the reproductive organs in both men and women. Better blood flow means more oxygen and nutrients to help with the production of sperm and eggs.
Yoga can also help balance reproductive hormones, which is key to the proper functioning of both the male and female reproductive systems and improving your fertility. It also helps reduce inflammation, which has been linked to many causes of infertility and a host of other health issues and age-related diseases, from diabetes to cancer and stroke. Yoga’s anti-inflammatory capabilities are just one of many reasons to add yoga to your fertility improvement routine.
Men also benefit from yoga. One study suggests yoga may help improve reproductive health in men. Since stress is a significant factor in sperm health, using yoga to reduce stress may also help with sperm production and sperm health.
Go for a Walk & Connect with Nature
No spa appointment is needed. Just a short 20-minute walk in nature can lower your stress hormone levels. And you don’t even need to walk. Sitting in a place where you feel connected to the natural world can have the same positive effect.
A recent study discovered that a twenty-minute nature experience was enough to reduce cortisol levels significantly. And spending even more time (say 30-40 minutes) immersed in nature helped cortisol levels drop at their greatest rate. After that, additional de-stressing benefits continue to add up but at a slower rate.
If you choose to walk instead of sit, studies show that a short walk at a comfortable pace promotes relaxation. Walking stimulates the release of endorphins, brain chemicals that facilitate relaxation and improve your mood.
Since stress reduction is key to boosting fertility, heading outside can give you double the benefits. Get your sunshine and decrease stress in one fell swoop!
Quit Smoking Tobacco, Marijuana, & Other Drugs and Limit Alcohol Consumption
Men and women trying to have a baby should limit or eliminate alcohol, especially if they are struggling with infertility. Even in moderate amounts, alcohol has been shown to harm fertility. In men, alcohol can lower testosterone levels and decrease sperm quality. Women who drink heavily are more likely to require fertility treatment, experience hormone imbalances and disruptions to their menstrual cycles and ovulation, all of which make getting pregnant more challenging.
The chemicals in cigarettes can damage the genetic material in both sperm and eggs. Smoking has been shown to negatively affect nearly all sperm parameters, significantly impairing the sperm’s ability to fertilize an egg. Female smokers experience more permanent and more severe effects. Smoking can accelerate egg supply loss, causing early menopause. It also lowers conception rates. Smokers are more likely to experience conception delays and difficulty conceiving when compared to non-smokers.
While the data is clear on smoking tobacco, it is less decisive when it comes to marijuana. There are several conflicting studies about the impact of marijuana on fertility. While some studies show smoking marijuana is responsible for poor sperm quality, other studies have shown higher testosterone levels and an improvement in sperm concentrations.
Women who use marijuana may experience ovulation delays or anovulation, both of which impact a woman’s ability to get pregnant. More research is still necessary, but it seems wise to avoid marijuana use until scientists completely understand its effect on male and female fertility.
Many men and women are turning to ancient Chinese medicine for a fertility boost. Acupuncture uses tiny, hair-thin needles to stimulate different pathways in the body. Research has shown its ability to balance hormones and treat PCOS, improve sperm parameters and egg quality, and improve pregnancy rates. A large systematic review of past studies found that acupuncture increased the odds of clinical pregnancy by 65% compared to control groups not using acupuncture.
Since sperm and eggs both take approximately 90 days to develop, fertility experts recommend starting acupuncture treatment at least three months before any fertility treatment for best results. It can be used in conjunction with IUI, IVF, or any treatment. Acupuncture’s effectiveness increases with the number of acupuncture sessions, and it’s a great way to improve your fertility naturally and requires no pills or special diets. After an acupuncture session, most people report feeling relaxed, less stressed, and they experience better sleep.
If trying on your own is not resulting in pregnancy, don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation with a fertility expert. In the case of infertility, ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s essential to know and understand what you’re up against. If you’re under 35 and haven’t conceived after a year of trying, request a complete fertility evaluation. If you’re over 35 and haven’t conceived after six months of trying, don’t wait any longer. Many fertility issues can be “silent” and will only be diagnosed after a failure to conceive.
Both partners should be evaluated since fertility problems affect men and women equally. Male factors account for 50% of infertility cases, but most experts agree that by the time someone reaches a fertility clinic, approximately 60-70% of cases are due to male factors, as many female factors are successfully treated at the OB/GYN level.
Depending on you and your partner’s diagnosis and age, your provider can recommend the appropriate starting point. Since age plays a role in how effective treatments are, it’s wise to begin as early as possible.
The Bottom Line
Many fertility experts will agree, “A healthy body is a fertile body,” which is why it’s so important to maximize your health before trying to conceive on your own or with fertility treatment.
Your hormones need to be balanced, your body less stressed, and you need to have a positive mindset. Don’t forget to take time for yourself and make you and your partner your best, healthiest selves as you begin your journey to parenthood.
An inflammation-reducing diet along with some supplements, meditation, and other healthy lifestyle choices can set you on the right track.