Do you want to get pregnant quickly and give birth to a healthy baby? Have you been having problems conceiving and want to increase your fertility naturally? Are you going to have a fertility treatment like IVF and want to make sure you give it your best shot of success?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then this guide to improving your fertility by simple diet and lifestyle is for you.
Break out the mocktails
My favourite cocktail is a mojito and I wasn’t looking forward to giving it up to get pregnant. Knowing this, my husband secretly went out and brought a mocktail mixology book and surprised me with a virgin mojito. I’ve been hooked since and drink them more than I ever drunk alcoholic mojitos.
I very much recommend you try mocktails, because as you have probably already guessed, drinking alcohol is not good for your fertility. Studies show that women who drink take longer to conceive than those who abstain. Even if they are not drinking very much alcohol at all.
If you don’t want to give up alcohol completely, then you shouldn’t be drinking more than a maximum of 2 units twice weekly, and avoid alcohol around the time of ovulation. I also recommend that you think about switching to a drink that is rich in antioxidants, like red wine or Guinness. This is because antioxidants are known to increase your fertility (though I’d prefer it if you got them from green vegetables or citrus fruits).
For more information on why body types matter, how to reduce alcohol’s impact on your fertility, timing when you should avoid it altogether and more, check out the section: Alcohol and Your Fertility.
If you feel you need support to help you cut down or stop drinking altogether, then see your family doctor, or visit Drinkaware for further tips and advice.
A poor diet won’t stop you conceiving, but…
What you eat is unlikely to stop you from getting pregnant. However, before you go reaching for that greasy fried food, you might like to know that by eating healthy food, you may increase your chances of getting pregnant quicker.
You don’t need a complicated diet. In fact, avoid fad diets completely. These are the diets that promise dramatic results quickly. These diets can cause poor health and poor health is bad for fertility. Simply cut down on junk food and snacks, while making sure you eat at least five fruit or vegetables a day.
Regardless of how healthily you are eating, I would advise that you take additional folic acid and vitamin D. These can increase your chances of getting pregnant and help protect the growing baby. You can take them in either the form of single supplements, or as part of a combined multivitamin aimed at conception and pregnancy.
If you would like to learn more about folic acid, vitamin D and other vitamins that can help increase your fertility, you can check out the section: Fertility Supplements for Women.
Bad news for plus and zero
Are you model-tastic at size zero or are you all about the bass? Sorry, I have bad news for you either way. If you are too large or too skinny, then it may take you longer to get pregnant because your weight can mess with your cycles and stop ovulation.
The current advice to increase your chances of getting pregnant is to have a BMI (Body Mass Index) in the range of 18.5 to 24.9.
Don’t have a clue what BMI is? It is your weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in meters. Still not sure what BMI is? Personally I just use the website BMI Calculator, which is much simpler and also allows you to perform the calculation in feet, inches and stone.
Learn why your weight affects your fertility, what you can do about it, and why a person’s BMI can be misleading by checking out the sections: Overweight and Trying to Get Pregnant and Underweight and Problems Conceiving.
To be or not to be a gym bunny
Too little exercise is unlikely to ‘directly’ affect your fertility, but that doesn’t mean you can spend all day flopped in front of the TV. While exercise won’t directly increase your fertility, it is an important part of a healthy lifestyle which does impact on fertility. So the usual recommendations of 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity per week for a healthy lifestyle will likely increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Fitness fanatics shouldn’t be too smug either. Guidelines recommend you avoid strenuous exercise when trying for a baby. This is because too much exercise can reduce ovulation and result in irregular or missed periods. There is some good news however, once you cut down on the exercise, your periods and fertility should return to normal.
Would you like to know about sports as well as more about exercise? If so please read the section: Exercise and Fertility: The Good and The Bad.
Don’t Tell Me To Relax!
While there’s nothing more likely to induce stress than a well-meaning friend telling you to relax and you’ll get pregnant, there is some truth behind this statement. Stress is thought to play a role in up to 30% of couples who are struggling to conceive. Not only may this reduce your libido (your willingness to have sex), but it can also reduce the frequency of ovulation. As if this wasn’t bad enough, stress can have an impact upon your relationship and can lead to unhealthy coping behaviours like smoking, drinking alcohol and taking illegal drugs.
Of course, you may already know all of this, but actually being able to avoid or reduce your stress is far easier said than done. In fact, I found that learning about how stress can impact your fertility only ended up making me even more stressed. However, you can’t ignore it if you want to increase your chances of getting pregnant.
The way I learned to overcome this was by trying to reduce stresses elsewhere in my life, and to have a good method of relaxing and unwinding on a regular basis. For me this was long baths with candles, mocktail and a good book. But it doesn’t matter what it is, find whatever is going to work for you (as long as it is not one of the things I say are bad for you).
Managing stress doesn’t just increase your fertility, but can improve your health and increase your quality of life as well. For more information on stress, you can consult the NHS site: NHS Understanding Stress
Go green to increase your fertility
If you want to increase your fertility, it isn’t as simple as cleaning up your own life, you also have to watch out for the environment around you. Regular exposure to chemicals, pesticides or radiation can reduce your fertility. It is important therefore that if your job or hobby involves exposure to these on a regular basis, that you take safety precautions to minimise the contact that you have with them.
You also need to be aware of the chemicals, pesticides and hormones that may be lurking in your food. They may have been contaminated through the food production process, or through the packaging that they are contained in. In sufficient quantities these chemicals can interfere with your body’s own natural hormones and cause problems conceiving.
If this all seems a bit of a minefield, then learn more about what chemicals you may be being exposed to on a daily basis and how to avoid them by reading Environmental Factors That Could Stop You Getting Pregnant
Don’t let your fertility go up in smoke
While it may not surprise you to learn that smoking is bad for your general health, you may not be aware of just how bad it can be for your fertility as well. For a start, the average smoker is one-and-a-half-times more likely to take over a year to get pregnant than someone who doesn’t. But there’s worse news than that.
Double The Chance of Infertility Problems
Women who smoke are twice as likely to be infertile, then those who don’t. That’s double your chances of having one of these: Common Causes of Female Infertility. Smoking really is one of the worse things you can do for your fertility.
Fertility Returns After a Year of Not Smoking
The good news is though that within one year of stopping smoking, your fertility returns to that of a non-smoker. You’ll also be feeling all the other health benefits of no longer smoking as well as being financially better off (which is important as babies are expensive).
To find out more about how smoking affects fertility, if how much you smoke matters, whether your partner smoking is a problem and what you can do about it, please check out the section Is Smoking Ruining Your Chances of Being A Mother.
If you seek support from a stop smoking service, there may be medications that they can offer to help cut down the cravings and make the quitting easier. If you live in the UK, you can find out more about stopping smoking by visiting: NHS SmokeFree Service.
It’s not big, it’s not clever, and it’s not going to get you pregnant
Some people believe recreational drugs can increase your fertility. They don’t. In my work as a doctor, I have personal experience of dealing with drug addicts who wanted to have a baby. This is what I saw:
• They took longer to get pregnant
• They had more infertility problems
• Some of the babies were born with drug related problems
It’s not just my word on it, all the studies support me. For more information on the different types of drugs, how they affect your fertility (and your baby’s health), how they affect your partner and what you can do about it, check out the section: Recreational Drugs, Your Fertility and Your Baby
It takes two to tango
Ladies, it’s not just you who need to increase your fertility. A man’s fertility can go up and down throughout his life. This is why I have created the section: A Man’s Guide to Supercharging His Sperm