Before becoming pregnant, I was so afraid of not being able to conceive. I kept thinking about what I would do if, month after month, the tests kept coming up negative. Would we look into other options? IVF? Surrogates? Adoption?
I am grateful every day that nature cooperated and made us both fertile. That I was able to conceive naturally because of a low risk pregnancy and healthy body. It truly is a blessing and I do not take any of it for granted. Ever.
Although I did get pregnant in a matter of weeks, I am 100% convinced that a healthy diet and lifestyle contribute to women (and men!) being more fertile. It’s common sense that your body should be “prepped” to be healthy enough to carry a child. After all, it will be depleted daily of essential nutrients!
Although there are a lot of other factors to consider such as age, heredity, and environment, being healthy should be your priority months before you decide it’s time to get to work.
- Stress – High mental stress can decrease fertility significantly.
- Weight Issues – Body fat levels that are 10 to 15 percent above normal can overload the body with estrogen, messing with the reproductive cycle, and body fat levels 10 to 15 percent below normal can shut down the reproductive process.
- Hormone Imbalance – Irregularities in the hormone system (usually characterized by irregular menstrual cycles or short, long, or heavy periods) can sometimes affect ovulation.
- Autoimmune Disorders – Lupus, diabetes, thyroid disease, and rheumatoid arthritis can interfere with fertility.
- Drugs, Alcohol & Tobacco – Antidepressants, antibiotics, painkillers, and other drugs for chronic disorders may cause temporary infertility. Smoking may increase the risk of infertility in women, and even moderate alcohol consumption (as few as five drinks a week) can prevent you from conceiving.
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases – STDs can lead to tubal scarring, ectopic pregnancy, infertility, and many other reproductive issues if left untreated.
- Eat lots of whole foods, vegetable proteins & good carbs – When trying to conceive, get rid of all skim milk products and buy whole milk and full fat yogurt instead (full fat ice cream too!). Aim for servings of beans and nuts, and indulge in the good carbs like oatmeal and veggies, while reducing sweets and pasta intake. Many women have a gluten intolerance (that they may even not know about) and this may lead to infertility.
- Avoid trans fat & saturated oils – the fats that clog arteries are mostly found in commercially prepared foods and fast foods. Aim for unsaturated oils like avocado and olive oil.
- Get in touch with your natural cycle – Women who understand their ovulation cycle tend to get pregnant quicker. Download an app to track your periods and figure out when you are most fertile every month. If you are or recently got off birth control, it may take your body a while to adjust.
- Take a folic acid supplement – Getting enough folic acid before conception and during early pregnancy has been found to significantly reduce the risk of neural-tube defects (such as spina bifida) in babies.
- Aim for a “fertile” body weight – The “fertile” range is a BMI of 20-24. Overweight women should aim to lose 5-10 percent of their body weight, or aim for the “7.5 percent solution” which is a little more realistic for most women.
- Exercise gently & stay zen – The key is to work out daily, but not overdo it. Some women can work out strenuously and conceive, while for others a lower level of exertion can slow down the process. It is essential to reduce stress in all areas of your life when trying to get pregnant. Working out at your local gym, running/walking, and focusing on your yoga practice can be highly therapeutic. Meditation is a great way to unwind after a tough day as well – women have a hard time letting go of tensions/stress and it is important to find an outlet that works for you.
- Drink a lot of water – This one is obvious, but water helps your body function in all of its processes: ovulation, fertilization, and pregnancy included. 8-10 glasses is the recommended daily amount.
- Take care of your gut – The gastrointestinal system is closely related to fertility. Many health providers suggest eliminating food allergens, boosting friendly bacteria through diet/supplements, and take digestive aids to absorb essential nutrients.
- Curb caffeine & alcohol intake – When trying to get pregnant, it is best to drink no more than 1-2 cups of coffee per day. It is best to stop drinking altogether in the months/weeks before conception. Both caffeine and alcohol consumption adversely affect conception in a dose-dependent way.
- Stop smoking – Smokers are more likely to be infertile and women exposed to smoking take longer to conceive. Studies show that smoking can damage sperm DNA, and heavy smoking (≥20 cigarettes per day) by fathers at the time of conception increases the child’s risk of childhood leukemia and shortens the reproductive life span of daughters (yourfertility.org)
- Reduce Stress. Like women, men should reduce the stress in their lives when attempting to conceive. Sleep, relaxation, and exercise is very important to their fertility as well.
- Keep them out of the heat. Saunas, steam rooms, and hot tubs can raise their body temperatures temporarily — lowering the number and quality of their sperm. Another surprising fact? Research shows that placing laptops directly on their laps can increase the temperature of the scrotum and decrease sperm production.
- Healthy Nutrition. Deficiencies of vitamins A, C, D, E, B12, zinc, selenium, folic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids can reduce sperm production and quality.