When people start trying for a baby they don’t normally think about it too much. They just start, thinking it will be quite easy to conceive, some even expect it to happen very quickly. While indeed, conception might happen quite quickly, for many people it doesn’t, and for some people getting pregnant is not easy and can be a challenge.
Did you know that 1 in 7 couples in the UK is affected by fertility problems? This could be due to many different factors including age, reproductive health and pre-existing medical conditions.
Although most couples (around 84%) will get pregnant within a year of trying, a woman’s fertility declines with age especially for those aged 35 and over. For this reason, if you are in your 30s and trying to get pregnant, you should do everything you can to increase your chances of conceiving.
There are lots of factors in play when trying to get pregnant and if you want to maximise your chances of conception it is good to take these into account. There are things you probably don’t know or you are not aware of so this post aims to bring these things to your attention.
To improve your chances of conceiving, read on to find out about the things you can do and what you should avoid.
FOOD AND NUTRITION
When trying to improve your chances of getting pregnant, you should know that your diet can have an impact on your fertility. Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet will help your body to receive the nutrients it needs to make a baby. A healthy diet is important for both, men and women.
Recommendations for men
Dr Dawn Harper said that “a low or poor quality sperm count is the cause of infertility in about 20% of couples in the UK, and a contributory factor in a further 25% of couples”. This is something that can be improved with healthy dietary choices:
- Aim to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables at least 5 portions a day
- Eat food that contains antioxidants such as selenium. Selenium-rich food include tuna, sole, brazil nuts and mackerel)
- Get enough zinc from your diet by eating organic meat, seafood, whole grains and pulses to help support sperm health and a healthy reproductive system
- Increase your consumption of omega-3 fats found in oily fish
- Avoid processed meat such as bacon and sausage
- Eat more walnuts (they may help to improve semen quality)
Recommendations for women
- Eat enough fruits and vegetables (make sure you get your 5 a day!). A major study of more than 1,100 men and women found that those who regularly consumed enough fruit and vegetables had higher levels of fertility.
- Carbs – You should avoid eating too many refined carbs (sugary foods, drinks and processed grains) and focus on low GI foods and whole grains instead.
- Protein – Try to eat less animal protein and more vegetable protein.
- Trans fats – Avoid these types of fats as much as you can. These are found in fried foods, certain cakes, pastries and processed meats. They also affect male fertility.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – Increase your intake of healthy sources of omega-3s such as salmon, sardines, walnuts and flaxseed oil.
- Caffeine – High-caffeine intake has been linked to fertility problems. Caffeine can be found in lots of products such as coffee, cola and energy drinks. The NHS recommends a limit of 200 milligrams a day of caffeine, which is the equivalent of two mugs of instant coffee.
- Folic Acid – The UK Department of Health recommends that women trying to conceive should take a daily supplement of folic acid when trying to conceive and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This is because having the right level of folic acid in your body when you conceive can reduce the risk of your baby developing a neural tube defect by 70%. It is very difficult to get enough folic acid from diet alone.
Whether you like it or not, your lifestyle can play an important role in your chances of getting pregnant. In order to improve your chances of success, it is a good idea to take a look at your lifestyle.
First of all, you should know that looking after your health is crucial. Do you feel you are always so busy, rushing around and trying to get things done? Are you stressed at work? Do you suffer from insomnia at night? All of these factors may affect your fertility.
What about your activity levels? How active are you? Do you have a sedentary job or you have a job where you move around a lot? Moderate exercise is something that has been shown to be helpful when trying to conceive so if you are not active enough, it’s a good time to do something about it. But make sure you don’t overexercise as this could have a negative impact on your fertility.
If you drink alcohol, it’s important to know that alcohol is known to influence the male and female reproductive systems although it’s not very clear how it affects fertility. It is best for women to avoid it all together when trying to conceive.
When it comes to male fertility, “excessive alcohol lowers testosterone levels and sperm quality and quantity in men” (source).
There is also no question about the impact of smoking on fertility either – smoking affects male fertility but also it affects the fertility of women so if either of you smokes it’s now time to stop.
FERTILITY TESTS AND MONITORS
If you want to understand your fertility better and improve your chances of getting pregnant, it’s worth investing in fertility tests and monitoring your menstrual cycle.
A woman is the most fertile around her ovulation, specifically a day or two either side of an egg being released from her ovaries. For this reason, it’s helpful to know when you are ovulating or when ovulation is about to occur. You can find this out by taking a home ovulation test which is easy to use and gives you results in 5 minutes.
Babystart FertilTime ovulation tests available from Dr Fertility (5 in one pack) are 99% accurate and will detect whether you have an increased amount of luteinising hormone (LH) in your body, a hormone which triggers the release of an egg from the ovary. With the test, you will get all the instructions you need to help you use the test correctly.
Knowing the most fertile days of your cycle can improve your chances of conceiving by helping you to determine the best time to have sexual intercourse.
Female fertility test – FSH test
If you want to assess your fertility potential, there is a fertility test you can do which gives you an indication of your fertility by checking levels of FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) in your urine.
FSH plays an important role in your reproductive system and rising levels of FSH tend to be associated with reduced fertility.
Babystart FertilCheck test also available from Dr Fertility is an easy home screening test which is very similar to a pregnancy test but the difference is that it checks for high levels of FSH. A negative result is a good sign meaning your FSH levels are not raised. This is not proof of fertility though so you should still see a doctor at clinics like the Meyer Menopause clinic if you have irregular periods or any menopause-like symptoms.
Male fertility test
Apart from women’s fertility tests and monitors you can also buy a test that will give you an indication of male fertility.
Babystart FertilCount test from Dr Fertility measures sperm concentration and it’s fairly easy to use.
First, collect a semen sample in the cup provided and after 15 minutes begin with the test. Make sure you read all the instructions beforehand and so that you know exactly what to do which will allow you to perform the test correctly.
You will get results in 15 minutes and these will tell you whether your sperm count is below the recommended 15 million per ml. The results come with 97% accuracy and you are recommended to consult your doctor if the test comes negative at least once (you do two tests in one week).
I believe this test is really worth doing. If you discover early that sperm concentration is not as good as it should be, then the man can quickly start to take action and change his diet and lifestyle in order to improve the quality of his sperm.
What else can you do to improve your fertility?
There are many other things you can do to improve your fertility, for example, you could consider taking some supplements and you should also look at environmental toxins you are exposed to daily as these may have a negative impact on your fertility too. Pollution, exposure to BPA and even cleaning products may affect your fertility. The best is to do your own research to see what toxins are the worst for your fertility.
For additional tips on getting pregnant quicker, see this guide from Dr Fertility.
If you are trying to get pregnant, what are you doing right now to increase your fertility?
Full Disclosure: This post was created in collaboration with Dr Fertility who provided fertility products mentioned in this post for review. All views and opinions expressed are my own.