For any woman awaiting the results of a pregnancy test, those grueling minutes can be the longest of her life. When the result is not what you had hoped for, it is heartbreaking.
You are not alone. Infertility affects 7.4 million women in the U.S.
The good news is that with lifestyle changes, inside knowledge on improving conception odds, and fertility treatments (if necessary), women can help to tip the scales in their favor.
The following list provides some suggestions on how to improve your overall well-being and boost your fertility to help bring you one step closer to motherhood.
Maintain a Healthy Diet & Weight
Opt for lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, and lean protein. As tempting as they are, overdoing it on refined carbohydrates, sweets, and saturated fats can be hard on the body and make weight gain more likely. Studies have found that losing as little as 5% of body weight in those that are overweight can dramatically improve fertility in men and women.
A normal BMI falls in the range of 18.5 to 24.9 with anything above 25 considered overweight and over 30 classified as obese. Study results show that the chance of pregnancy lowered by 4% for every BMI over 29. Women with a BMI of 35 had a 26% less chance of spontaneous pregnancy and this jumped to 43% for women at a BMI of 40.
Consider Talking to a Psychologist
Going through fertility treatment and trying to conceive can be stressful. While some stressors can be relieved, others such as work and family are harder to control. A study found that psychological interventions for women with infertility have the potential to decrease anxiety and depression and may lead to higher pregnancy rates. Psychological interventions could include talking to a therapist, performing relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation, and challenging negative thoughts with cognitive behavioral therapy.
Don’t wait until you are feeling your lowest to seek help, the guidance of a professional can lift you up wherever you are on your journey. We invite you to join a free virtual support group or book an appointment with Dr. Tiffany Edwards for support. For FCI patients, the first appointment is free.
Cut Back On Coffee & Alcohol
Most of us need coffee to get going in the morning and we enjoy cocktails with friends. But both can have a negative impact if you overindulge when trying to conceive. Aim to limit caffeine to 200mg of caffeine per day and remember that caffeine is also found in tea, chocolate, and soft drinks. Cut back alcohol to no more than 2-3 servings per week. One serving of alcohol is one ounce of hard liquor, 4.5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer.
Smoking significantly hurts fertility potential in both men and women. In women, chemicals in cigarettes accelerate egg loss and can cause menopause to occur 1-4 years earlier. For men, cigarettes decrease sperm quality, count, shape (morphology), and ability to move (motility). Smoking can also impact the ability of sperm to fertilize an egg.
Track Your Cycles
The 12-24 hour ovulation window usually happens 12-14 days before your period starts, based on a 28-day cycle. There are many ways to pinpoint when you are ovulating. For example, your discharge should turn into the consistency of egg whites and your body temperature will increase. Tracking your period and ovulation symptoms in an app can also help. An ovulation predictor kit can alert you to your fertile window by measuring the increase in luteinizing hormone in your urine, signaling that an egg is about to be released.
Have Sex Before & During Ovulation
Sperm can live in the uterus for three to five days, so having sex leading up to ovulation can help. Have sex one to two days before ovulation and again on the day you think you’re ovulating. This will result in a healthy supply of sperm waiting in the fallopian tube when the egg is released, increasing your chances of conceiving.
Dr. Meike Uhler of Fertility Centers of Illinois is board certified in both Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, and has been practicing medicine since 1992. In her career she has helped thousands of patients overcome infertility and experience the joy of having a family.