If you're trying to conceive this year, there may be a few bad habits that you'll want to break. Making some positive changes can have a huge impact for couples trying for a baby. These changes will not only improve your health, but also give you a fertility boost.
Not sure where to start?
Sit down with your partner and go through the list below. Pick a few and make the goal to improve together. Teaming up for accountability will increase your ability to stick to your goal.
Remember, it is better to succeed at two than to take on five and become overwhelmed. Pace yourself for positive, lasting change.
1. Stressing About Timing
Temperature charts and home ovulation kits add nothing if you are having intercourse two to four times per week. If you have regular periods, your fertile zone is Days 12-16. If your cycles are irregular, see a reproductive endocrinologist and relieve yourself of the stress and confusion that comes with home testing.
2. Ignoring your BMI Number
Body Mass Index is a number that is calculated using a person’s height and weight, and is used as an indicator of obesity and weight issues. Extra weight causes hormonal shifts that can affect ovulation and semen production, and can also make achieving a pregnancy more difficult. Conversely, being underweight can cause irregular or absent periods. The ideal Body Mass Index (BMI) falls in the 20-25 range. The CDC provides a BMI calculator to help assess your BMI number. The positive news: losing as little as 5-10 percent of body weight can significantly improve fertility potential in overweight patients. Also, being a little overweight is better than being underweight.
3. Eating Junk Food
If you’re putting junk in your body, you aren’t getting the nutrition you need. Limit or cut out processed foods, sweets, and saturated fats. Make meals that include fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, and don’t overdo carbohydrates. Too many carbohydrates can lead to the production of ovarian hormones, which can interfere with ovulation and cause harm to women with PCOS. At the same time, don’t punish yourself if you have a craving. A little bit of fun food never hurts, and may relieve the urge to feast on guilty pleasures.
4. Avoiding a Doctor Appointment
If you’ve been trying for a year and you’re under 35, or if you’ve been trying for six months and you’re over 35 and have not yet achieved a pregnancy, it’s time to talk to a specialist. Knowledge is power, and there may be simple changes you can make to help achieve conception. A consultation and basic fertility evaluation is an affordable way to get a snapshot of fertility potential. We do a Fertility Awareness Checkup for couples for the cost of a nice dinner for two. If you are under 35, having basic testing done which returns normal results may allow for a few more cycles of trying without pursuing treatment.
5. Lighting Up That Cigarette
We all know smoking is unhealthy, but there are numbers to prove it. A report by the British Medical Association showed that smokers may have up to a 10-40% lower monthly fecundity (fertility) rate. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has estimated that up to 13% of infertility may be caused by tobacco use. Smoking as few as five cigarettes per day has been associated with lower fertility rates in males and females. Smoking, whether tobacco or marijuana, is also associated with miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, pregnancy complications and stillborn births - even if it's the male partner doing the smoking.
6. Going Big at Starbucks
Even though up to two cups of coffee have been shown to be safe in pregnancy, exceeding that when trying to conceive may be counterproductive. One study showed that “women who consumed more than the equivalent of one cup of coffee per day were half as likely to become pregnant, per cycle, as women who drank less.” Better to use decaffeinated or half-caffeinated coffee, and remember there is caffeine in tea, cola and chocolate.
7. Using Water-Based Lubricant
If you’re trying to conceive, water-based lubricant may be working against your efforts. Water-based lubricants such as Astroglide and KY Jelly may inhibit sperm movement by 60-100 percent within 60 minutes of intercourse. The swimmers can’t win the race and reach the prize if they can’t move. Opt for natural oils, oil-based lubricants or even cooking oil, but be sure to keep any potential allergies in mind. If you’re allergic to peanuts, then peanut oil may not be for you. Pre-Seed lubricant is a commercial product that may even enhance motility (movement) of sperm.
8. “Catching Up” On Sleep
If you aren’t getting the sleep you need per night, no amount of “catch up” can make up for lost rest. Research shows that the hormone leptin, which has a critical role in female fertility, is reduced when the body is deprived of sleep. Rest for at least seven hours per night, and be aware of your body’s needs.
9. Not Seeking Support
A study concluded that women with infertility felt as anxious and depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack. If you’re concerned about your fertility, don’t walk the path alone. Talk to your partner, see a counselor (with your partner or alone), and find a support group or forum where you can speak with others who can relate. One in six couples experiences difficulty when trying to conceive – the odds are that someone you know is feeling the same way you are. We have an abundance of classes, seminars and materials to support patients, as well as twofertility counselors.
10. “Saving Up” for Ovulation
There is no need to “save up” sperm for sex during ovulation, or have intercourse multiple times per day leading up to ovulation. Don't let trying to conceive interfere with a pleasurable sex life. Aim to have sex two to four times per week when it feels right.
Dr. Edward L. Marut
Dr. Marut is lifetime board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (REI), and has been practicing medicine since 1981. He has served as the Highland Park IVF Medical Director at FCI since 1991 and now is the Medical Director of the Chicago River North IVF Center. Upon completion of his medical degree from the Yale University School of Medicine, Dr. Marut completed his residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco and received a lifetime board certification in ObGyn. Dr. Marut was awarded the National Fellowship in Reproductive Medicine, and received a lifetime Board Certification in Reproductive Endocrinology after completing his fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. Dr. Marut has served in an IVF Medical Director position since 1983. Aside from leading FCI’s Highland Park and River north IVF centers, he served as a Medical Director at Michael Reese Hospital for the IVF Program, the Center for Assisted Reproductive Technology, and Family Planning Program. He has served as medical faculty at the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois, Chicago.