For many couples, it may take time to get pregnant. For many couples, it can take 3 to 9 months of trying to get pregnant, or even longer.
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after a year of regular intercourse. This happens in an estimated 10% to 15% of couples. However, many couples get pregnant even after having been unable to do so for a year.
Today, with more knowledge about how lifestyle changes can improve fertility and with better fertility treatments, about 50% of previously infertile couples can become pregnant.
There are simple steps you and your partner can do to improve your chances of becoming pregnant.
If you have been trying to get pregnant for more than one year (or for six months if you are 35 or older), discuss with your doctor if something else may be preventing you from getting pregnant, such as fibroids or ovulation issues. —Dr. Jessica White-Videa
While regular exercise is good for everyone, in women, an exercise regimen that is too vigorous can actually affect pregnancy hormones. It may lower estrogen levels needed for ovulation and progesterone needed for the embryo to implant in the uterus.
In men, vigorous exercise may reduce sperm count. Also, there is some evidence that sitting for long periods on hard bicycle seats can play a role in men’s infertility.
If you do regular strenuous exercise, consider slowing down and trying a moderate-intensity workout.
Avoid hot tubs
Extreme heat to a man’s genitals is thought to reduce production of viable sperm. In women, hot tubs don’t affect their ability to become pregnant. But once pregnant, women should avoid hot tubs and other high temperatures, like in whirlpools, saunas, and when taking long hot baths.
Eat a healthy diet
Good nutrition is particularly important in boosting your fertility. Eat healthy carbohydrates (such as whole grains), get lots of fiber, and follow a low-fat diet (but not a no-fat diet).
Choose healthy fats, like olive oil or canola oil, and reduce saturated fats from animal products. Avoid foods with processed sugars like high-fructose corn syrup, which make your blood sugar levels spike quickly.
There is some evidence that taking the recommended daily amount of zinc improves a man’s fertility. Women should take 400 micrograms of folic acid (folate) daily.
Maintain a healthy weight
Never underestimate the importance of diet and exercise in the process of getting pregnant. I strongly believe that one of the most effective, and definitely cost effective, ways to get pregnant is to lose weight if you have a high BMI. Another benefit of diet and exercise is that it helps reduce stress, which is known to make it more difficult to get pregnant. —Dr. White-Videa
Body weight seems to play an important role in fertility. Being underweight or overweight can affect your levels of hormones that are important for fertility.
If you are a thin woman, with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 17, you may be less fertile. It may improve your fertility if you gain enough weight to have a BMI of at least 20.
If you are an overweight woman and have a BMI over 27, your weight may make you less fertile. It may improve your fertility if you lose weight to reach a BMI that is below 27. To lose weight, follow a healthy diet and do moderate-intensity exercise regularly.
Stress has been linked to infertility. Chronic stress can cause an irregular menstrual cycle, which can interfere with ovulation. It can also cause other hormonal changes that interfere with reproduction. Stress can also affect a man’s fertility.
Stress-reduction techniques can be very helpful for some couples. Some options are practicing deep breathing or meditation. But there are other ways to reduce stress, like participating in activities you love, and getting enough sleep.
If you are having symptoms of depression or anxiety, you should seek help before you try to get pregnant.
If you are a woman, even moderate drinking (one drink a day) could possibly lower fertility. It also raises the risk of certain pregnancy complications, such as miscarriages and fetal alcohol syndrome.
A man’s fertility may be reduced by drinking more than two drinks a day, but this is still being debated.
Give up smoking
In women, smoking is associated with decreased ability to become pregnant and an increased chance of stillbirths. In men, smoking may cause impotence because it damages your blood supply.
Avoid certain herbal supplements
Several supplements, including St John’s wort, may reduce fertility in both men and women.
Speak to your doctor regarding which supplements you are taking. Herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA.
Review your medications
The following prescription and nonprescription (legal and illegal) drugs can interfere with your fertility. Talk to your doctor about any prescription, over-the-counter, or recreational drugs you’re taking.
- Hypertension medications
- Anti-seizure medications such as valproic acid
- Antipsychotic medications
- Body-building steroids