Whether you’re having trouble conceiving or simply want to get pregnant as quickly as possible, I have good news – making changes to your lifestyle can considerably improve your chances of having a baby. Here are 10 ways you can improve your fertility.
Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.
There’s no doubt that smoking has a negative effect on fertility. Exposure to smoke makes it more difficult to get pregnant because it harms your eggs, alters hormone production, and disrupts embryo transport and the environment in the womb. Smoking also increases the chance of having a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy, or of giving birth prematurely. And the negative effects of smoking aren’t limited to women – men’s fertility is also reduced if they smoke. Fortunately, within a year of quitting, these negative effects can be reversed. So if you and/or your partner smoke, now is the time to quit.
Cut out alcohol.
It’s common knowledge that alcohol can harm a developing baby, so most women stop drinking once they become pregnant. But did you know that heavy drinking is also bad for your fertility? Studies show that women who are heavy drinkers take longer to get pregnant and couples who do not drink alcohol during IVF treatment have higher rates of pregnancy compared to couples where either the man or women has any alcohol intake. If you are planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest and recommended option.
Reach a healthy weight.
In a normal reproductive cycle, you have a chance to get pregnant once a month when an ovary releases an egg. Ovulation is tightly controlled by hormones. However, these hormones can become imbalanced in women who are over or underweight, which in turn leads to irregular or absent ovulation. Combining regular exercise with a healthy diet will help you reach and maintain a healthy weight, bringing your hormones (and ovulation frequency) back in check, which will improve your chances of conceiving. For added motivation, keep in mind that being within a healthy weight range during your pregnancy has benefits for you and your baby and this is easier to manage if you are a healthy weight when you become pregnant. Find out more about pregnancy weight gain here.
Make exercise part of your routine.
Regular exercise is great for your overall health and wellbeing, so it’s not surprising that it has a positive effect on your fertility. I recommend patients planning a pregnancy exercise for 45 minutes, 3–4 times per week. Weight training and high impact interval training (HIIT) are best (like the training offered by F45 gyms). The added benefit of building this habit is that being active during pregnancy is great for the health of you and your baby. Be wary of overdoing it though. Too much exercise can cause your periods to stop or become irregular, which makes it hard to get pregnant. Find out more about the effects of exercise on the menstrual cycle here.
Eat a diet low in sugars, carbohydrates and trans fats.
What you eat can have a direct effect on your fertility by interfering with hormones and ovulation, so making simple changes to your diet can help improve your chances of becoming pregnant. I’ve explained how diet affects fertility in a previous post, which you can read here. Cutting down foods that are bad for fertility will also help you maintain a healthy weight.
Limit the lattes.
The evidence isn’t conclusive, but it is thought that having too much caffeine is bad for fertility. To be safe, I recommend limiting how much caffeine you have (e.g. drinking no more than one cup of coffee per day) while you are trying to become pregnant.
Be wary of harmful chemicals.
Certain chemicals that block hormones (known as endocrine disrupting chemicals) can reduce fertility. These include BPA (Bisphenol A), phthalates and parabens. It’s virtually impossible to completely avoid these chemicals, but making simple changes can reduce your exposure and therefore limit their effect on your fertility. Avoid eating or drinking from plastic containers, check what chemicals are in your cosmetics and household products, and wash all fruit and vegetables before you eat them. Find out more about how to reduce your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals here.
Get 7–8 hours of sleep every night.
We don’t fully understand the relationship between sleep and fertility, but recent studies suggest that getting no more or less than 7–8 hours of sleep a night (and making this a routine) is helpful for achieving pregnancy. It’s also known that shift-workers are more likely to struggle with fertility issues, so if you work night-shifts and it is at all possible to make changes to your schedule, it may be worthwhile.
Keep a calm mind.
Persistent high stress may hinder your chances of becoming pregnant through its influence on your hormones. We don’t know the extent to which stress affects fertility, and it differs per person, but making an effort to reduce stress may help you conceive. Try to incorporate some activities into your routine that help you reduce your level of stress. Examples include mindfulness, yoga or counselling, but it really depends on your personal circumstances and preferences. Other lifestyle changes we have already addressed such as exercise, healthy eating and a good night’s sleep also do wonders for reducing stress.
Review your medications.
Some over-the-counter and prescription medications can make it harder to become pregnant. Talk to your doctor about the medications you take to see if it is recommended that you stop or change medications to help with your fertility, but never do this without seeking medical advice.
These changes really come down to making your lifestyle as healthy as possible, which will also set you up for a healthy pregnancy and give your baby the best start to their life. It’s unlikely that a single lifestyle factor will determine whether you become pregnant or not, but making a range of lifestyle changes may help you achieve pregnancy sooner. For further tips on how to prepare yourself for pregnancy, click here.
Still have concerns about your fertility?
If you are worried about your fertility or have further questions about how you can improve your chances of becoming pregnant, I recommend coming in for a consultation so that we can determine the best steps forward for you. To make an appointment, call (03) 9418 8299 or book online.