Know your body
- For would-be new parents (even those under 35), getting pregnant is not always as straightforward as you would expect. Even in your most fertile time of life, which is generally your mid-twenties, your chance of getting pregnant is just 25% in any one cycle.
- The most important information you need to have if you are planning to have a baby is a good understanding of your own cycle and when you are likely to ovulate.
- You are most fertile one to two days before ovulation. Having sex after ovulation is often too late for conception.
- Fortunately, a key sign of impending ovulation is the change in cervical mucus several days before ovulation to a clear, stretchy, consistency. Charting your cervical mucus is a great way to improve your chances of getting pregnant.
Dietary tips for getting pregnant
- Avoid “trans fats,” which are unsaturated fatty acids. These can be found in some margarines, in fats used in deep frying, pastry doughs, and in products containing ‘partially hydrogenated oil’ on the ingredient list. Think of foods like deep-fried fast foods and takeout, packaged cookies, cakes and pies. As little as 4.5 grams a day is thought to raise testosterone levels in women, reducing fertility.
- Use more unsaturated vegetable oils, which improve insulin response. Nuts, seeds, and cold-water fish like salmon and sardines are also good for improving insulin response.
- Increase vegetable protein intake like beans, peas, soybeans, or tofu. It can replace some of the protein you would otherwise get from meat.
- Choose fiber-rich, slowly digested carbohydrates such as whole fruits, whole grains, and vegetables.
- Drink whole milk rather than skim milk. You can also aim for a daily serving of full-fat yogurt.
- Boost your folic acid intake and take a multi-vitamin.
- Get extra plant-based iron from foods like whole-grain cereals, spinach, beans, pumpkin, and tomatoes.
- Reduce your coffee intake and alcohol intake to one serving a day each. Skip sugary soft drinks. Drink lots of water.
- Increasing vitamin E and zinc for men may improve sperm health.
Lifestyle tips for getting pregnant
- Quit smoking. Toxins in cigarette smoke accelerate the aging of a woman’s eggs and damage the fallopian tubes.
- Moderate daily exercise improves fertility, according to one study which recommends women aim for 30 minutes a day of gentle exercise.
- Try to normalize your weight. Around 40% of women who fail to ovulate are at either end of the weight spectrum. Most experts suggest aiming for a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 20 to 25 will optimize your chances of conception.
- Chill out. Make yoga, deep breathing, tai chi, or meditation a part of your life. Take a long leisurely walk when life gets a bit much. One study showed that women who participated in relaxation workshops improved their chance of conception by 50%.
Sexual position tips for getting pregnant
Lots of people believe that the missionary position in which the man is on top, means sperm will be deposited closer to the cervix. Others argue that rear-entry is more effective. However, there’s no evidence suggesting any particular position works best. Most fertility experts believe that, since millions of sperm are usually deposited and most will swim towards the egg, sexual position is irrelevant.
Some fertility experts recommend the woman lie prone for 5 minutes or so after sex to improve the odds by keeping as much semen inside the vagina as possible. There’s no evidence to this either way, but it can’t hurt.
More tips to help get pregnant
- Make sex fun. You’ll be doing rather a lot of it; why not enjoy it? If you loosen up and don’t make it all about babies, you’ll have such a fabulous time trying to get pregnant you’ll both be eager to do it all over again, and as often as possible!
- Talk to a fertility expert if things don’t happen for a while. There are strategies you can try without getting all interventionist; for example, men with a low sperm count may be advised to have intercourse every other day to allow the sperm count to build up. Your doctor may even recommend that your partner refrain from ejaculating during the days leading up to your most fertile period. Just to confuse the issue, some studies show that men who don’t ejaculate for over 7 days can have lower fertility because so many of the sperm cells are older and less fertile!
Things to avoid when trying to get pregnant
- Coffee: According to some studies, as little as one cup of espresso coffee a day can reduce a woman’s chance of conceiving by up to 505. And it won’t hurt your partner to join you; some studies suggest coffee also affects sperm quality.
- Alcohol: Studies have found alcohol in moderation did not affect fertility, but the evidence is still conflicting. Other research showed a large glass of wine nightly decreased the chance of conceiving.
- Stress: Some people and some places just fill us with angst. Try to get rid of unnecessary stressors when you’re trying to conceive. Stress has been shown to affect the performance of hormones that influence ovulation.
- Chemicals and hazards: Various studies link low fertility to the presence of many everyday chemicals including pesticides, paints, and printing fumes. Try to minimize your exposure to these. For example, you might postpone fumigating or painting your house.
- Men should avoid too much cycling, hot baths, or showers and wear loose-fitting pants so they don’t overheat the environment for sensitive sperm.
- Athlete-level fitness: There’s such a thing as being too fit. One study showed that women who worked out for 4 hours or more per week reduced their chance of conception by around 40%.
The information of this article has been reviewed by nursing experts of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). The content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment. For more advice from AWHONN nurses, visit Healthy Mom&Baby at health4mom.org.