For many couples trying to conceive, the fertility journey can seem never ending – at the very least. If you can relate to this struggle, there are numerous factors that could be affecting your fertility, all of which need to be taken into consideration when trying to get pregnant.
Below is a list of 60 ways to boost your fertility and your chances of getting pregnant; including advice from leading fertility experts including Emma Cannon, Russell Davis, Dr Marilyn Glenville and Zita West – to name but a few.
Covering everything from fertility boosting complementary therapies to nutrition and important lifestyle changes, we hope you find this fertility guide useful and informative if you are trying to conceive.
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MIND – Complementary Therapies
1. Do your research
Maybe we are a little biased, but we strongly suggest you read Fertility Road magazine for the latest information about treatments.
2. Try acupuncture for fertility
Fertility expert Emma Cannon says acupuncture has a regulating effect on the body, gently improving pelvic blood flow and endometrial quality as well as moving stagnation in the pelvic region. For that reason alone, acupuncture for fertility it is the number one choice of complementary treatment for fertility. Research has shown it to be effective in improving IVF outcome, stimulating ovulation in women who are not ovulating and alleviating menstrual pain. Acupuncture is also deeply relaxing and releases ‘feel-good’ endorphins. It is recommended for women and men who want to optimise their fertility, for couples going through IVF and for management of gynaecological conditions.
3. Chill out and relax
Fertility counsellor Jacqui Hurst says: “Try regular relaxation and stress busting activities for you both as a couple such as Thai yoga massage, can help get good blood flow to uterus and testicles.”
4. Deep breathing (or Qi-Gong)
Most of us shallow breathe, using only the top section of our lungs. Breathing more deeply releases endorphins which make us feel better, brings more oxygen into our bodies which helps all of our vital organs, and gets rid of stress. A great way to relax while boosting your fertility.
5. How stressed are you?
Stress, be it physical or emotional, has wide ranging effects on the body. It’s well known to affect erectile function and may well affect fertility, so anything you can do to reduce your stress levels will help. Of course, worrying about conceiving can contribute to your stress levels. Over 80% of couples conceive after one year and over 90% of couples conceive after two years of unprotected sex, so set aside time for you and your partner to relax. Enjoy yourselves.
6. Balance your hormones
Acupuncture can also help regulate fertility hormones – stress and other factors can disrupt the function of the hypothalamic pituitary-ovarian axis (HPOA), causing hormonal imbalances that can have a negative impact on fertility.
7. Fertility acupuncture for relaxation
Emily from Twin Mummy And Daddy says: “During my fertility treatment (ICSI) I decided to try fertility acupuncture. I’d highly recommend it. It helped me to relax, focus on my body and what was going on, plus it gave me something positive to think about.”
8. Avoid a stressful life
Dr Shahin Ghadir says “It’s very difficult for studies to assess the effects of stress on fertility, but as a physician who has been practicing fertility for many years, I have observed the impact stress can have on many different occasions. Make sure you are aware of when your stress levels begin to affect your health and normal functioning as a human being.
9. Join a fertility support group or forum
Fertility support groups and online forums can be a great way to find other people who are struggling to conceive or going through fertility treatment. They can be welcoming and supportive – however, don’t believe everything you read online and always consult your doctor/specialist on medical matters.
10. Get sleepy
Sleep is essential for hormone regulation, which is a cornerstone of a healthy reproductive cycle.
11. Read a book
Make sure you are in the know about your body, sex, fertility treatments, and conception. Sex education never ends. Taking Charge Of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement and Reproductive Health: The Definitive Guide to … Pregnancy Achievement and Reproductive Wealth is a great book from Fertility Road author Toni Weschler.
12. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s actually a first step in moving forward with many problems in your life which could be holding you back from having a baby.
13. Listening to people say “be positive and relax” is futile
Psychotherapist Helen Davies says: “It’s annoying, but embracing everything you are doing as positive steps towards what you ultimately want is a far healthier approach to what is a stressful situation. Instead of groaning about a healthy diet, exercise, giving up smoking or caffeine or sticking needles in yourself each night as an annoyance, see each action as one step closer to your dream. It’s an empowering approach and one that I really think keeps you sane and feeling in control, both of which can only be good for you and your fertility journey.”
14. Its not what you do – it’s why you do it
Cognitive hypnotherapist Russell Davis advises prospective parents to be aware of the motivation behind all the things you are doing to get pregnant. Is it inspired action of motivated by fear? Does taking your daily temperature feel like a bind? Then stop doing it. Action fuelled by fear feeds the fear. Fear leads to suffering and anxiety which impacts success.
15. Project you vs. project baby
Focus on your own wellbeing, happiness and fulfilment even without a baby at this time. When you focus on Project You, Project Baby tends to take more care of itself. Do those things you have been putting off doing; whether it starting your own business or a personal project you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t because of Project Baby. When life goes on hold your system stagnates psychologically and physically.
16. Come back to the here and now
Russell Davis says: “Fear of not getting pregnant is all future thinking. Nothing can predict the future, not even your thinking. Come back to the here and now, it’s the only moment that exists. Focus on your breathing, your body, it’s in the here and now. Connect to it. You cannot be fearful in the present moment unless there is a physical danger in your environment.”
17. Never give up on your dream
Fertility Road columnist Jessica Hepburn says: “My top tip for boosting your fertility is to never stop following all the other dreams you have for your life in order to focus on boosting your fertility! I strongly believe that a happy mind is a fertile body and living life to the full is the best possible way to get happy and get fertile.”
18. Focus your mind
Fertility coach A’ndrea Blake advises couples to focus on what they want, versus what they don’t. “Be aware of where your energy is. It’s hard not to go to thoughts like ‘I should be pregnant by now’ or ‘It’s not fair’ etc. And it can be hard to think positively. So write an ‘It’s going to be awesome WHEN’ list. For example: ‘It’s going to be awesome when I see the positive sign on the pregnancy test.’ Then close your eyes and feel what that’s going to feel like when that happens; goosebumps, smiling, laughing, chills etc. You can’t trick the Universe by saying you’re being positive, you have to feel it – that’s when things change on a cellular level.”
19. Use your imagination
Russell Davis says your imagination is a gateway to your unconscious mind. Your unconscious mind controls all your bodily processes – including fertility – and sometimes it can do with a helping hand. Imagine your body doing what you want it to do, in whatever way you visualise or sense it in your own mind. Let your unconscious mind know exactly what you want it to do.
20. Get a care provider that you LOVE
Unfortunately, too many of us stay with care providers who are exacerbating the problem says A’ndrea Blake. While they don’t purposely phrase things in an insensitive, fear-mongering way, that’s often how it comes out; “You’re getting too old”, “Let’s go right to IVF”. Unbeknownst to us, we plug into those thoughts and they become part of our belief system; they seem true, but they’re not even our beliefs. And our trust for our own bodies goes right out the window. So build your intuition and connection to your body, trust your judgement and find a care provider who is on ‘team YOU’, not ‘team worst case scenario’.
21. Don’t worry, be happy
Naomi from Embrace Fertility Support says: “Focus on getting happy rather than getting pregnant because your body is most fertile when you are relaxed and your body flooded with endorphins, rather than adrenaline and cortisol (your stress hormones). A gratitude journal is a fantastic way to boost your mood: be specific and list all the tiny things that went well today and how they made you feel. I also recommend three minutes of mindfulness every day. To learn more about how your feelings impact your fertility visit www.embracefertility.co.uk.
22. Don’t just google it!
Set up separate Google alerts for “fitness”, “nutrition” and “IVF news” and select “only the best results”. This will save you time having the news emailed to you.
BODY – Diet and Nutrition
23. Have more sex
Jacqui Hurst says: “Regular sex throughout the month, not just around the fertile time helps keep any relationship healthy. Then, of course, ensure there is lots of making love around ovulation.”
24. Make food a priority
Kym Campbell from Smart Fertility Choices says: “Focus on eating nutrient-dense wholefoods and plenty of protein and cutting out processed foods and sugars. This will both help improve your fertility and prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy.”
25. Eat avocados
Avocados are nutritional powerhouses packed with minerals, vitamins, essential fats, protein, carbohydrate and fibre. They are a fantastic source of vitamin E which studies have shown can be beneficial in improving endometrial lining (the lining of your uterus) and can also help with embryo implantation, which is how a fertilised egg becomes a pregnancy.
26. Lymphatic massage
Book that massage! Specifically lymphatic massage helps to detox your body, boost your immune system and get the lymphatic system (the body’s drainage system) flowing well.
27. Butternut squash
Butternut squash is one of the most nutritious and healthy vegetables you can eat, with a rich array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as well as significant amounts of digestible fibre.
28. Behave like you’re already pregnant
Kathy Payne Natural Health and Fertility Coach suggests eating for nutrition, stopping drinking, smoking and taking recreational drugs, take gentle exercise and avoid as many everyday toxins as you can at home, in the garden and at work. Nurture yourself naturally.
29. Homeopathy and herbal remedies
Taking complementary remedies can help to balance hormones, especially the herb Agnus Castus. But don’t buy anything over the counter – always talk to a practitioner and your fertility consultant before taking anything.
30. Max the beet
Beetroot is a fantastic source of the antioxidant resveratrol, thought to help combat against age related infertility. Beets are also rich in nitrates well known to improve blood flow – integral to healthy fertility – and are often eaten by athletes for this purpose.
Eggs are among the most nutritious foods you can consume – after all, they contain the nutrients to turn a single cell into a baby chicken! They are rich in choline, which studies have shown can have significant positive effects on foetal development that may have a long lasting influence into adult life, according to a study at Cornel University.
32. Drink more water
Fertility expert Zita West says: “If you don’t drink enough water, the reproductive system will lose out, as the body ensures that the more vital organs receive what they need first.” Water creates plump egg follicles and a strong blood supply to the womb lining. Plus, if you’re dehydrated, your cervical fluid – the stuff that helps the sperm find the egg – will be sluggish.
33. Get to the root cause
Kim Sjoblad from Fertility Glow says: “Everything begins in the gut. Healing your gut will balance your hormones and increase your fertility. We are all designed to make babies, we just need to eliminate the obstacles and for many people it starts with the digestive system. The digestive system is one of the largest sites of hormone production in the body.”
34. Watch what you eat
Fertility Coach Sarah Clark says: “It is empowering to discover that diet and lifestyle changes can dramatically impact the chances of conception and improve the success rate of IVF. We’ve been told that we can get pregnant while consuming the standard Western diet and living our high stress lifestyles. I’m here to bust this myth apart! When we combine diet, lifestyle changes and nutritional therapies we allow our body to reach optimum health and ultimately this can lead to a healthy mum, pregnancy and baby.”
35. Eating plenty of protein
Jacqui Hurst reminds everyone to ensure they are eating enough protein to help increase egg quality. Vegetarians should consider including Spirulina in their diet – it is 65% protein.
36. Stop drinking sugary drinks
Sugary fizzy drinks contain high fructose corn syrup, preservatives and other synthetic chemicals that produce a toxic burden for you organs to process – this takes away vital energy your body needs to continue its normal functioning. Too many soft, sugary drinks provide nutrient-empty calories, fill you up and prohibits you from eating proper nutritious foods that enhance your fertility potential.
37. Check your optimum healthy weight
Check your weight/height ratio against a Body Mass Index calculator and ensure your weight falls into the healthy range for your age and gender. Being underweight or overweight can lower your chances of conceiving. One cause of infertility is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is worsened by being overweight or obese. Start making those positive changes to your diet, exercise and lifestyle choices.
38. Don’t fake that orgasm
Emma Cannon says: “Research says that orgasm is not essential, but when you orgasm you release oxytocin which creates contractions that helps the sperm travel through the cervix and reach the egg. So perhaps with orgasm it is propelled towards its goal more efficiently. Oxytocin is not called ‘the Love hormone’ for nothing; it makes you feel good and relaxed which may aid conception. Spend time enjoying making love with your partner – explore one another rather than racing towards the climax. I think that baby-making sex can become stagnant if you only focus on the outcome (i.e a baby!). It can become a chore and chores are boring, so try to keep things interesting for each other.”
39. Make a list and check it twice
A’ndrea Blake says: “A lot of our energy is being occupied by things we think ‘should’ have happened by now. But the fact is, if they should have happened, they would have done. So make a list of why it hasn’t been the right time until now- did you move house, change jobs, have health issues etc? Then make a list of why now IS the right time; your job is secure, relationship going well, you’ve finished studying etc. It can help your brain release that energy that’s spinning in ‘should be’ and allows it to move forward to what you want.
40. Maintain a healthy weight
Kate Brian says: “This will help, because being very overweight can affect your fertility. If your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or above, it is likely to take you longer to conceive. Joining a group programme offering dietary advice and exercise can make a real difference. It isn’t just being very overweight that impacts on your fertility, but also being very underweight. Having a very low body weight can affect ovulation. If you have a BMI of less than 19 and have irregular periods, then your chances of getting pregnant are likely to improve if you increase your body weight.”
41. Understand your gynaecology
Emma Cannon advises women to understand their body and cycles. “Our menstrual cycle is the only outward sign we have of our fertility; it is like a wise friend being there and telling us when things are out of kilter and when things are running well. By engaging and understanding our cycle we can tell a lot about our general health and fertility. Know your family history, particularly your mother’s gynaecology and age of menopause. If your mum had menopause at 45 there is a chance your fertility might be similar. Or if she has fibroids or miscarriages it gives you another layer of information.”
42. Check your medication
Ask your GP about the effects on fertility and sexual function of any medicines. Fertility can be affected by various medications, for example those prescribed for high blood pressure or depression.
43. Come off birth control
It seems obvious, but sometimes people do forget to eliminate all forms of contraception! It’s also very important to consider how long certain methods of contraception, in particular the Pill, take to leave your system entirely.
44. Smoking is a no-no
Zita West reminds us that smoking is hugely detrimental to fertility, to eggs and to sperm – not to mention the future health of the unborn child. In particular, smoking hugely depletes your body of vitamin C, which is essential to all your body’s processes, and especially during pregnancy.
45. Protect yourself from STDs
Emma Cannon says: “It is estimated that a quarter of all fertility problems are caused by the effects of STDs. For example, chlamydia can go completely undetected with no symptoms and end up blocking fallopian tubes if not diagnosed and treated early on. It is important to use barrier methods such as condoms, which is the best way to protect from STDs. Getting tested regularly will also mean that if you have contracted anything then you can get early treatment, which might stop a condition developing into something more serious and harder to treat.
46. Consider your job
Certain jobs can affect fertility; for example the pesticides used by agricultural workers or even the vibrations felt by engine drivers can have an impact on your fertility health. If you are concerned that your job may be affecting your fertility, consult your GP and either take the appropriate precautions or consider changing your employment.
47. Monitor your zinc intake
When low levels of zinc are found in the male reproductive tract, a variety of disorders may present themselves, which can affect fertility. Take note of the level of zinc in your diet and change it accordingly. Zinc is necessary in the creation of the outer membrane and tail of a sperm. Without it, the sperm can not mature to a stage that gives them the mobility and strength to make the long journey through the vagina, cervix and into the uterus for fertilization to take place.
48. Chromosomal changes
Low levels of zinc may also be the cause of chromosomal defects in the sperm which could cause a miscarriage, even if fertilization and implantation do take place.
49. Avoid recreational drugs
Studies have shown that cannabis can affect sperm quality and quantity. For addiction problems or simply help to stop taking recreational drugs, consult your GP and look for a local support network.
50. Don’t cramp your style
Sitting for long periods of time and regular hot baths can raise the temperature in the testicles, reducing sperm production. However, contrary to popular belief, wearing tight underwear does not affect sperm production. A study comparing men wearing tight briefs with men wearing loose boxers showed no difference in sperm counts.
51. Think about becoming a father
Researchers in Portugal have discovered that men who were trying to become a father could increase their chances of success just by thinking about it. They found that men who wanted to become fathers were better at coordinating sex with their partners during peak testosterone levels than men who did not want to conceive. High testosterone levels help boost sperm production and improves the health of the sperm, increasing the chances of conceiving.
52. Eat Walnuts
Walnuts are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and according to a study by the Society for the Study of Reproduction, eating 2.5 oz/75g of walnuts (about a handful) daily is linked with increased sperm vitality, motility and morphology. They are a great way to add flavour and crunch to salads or as a nutritious mid afternoon snack to help manage blood sugar levels.
53. L-arginine and male reproductive health
Several studies have suggested that regularly taking l-arginine supplements will improve sperm development. Initial research in the early 1970’s showed that l-arginine supplementation increases ejaculate volume, boosts sperm count, and enhances motility. The l-arginine dosage given to subjects in these studies ranged from 4g to 8g daily; ask your doctor/specialist about taking this supplement.
54. Avoid radiation to protect your fertility
Exposure to radiation and chemicals such as glycol ester, found in some paints, can damage fertility. This is believed to be caused by exposure to xenoestrogens (PCBs, DDT, dioxin, other pesticides, plastics and industrial pollutants) that mimic the effects of oestrogen.
Vitamins and Supplements
55. Boost Your Co-enzyme Q10
Dr Marilyn Glenville says: “Make sure your fertility multivitamin and mineral contains co-enzyme Q10. Because of its role in energy production it is a significant nutrient for men if sperm motility is poor. Co-enzyme Q10 is concentrated in the mitochondrial mid-piece of the sperm and provides energy for movement. It is also important for women as it has been suggested that lower mitochondrial energy production may be at the root of ‘ageing’ eggs and co-enzyme Q10 is the fuel for the mitochondria, the powerhouses in your cells. One study showed that giving ‘old’ mice co-enzyme Q10 before ovarian stimulation improved not only egg quality but the number of eggs produced.
56. Maca helps male and female fertility
Scientific studies have found that using Black Maca boosts sperm count in men and even increases sperm activity. Similar studies show that females given Maca respond with increased regularity in cycles and easier ovulation. Another result of taking Maca is a marked increase in libido for both men and women – potentially helpful if ‘baby making’ has become something of a tiresome chore!
57. Take zinc to improve Woman’s fertility
A zinc deficiency alone will not make you infertile, but it is a key factor in making many parts of the reproductive system work properly. Zinc is just one component, but it works with more than 300 different enzymes in the body to keep things working well. Without it, your cells can not divide properly; your estrogen and progesterone levels can get out of balance and your reproductive system may not be fully functioning.
58. How Zinc Affects a Woman’s Fertility
Egg production: a woman’s body needs a certain amount of zinc to produce mature eggs that are ripe for fertilization. Maintaining proper follicular fluid levels: without enough fluid in the follicles, an egg can not travel the course through the fallopian tubes and into the uterus for implantation. Hormone regulation: zinc is just one of the minerals that the body uses to keep hormone levels (like oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone) levels stable throughout the entire menstrual cycle. It is especially important during stage 2 and 4 of a woman’s cycle.
59. Are you iron deficient?
Take iron prior to conception and throughout pregnancy, ideally alongside vitamin C. Tannins inhibit the absorption of iron, so don’t take supplements with drinks that contain tannin e.g. green tea. An iron deficiency can reduce fertility by 50%
60. Take steps to alleviate PCOS
Whilst as yet there is no cure for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a fertility-reducing, long term condition it is possible to aid the symptoms and therefore increase your potential of conceiving. Women with PCOS should follow a low GI diet, maintain a healthy weight with regular exercise, reduce their stress levels and consider taking beneficial supplements. Speak to a fertility specialist about the actions you can take and the treatments available to you.
We may have come full circle, but for all the latest scientific news, treatment updates and advice for optimal fertility health, pick up a copy of the most recent Fertility Road magazine.