Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have in their life. As we age, the quantity and quality of our eggs decreases, which makes it more difficult for us to get pregnant.
Today, there are strategies and cutting-edge technology that can help women conceive who might otherwise not be able to. Even though these modern innovations are available, it’s also important to optimize your natural fertility before starting any sort of fertility treatment.
Today, we are going to discuss some of the ways that you can increase your chances of getting pregnant naturally. Though everyone’s fertility journey is unique to them, these tips have helped many achieve a successful pregnancy without the need for medical intervention.
There are several things that you can do at home or on your own to get your body prepared for pregnancy. These include:
1. Take Prenatal Vitamins
Taking a prenatal vitamin is a simple and easy way to help prepare your body for pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins contain important vitamins, minerals, and supplements that are good both for you and your growing baby.
Prenatal vitamins are available in a variety of different forms. Whether you wish to swallow a pill or chew a gummy, there are many options to suit your preferences.
However, not all prenatal vitamins are created equal. When you’re reviewing your options, how do you know which one is going to be the most effective?
Look for a prenatal vitamin that contains the following key ingredients:
Look for a prenatal vitamin with at least 400-800 mcg of folic acid. This is the amount that is recommended in order to reduce the risk of neural tube defects. If your prenatal vitamin does not contain at least this much folic acid, you can take an additional 1mg supplement.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is an omega-3 fatty acid that is often found in fish oil. DHA is beneficial for fetal development and has been shown to be good for the baby’s brain, eye, and nervous system. When you’re looking over various prenatal vitamins, look for ones that offer 200 mg of DHA.
Vitamin D is important for fertility, pregnancy, and is important for a number of other things including bone health and immune function. Look for a prenatal vitamin that contains at least 800-1000 IU of vitamin D. If not, you can take a vitamin D supplement in addition to your prenatal vitamins.
Calcium & Iron
Both of these minerals are important for you and your baby and they serve important roles in blood levels as well as bone health.
When Should I Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins?
It is recommended that you start taking prenatal vitamins about 1-3 months before attempting to conceive. While pregnant, continue to take one daily through the full term and into postpartum.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity has been linked to menstrual irregularities, ovulatory problems, miscarriage, and infertility. Achieving a healthy weight before you conceive will not only improve your chances of getting pregnant but will also increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Obesity and Pregnancy Complications
Obesity in pregnancy is also linked to risks for several pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, preterm delivery, and even stillbirth. Aim for a BMI less than 30 kg/m2, bearing in mind that a normal is 18.5-25 kg/m2. A BMI that is too low (below 18.5) can also hurt your chances of getting pregnant.
Achieving a Healthier Body Weight for Natural Pregnancy
Unfortunately, there are no magic bullets or quick fixes when it comes to maintaining a healthy body weight. The key is consistency and commitment. Eat a well-balanced diet, rich in lean protein, organic fruits, and vegetables with limited processed or sugary foods. Try to exercise for at least 30-50 minutes 4-5 times per week.
3. Be Aware of How Much Caffeine You Are Consuming
There are a lot of questions about how much caffeine is safe to consume when you are trying to conceive or pregnant. Large amounts of caffeine (500 mg or more than 5 cups of coffee per day) have been linked to decreased fertility and miscarriage risk. Conversely, small amounts of caffeine don’t seem to have a negative impact.
Data shows that limited caffeine intake (1-2 cups of coffee per day or 200 mg or less of caffeine) is safe to consume both when you are trying to get pregnant and even when you are pregnant. Still, it is important to be mindful of how much caffeine you are consuming since not all coffees have the same amount.
Beyond coffee, be sure to also factor in other caffeinated drinks you might consume. Sodas, teas, and energy drinks are a few that come to mind. Read the label of any store-bought beverage to check its caffeine content. It will usually be listed on or near the nutrition facts if it does contain caffeine.
4. Cut Back or Eliminate Alcohol Consumption
The data on alcohol and fertility is not particularly robust, but some studies have suggested that higher levels of alcohol consumption can result in lower conception rates. There may be times during a fertility treatment cycle when your doctor will recommend avoiding alcohol altogether.
In general, it’s a good idea to cut back on your alcohol consumption (limit to 3-5 drinks per week) or eliminate alcohol altogether. All alcohol consumption should be stopped once you are pregnant as there is no “safe amount” of alcohol in pregnancy.
If you are trying to lose weight before attempting to conceive, limiting or eliminating your alcohol intake can also aid in supporting a healthier diet and fitness routine.
5. Quit Smoking
Smoking is probably one of the most harmful things you can do for your fertility. Women who smoke are at higher risk of being infertile, it destroys egg quality, and it depletes your ovarian reserve faster than normal. Smoking while pregnant can also place the baby at extreme risk.
In fact, women who smoke tend to go through menopause 1-4 years earlier than nonsmokers. Secondhand or passive smoke can also be damaging. The best thing you can do for your fertility and future pregnancy is to quit and if your partner smokes, have them quit too.
6. Reduce Your Exposure to Environmental Toxins
Environmental toxins and pollutants are all around us. They are in our food, household products, beauty products, and cleaning agents, just to name a few.
Some key environmental toxins to be on the lookout for:
This heavy metal is a teratogen, which means it can cause birth defects. It’s typically found in some large fish, like sharks and swordfish. Limit your consumption of certain fish and seafood. You can also choose to eliminate seafood entirely while trying to conceive and during pregnancy.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is often found in many disposable plastic materials. These include items like plastic water bottles and food storage containers. Some canned foods also contain BPA.
To limit your exposure to BPA, use plastic alternatives in your everyday life. For example, opt for a glass or stainless steel water bottle and replace plastic food containers with glass ones. Limit your consumption of canned foods as well.
This chemical can be found in beauty products, plastics, and household products. Look for products that are phthalate-free. Many products that are indeed phthalate-free advertise this on their label.
Pesticides are often found on commercial produce to prevent them from being infested by insects. Be sure to wash your fruits and vegetables carefully with a nontoxic cleaner before you eat them.
Making an effort to buy and eat organic foods will also help decrease pesticide ingestion. Look for a local farmer’s market that sells organic produce. You are often able to buy fresher fruit in larger quantities at lower prices by purchasing it directly from the farmers themselves.
Education is Most Important
In many instances, we are exposed to environmental toxins without knowing it. The best way to identify and avoid toxin exposure is to educate yourself on them. Over time, you will become more aware of the potential toxins in products that you may be consuming, using on your body, and keeping in your home.
7. Decrease Stress Levels
Stress can take a toll on the body in more ways than one. When it comes to fertility, the relationship between infertility and stress is a complicated one.
Infertility can cause significant stress. Though the exact mechanism is unclear, we can assume that stress does not help improve your chances of conceiving.
We know that stress can affect your hormone levels. In turn, this can affect your body’s ability to ovulate.
Bottom line: managing your stress levels while trying to conceive is good for not just your fertility, but your overall well-being. Some stress-reduction techniques to consider include finding a support group, talking to a counselor or therapist, and mind-body exercises like meditation or yoga. Simple things like being active, going for a walk outside, and taking time for self-care can also be effective. Finding a strategy that works best for you to relax and reduce your stress is what is most important.
Conceiving Naturally: Key Takeaways
Even though you can’t change your age or genetics, which are the most important factors for your fertility, you can make modifications to help improve your natural fertility. By doing this, you can also increase your chances of conceiving naturally.
Some key takeaways to keep in mind:
- Start taking a prenatal vitamin as soon as you start thinking about building your family.
- Aim to maintain a healthy weight through a well-balanced diet and regular exercise.
- Lifestyle changes like limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, and reducing your exposure to environmental toxins can also make a difference.
- Take care of your mental health as much as your physical health.
Struggling to Conceive Naturally? Treatment is Possible
Have you been making attempts to conceive naturally? Does it feel like no matter how much you modify your lifestyle, nothing seems to be working? This can be stressful and heartbreaking. Fortunately, there are treatment options that you can pursue with your fertility doctor.
At Rise Fertility, we help patients in California overcome their fertility challenges through personalized treatment strategies. We start with a fertility assessment and then continue with guidance and recommendations to help you build your family.
If you are interested in any of the fertility treatment services available through Rise Fertility, contact us any time to learn more.
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Dr. Ghazal is a double board certified Fertility Specialist, a Southern California native, and an award-winning Top Doctor and Rising Star in the field. She specializes in all aspects of female and male infertility, IVF, egg freezing, LGBTQ+ family building, miscarriage & pregnancy loss, PCOS, ovulatory disorders, intrauterine insemination, fertility preservation for cancer patients, endometriosis, and preimplantation genetic testing. Her research has covered a wide variety of topics in the field of reproductive medicine including assisted reproductive techniques, embryo culture, fertility preservation, endometriosis, implantation, and IVF outcomes. She has authored numerous book chapters and articles that have been published in top journals and she has been invited to present her research at national meetings.