How to boost my fertility
Fertility improvement in women
Many women are interested in their fertility and try to learn as much as they can about their chances to become pregnant.
In this section, we have gathered all the relevant information about female fertility and the ways in which every woman can increase her chances to conceive.
1. Find out which are your fertile days
It is important for every woman to know when she is ovulating, since this will help her calculate her fertile days (or ‘fertile window’).
One of the most ‘natural’ ways to determine your ovulation day is by recording the basal body temperature (BBT). BBT is the lowest temperature of your body and is measured when you are in complete rest. On the day you ovulate, your BBT increases by 0.5 to 1 degree Celsius and remains elevated until the next period starts. So, when BBT is first increased in your cycle, it means you are ovulating (provided you’re not having a cold at the same time!). For the measurements to be accurate, you will need to check the BBT using a thermometer every morning BEFORE GETTING OUT OF BED at about the same time each day. Record your BBT for a few months to understand when you are ovulating and to plan intercourse accordingly. This is a simple and inexpensive way to check ovulation, but it can create stress due to the repeated temperature measurements.
Another way to monitor ovulation is by using a mobile app (there are many available) that takes into account the length of your cycle to calculate your ovulation. This is an easy and practical method, but it needs a regular cycle in order to be reliable.
You can also try ovulation tests that are available in pharmacies. These tests are urine-based tests (like pregnancy tests) and measure the level of the LH hormone that starts to increase a couple of days before ovulation. In order to use them, you either urinate on the tip of the test strip (which is a narrow thin paper) or you urinate in a cup and then dip the test strip into your urine. The strips have two lines. One line is the control line and just lets you know that the test is working properly. The second line is the test line. When the test line is as dark (or darker) than the control line, this means that LH is increasing and ovulation will occur in the next 24-36 hours. There are also digital versions of the test strips which are also based on testing urine. It is advisable to test daily from the 9th-10th day of the cycle (for a 28-day cycle). Just beware that these tests are not 100% reliable (they are 80-90% accurate) and they can be expensive if used for many months. There are several ovulation tests available that cost 20-50 euros for a 7-10 day use.
In addition to the above, you can assess your cervical mucus in order to calculate your ovulation day. The cervical mucus increases and becomes more clear and slippery (like raw egg whites) a day or so before ovulation, to help sperm move more easily through the cervix toward the womb.
Finally, some women may see some blood (which is perfectly normal) or may experience some slight abdominal pain near ovulation time.
All of the above do not need medical assistance. But if you want to be certain that ovulation occurs normally, then you will need the help of a gynecologist who will use ultrasound and progesterone measurement methods.
2. Keep your weight healthy
Check the body mass index (BMI) that is calculated from your weight and your height. Use the mathematical formula BMI = Weight (in kg) / Height (in cm) x Height (in cm) or enter these values in a BMI calculator. It is important to try to keep your BMI between 19 and 25. BMI values outside this range should be a concern to you, as increased weight can cause disorders of ovulation in women and reduced sperm quality in men. On the other hand, a reduced body weight can also negatively affect ovulation, resulting in irregular cycles or even no periods at all.
3. Take care of your diet
A balanced and healthy diet increases the chances of conception and prepares women for a stress-free pregnancy. Unhealthy eating has been recognized as a contributing factor to infertility because it can mess up your cycle and cause problems to your ovulation.
Make sure your diet includes protein, iron, zinc and vitamins C and D, as deficiencies in these nutrients have been linked to cycle disorders (that can affect ovulation) and a higher risk of miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy. Therefore, fruits and vegetables, lean protein as well as dairy and healthy fats are recommended. Prefer foods with vitamin B6 that have been shown to increase fertility and foods with omega-3 fats that help absorb vitamins.
It is recommended to avoid fish living in oceans that is likely to have a high mercury content (such as swordfish, tuna, gallon, salmon).
It is also advisable to avoid certain foods when starting your pregnancy: raw or poorly cooked meat, fish or poultry, raw eggs, unpasteurized milk, as well as cheese and yogurt made by unpasteurized milk. These foods can cause dangerous infections, such as listeriosis, salmonella or toxoplasmosis.
4. Stay properly hydrated
Your body needs to be cleansed and detoxified. Therefore, you should drink plenty of fluids every day (6-8 glasses of water) as well as fresh juices. (Avoid too much tea and coffee as they cause too much urinating and fluid loss).
It is worth noting here that cervical secretions, which help the sperm swim up to the womb, decrease when you do not drink enough water.
One way to assess whether you are drinking enough water and that you are adequately hydrated is to notice the color of your urine (aim for a light yellow color).
5. Visit your dentist
The health of your mouth and teeth can be affected as soon as you become pregnant as blood supply to the gums changes during pregnancy. On top of that, gingivitis during pregnancy has been associated with low birth weight and premature babies. To ensure that your mouth is healthy, visit your dentist BEFORE trying to conceive.
6. Manage your stress
Stress and anxiety affect fertility. It has been known for years that a woman’s psychological state can affect her period. A classic example is menstrual cycle disorders that occur during school exams or after the loss of a loved one. But even in cases of IVF, there are studies that suggest that stress and anxiety are associated with lower success rates.
Having said that, trying to get pregnant can be indeed stressful. Especially if you have unrealistic expectations about how quickly a positive pregnancy test will arrive…
It’s very important not to feel that intercourse is a chore, but remember that you’re doing something fun! This technique will help you deal with stress and increase your chances of conception.
You will also see benefits if you start exercising. You can also try relaxation techniques such as meditation, acupuncture or yoga.
7. Exercise regularly, but not vigorously
It is useful to exercise regularly. Exercise keeps body weight at a healthy level, improves the mood and reduces the stress that many women have when trying to conceive. Also, exercise increases endurance, libido and the mood for sex!
But everything must be done in moderation. Intense exercise can mess up your cycle, since it can adversely affect ovulation. This is why it is not uncommon for women who engage in some form of very intense exercise (e.g. ballet dancers, gymnasts) to have difficulty conceiving.
8. Check the medications you are taking
Some medications may make conception difficult.
A typical example – which many women are unaware of – is a class of painkillers called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory or NSAIDs (e.g. aspirin). When taken close to ovulation, these medications prevent the normal functioning of the hormones associated with it and reduce the chance of conception. This is why some women may see a temporary change in their next period when they take NSAIDs.
9. Dispose of the lubricant
Some lubricants used during intercourse can kill sperm or change the pH of the vagina and make conception less likely. If you need lubrication to feel more comfortable during intercourse, try a sperm-friendly lubricant or use canola oil.
10. Reduce caffeine intake
Excessive caffeine intake has been associated with a reduction in fertility, an increase in miscarriage rates in the early stages of pregnancy and a worse pregnancy outcome overall.
Therefore, it is recommended to reduce coffee, tea and cola-containing beverages containing caffeine. Aim to consume no more than 1-2 cups of coffee a day. In addition to that, remember that caffeine is also found in chocolate and some energy drinks (like Red Bull).
11. Avoid alcohol
It is well known that excessive alcohol consumption negatively affects fertility in women. But even if pregnancy is achieved, alcohol increases the chance of miscarriages and other problems affecting the fetus.
For smaller quantities of alcohol, the existing data is not clear. Some studies show that low alcohol consumption does not appear to adversely affect health. But to be on the safe side, it’s best to avoid alcohol altogether when trying to conceive or at least limit it to a couple of glasses a week.
12. Quit smoking
If you smoke, you and your partner should quit for the sake of your health, your fertility and a healthy baby. Passive smoking is also considered harmful.
Smoking makes you more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy (when an embryo is implanted outside the womb, such as in the tube) and is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy.
Also, toxins contained in the cigarette (e.g. nicotine and carbon monoxide) poison the ovaries and adversely affect the quality of the eggs. It has been found recently that smoking has a negative effect on the quantity of eggs as well. This means that a smoker’s ovaries tend to contain fewer eggs than a non-smoker’s ovaries. This is why -on average- menopause comes 3 years earlier in smokers than in non-smokers.
13. Take the appropriate vitamins
Ask your gynecologist what is the prenatal vitamin you need to take. He/she may suggest you take folic acid or a prenatal vitamin containing folic acid. Folic acid helps reduce the risk of spinal abnormalities and other neural tube defects in babies.
But beware: One vitamin that in high doses can be harmful – and therefore should be avoided – is vitamin A, which is linked to genetic abnormalities in the baby.
14. Avoid chemicals and radiation
You should avoid dying your hair if there is a chance of pregnancy and at least until the first trimester of pregnancy is over. Similarly, when trying to conceive, avoid areas with strong toxic odors (e.g. hair salons), bleach, paints, etc. It is also advisable not to use retinol-containing cosmetics. By the same token, it is best to be certain you’re not pregnant before having tests involving X-rays.
It seems that exposure to lead, cadmium, pesticides and solvents has a direct negative impact on the fertility of women (but also men).
In women who eventually need IUI or IVF, elimination of these toxic agents from the couple’s life can lead to higher pregnancy rates.
15. Have lots of sex!
Having sex at least 2-3 times a week increases the likelihood of conception. You don’t need to try to have sex daily since this can both cause unnecessary stress and feel more like a chore than a pleasure. Therefore, it is preferable to have intercourse every couple of days.
It’s also worth pointing out that there are no studies on the best sex positions that lead to conception.
On the topic of orgasm: You don’t have to have an orgasm to get pregnant, as there are no scientific studies showing that it increases the chances of conception.
16. Avoid vaginal douches
Vaginal douches can alter normal, protective vaginal flora, putting the woman at risk for bacterial vaginosis. Such infections have been linked to preterm labor and may be also associated with an increased risk of miscarriage and also infertility.
A review by a doctor is necessary if any symptoms of vaginitis (e.g. itching, burning, abnormal vaginal mucus, vulval ulcers, etc.) are observed.