There are many simple things you can do to naturally improve the chances of getting pregnant. Whether you are trying on your own or having treatment in the clinic, all of these tips are safe and effective ways of helping you on your journey to becoming a parent.
The number one tip for both men and women is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. We all know what we should be doing but here is what to work on:
- Eat a balanced diet. You should avoid buying fast foods such as burgers, fried chicken, roti and doubles. Instead eat more of the healthy grilled or steamed chicken and fish. Increase your intake of fruits, vegetables and salads and make sure that you eat at least five portions of fruit or vegetables a day. Healthy food doesn’t need to be boring – take a look at BBQ, grilled meats, couscous, tasty and unusual salads.
- Keep your consumption of alcohol low. Also reduce sodas, canned soft drinks and bought juices which are all packed with unhealthy sugar and caffeine. Instead drink more water, natural fruit juice (with low sugar content) and coconut water.
- Take regular exercise. This not only reduces stress, anxiety, improves mood and sleep, but also kick starts your body’s metabolism and increases production of healthy hormones.
- Stop smoking. Cigarette smoke contains thousands of chemicals, and over forty of them are proven to make cancers grow. Chemicals in cigarette smoke are also known to damage eggs, increase sperm abnormalities and increase the risk of miscarriage. Smokers and partners of smokers are also more likely to lose a baby due to sudden infant death syndrome.
- Women should check their rubella immunity. If contracted in pregnancy, the rubella virus can cause severe damage to an unborn child. In the past most girls were vaccinated against rubella at age 13. Now the MMR vaccine in early childhood covers this. A simple blood test can tell whether you are still protected or whether you need a booster of the Rubella vaccine to ensure this is not going to be a problem in your pregnancy.
- Optimize your weight. Women who have a normal body mass index (BMI) – meaning that they are the correct weight for their height – are more likely to conceive and have a normal pregnancy than those who do not. Check your ideal weight with our BMI calculator. The normal range for BMI is between 20 and 25. Men with a high BMI may have more problems with sperm production. Women with a BMI over 30 have increased miscarriage risks and lower pregnancy rates, despite fertility treatments.
How often do we need to have sex to get pregnant?
To have the maximum chance of getting pregnant, sex should be planned to take place around the time of ovulation. That does not mean that you have to have sex daily if you do not wish to! Sex on alternate days just before and around the time of ovulation is probably best, although sperm may live for up to 3-5 days, meaning sex doesn’t have to be timed exactly. Research has shown that it is best to enjoy your relationship and not get too stressed out about timing.
I have a problem with vaginal dryness. Will using a vaginal lubricant help me get pregnant?
Actually a lubricant can be a reason for NOT getting pregnant. Many couples use a water based lubricant for sex, such as KY jelly. It has been shown that these lubricants may actually be toxic to sperm and so reduce pregnancy. A fertility lubricant that is specially designed to boost sperm movement is recommended. These lubricants can be purchased in all our clinics.
What are the best foods to eat?
There is good scientific evidence that being low in some vitamins, especially vitamins B12, B6 and folic acid, can reduce fertility. For men, Vitamin E, and the minerals Zinc and Selenium are essential for sperm production and swimming ability.
To ensure that your body has good levels of the essential vitamins and minerals try and include the following in your diet:
- plenty of fibre and low amounts of fat with plenty of complex carbohydrates (brown rice, wholewheat bread – not brown bread, which is dyed). Wholewheat and wheatgerm are good ways to increase vitamin B6 and folic acid levels in your body.
- Cut down on the amount of animal protein (meats) and dairy products you eat every day and try and eat more vegetable protein. Soya protein, nuts and seeds are all excellent sources of vitamins and minerals, with Brazil nuts being the best source of the sperm-boosting mineral selenium.
- Eat oily fish at least twice a week, or take a fish oils supplement daily. Both white fish and oily fish contain good amounts of Vitamin B12.
- Eat more fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day). Citrus fruits contain plenty of folic acid and bananas are a great source of vitamin B6.
- Reduce your sugar and salt intake.
- Drink plenty of water.
What about a multivitamin supplement?
We recommend everyone in our clinic takes a good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement daily. This is because even though your diet might be healthy sometimes the soil in our environment is low in the essential minerals (especially zinc and selenium) meaning our diet cannot provide us with enough of these compounds. However be careful not to take excessive levels of any one mineral or vitamin– because more is not always better and the body can get a toxic build up.
How helpful are herbal treatments for getting pregnant?
There is no scientific evidence that herbs are helpful except in the case of Vitex agnus castus (chaste tree) which can reduce high prolactin levels and so may be effective in some types of fertility problems. Vitex agnus castus is in general a safe herb, causing only mild intestinal upsets and occasionally skin rashes, but please note – Vitex agnus castus should not be used in pregnancy, and it should not be used in combination with conventional fertility treatments, as it can cause ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome in women undergoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
What other complementary treatments might be helpful?
Learning a method of relaxation, like yoga or t’ai chi is a good strategy to help reduce stress levels, and in turn this may help improve fertility.
Massage with or without aromatherapy oils is said to be beneficial, perhaps because they are relaxing and counter stress. Cranial osteopaths will look for imbalances in the pelvis which could be affecting fertility and will correct these, although there is no scientific evidence that this is effective.
Could any other complementary treatments help me?
Acupuncture may improve blood flow to the uterus in some women and this may help with achieving pregnancy. Scientific trials are just beginning to look at this to see how helpful it may be. Homeopathy has not shown any obvious successes in improving fertility in scientific studies.
What can men do to boost fertility levels?
The testicles hang outside the body for a good reason – to keep the testes cool. Cooler temperatures are better for sperm production. Jockey shorts, especially when tight increase the heat in the testes, and so it is much better to wear boxer shorts, that keep everything cooler.
What about sexual positions to boost pregnancy rates?
There is no scientific evidence that any one sexual position is better than another. Also, advice about elevating your hips after sex is also likely to be useless.
When should I see a doctor?
If you think you may have a problem conceiving then see a doctor. A simple examination and some basic tests can either reassure you or lead to advice to see a fertility doctor.
If both you and your partner are fit and healthy then it is likely that you will conceive within 12 months. If it has been over 12 months then you should see a fertility doctor for some advice and guidance.