Infertility can be a dark and shameful struggle for some couples yet it’s important to remember that they have plenty of company. In fact, in the United States alone, 10 to 15% of couples will struggle with infertility.
Just thinking about all that has to go right each month, it’s a wonder that a single pregnancy has ever occurred! But they do happen - sometimes without a second thought and sometimes only with planning, hard work and outside assistance.
A woman’s ovaries typically release one egg each month. And unlike a man, she only experiences a small window of fertility where conception either happens or doesn’t.
On the flip side, when a man ejaculates, there are approximately 200 million sperm mixed with semen yet only 15 to 45 million of these are healthy enough to fertilize a woman’s egg. Once released, maybe only 400 sperm actually survive and of these, only about 40 will get anywhere near the egg. From there, just one lucky fella will be successful in penetrating the egg and changing the course of life for all involved.
So yes - a lot of conditions have to be met before a pregnancy occurs. And for some couples, if it’s not happening as soon as they hoped, there’s a lot they can do to help themselves improve their chances of conception. Whether actively trying without any success or just gearing up to start trying for a baby, continue reading for 15 incredible ways to boost fertility.
15 Food For Thought
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be a strategically planned or boring, by-the-book affair. For the most part, plan on eating fresh, stick to organics when possible and include a wide variety of foods. Future moms-to-be should consider adding a rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables to their balanced diet in order to cover the gamut of necessary vitamins their body requires to be healthy, fit and conception-ready.
Iron intake is vital to women hoping to conceive as well as to any who are newly pregnant. The same goes for vitamins B, C and E. Below is a cheat sheet of foods said to have fertility boosting properties such as:
- Leafy greens
- Pumpkin seeds
- Whole wheat breads
- Olive oil
- Wild salmon
- Citrus fruits
It has been suggested that tomatoes may actually be sperm boosters. Studies are currently underway to confirm a link but until then, there’s no harm in women slipping a few extra cherry tomatoes into their partner’s salad.
Keeping track of all the necessary vitamins and nutrients for a possible pregnancy can be overwhelming. Which is why juicing and making smoothies are both efficient and simple ways to consume what is required.
14 Greasing The Wheels Of Conception
If using a lubricant is a regular part of a person’s sex life, they need to be certain it isn’t sperm-fighting. When making a baby is the goal, couples need to be aware that not all lubricants are the same and some are most definitely not fertility friendly. It’s also important to be cognizant of glycerin as an ingredient as this can be damaging to sperm.
Currently, there are many lubricants out there that support baby-making efforts. Typically they are water-based, organic and often mimic the consistency and pH levels of healthy cervical mucus. These types of lubricants won’t interfere with a sperm’s sole mission in life and may actually work with their viability and motility to encourage them to swim into the uterus.
Another couple things to look for on a lubricant’s ingredient list are calcium and magnesium ions - both are helpful when attempting to achieve pregnancy.
13 Save Reverse Cowgirl For A Rainy Day
As many a couple will attest to, pregnancy is possible with virtually any sexual position. However, when conception is the one and only clearcut goal of a rendez-vous, then gravity-defying positions (such as woman on top or standing) should be avoided.
There’s a reason that the missionary position (woman lying on her back with man on top) is nicknamed the baby-maker. A woman lying on her back makes the journey as simple and convenient as possible for any wayward sperm.
For women diagnosed with a tipped uterus, the journey toward pregnancy can be a long and rocky one. Oftentimes with these cases, fertility specialists suggest the doggy-style position as the most effective for conception.
And while there are no specific success rates recorded, it doesn’t hurt for a woman to place a pillow under her hips while raising her legs slightly after the act. It’s a small concession on her part to aid the sperm’s upstream travels toward the golden egg.
12 Work It Out
Cardio and strength training workouts are often equated with positive health but for many women struggling with infertility, too much may be a problem. Studies have shown that overdoing rigorous exercise can disrupt an otherwise healthy flow of hormones leading to ovulation and menstrual issues.
When designing a fitness regime, it is best to consult with a healthcare provider as well as a fitness trainer beforehand. Generally, if a woman is considered a normal weight, then exercising for one hour, five days per week is fine. Anything more than that may be disruptive.
If underweight, the plan is to probably increase weight gain in a gradual way. Yoga and pilates are great options although fewer exercise sessions may be best. For women who are overweight, slightly longer exercise sessions may be beneficial, yet it’s important to take it slow and not push their bodies too hard, especially if they aren’t used to it.
11 Take A Breather
One of the worst things about infertility, besides not being able to become pregnant, are all the well-intentioned family and friends who tell the couple in question to relax and not worry about it. They may as well say not to think about a pink elephant.
Annoying as it may be, there is some truth to the advice. According to experts, women under constant stress may produce excessive amounts of prolactin, cortisol and other hormones that can interfere and even block out ovulation completely.
That said, being told to relax is definitely easier said than done. For any couples out there looking for some fertility enhancing ways to decompress and forget about their struggles, here are some effective stress busting suggestions:
- Meditation, self-hypnosis and breathing techniques.
- Keeping a reflective journal of thoughts, feelings and emotions.
- Massage, acupuncture and yoga.
- Stop actively trying for a baby.
Instead of trying to relax, couples should take a break and focus on anything that will help them turn a momentary blind eye to their fertility issues. Take a vacation, focus on get-togethers with friends, head to the movies or read a book - anything that will push the struggle from their mind, if even for a brief time.
10 Invisible Poison
When dealing with infertility, many affected couples are on top of any and all possible contributing factors yet remain unaware of the possible toxins and pollutants which can ravage an individual’s reproductive system. These toxins, known as endocrine disruptors, are chemicals (natural or otherwise) that can alter the body’s normal hormonal activities
Six of the most common culprits that can mess with a person’s reproductive system include:
- Bisphenol A - found in some plastic and tin can lining.
- Parabens - preservatives found in certain cosmetics.
- Phthalates - sometimes added to plastic to increase flexibility and found in some soaps and hairsprays.
- Dioxins - chemicals that form during industrial processes.
- Organophosphates - found in some pesticides and herbicides.
- Heavy Metals - chemicals like cadmium or mercury which can contaminate food, water and the environment (not the loud music).
There is no way to completely avoid all exposure, yet there are steps that can be taken to limit vulnerability by eating organic, drinking filtered water, using natural makeup and cleaning supplies and making a job switch if necessary.
9 Weighty Matters
A bit of weight may not seem like a big deal in the greater scheme of things. However, for any couple having trouble getting pregnant, it can be the obstacle keeping them from achieving their goal month after month.
For women, being overweight, especially obese, can cause hormonal disruptions and imbalances that lead to ovulation issues. Extra weight in men can result in a lower sperm count as well as sperm motility issues.
Alternately, being underweight comes with its own set of unique challenges for the woman struggling to conceive. If her system is not receiving adequate nourishment, then chances are her body isn’t creating the amount of hormones required to achieve and sustain a pregnancy either.
The safest and best way to achieve a healthy weight prior to conceiving is through diet and exercise. It’s important for individuals to be realistic in their goals and to consult with a healthcare provider before developing a new and improved health regime.
8 The Big O
Without a man’s orgasm, it’s pretty difficult to conceive a child but what about where the woman is concerned? Obviously, based on the millions of pregnancies occurring without benefit of a woman’s orgasm, it doesn’t seem necessary. However, is there any proof that a female orgasm will improve chances of conceiving? Some experts say yes.
The female orgasm has been an enigma wrapped in a mystery since the dawn of time. No one is completely certain as to its purpose other than it feels good for the lucky woman involved. But scientific research may soon shed more light on the role female orgasm plays in the baby-making process.
Currently, there are two theories - the poleaxe hypothesis which focuses on the idea that following orgasm, a woman experiences fatigue and so will remain horizontal making it more efficient for sperm to reach their desired target. And the upsuck theory which claims that uterine contractions occurring during orgasm actually help the uterus suck up sperm to deposit them in the fertilizing sweet spot - near a woman’s cervix.
7 Potable Potions
Just as newly pregnant women are urged to monitor and reduce their consumption of problematic beverages, the same goes for women hoping to conceive in the near future. While the effects of low to moderate alcohol use and how it affects fertility remain hazy, there is a definite connection between heavy drinking and fertility issues.
Excessive alcohol consumption can alter hormone releases which can affect egg health as well as libido and also cause menstrual disruptions. Men aren’t off the hook either - heavy drinking can negatively affect sperm quantity and quality.
And while caffeine can be a controversial topic when paired with fertility and pregnancy, most experts suggest reducing consumption when trying to conceive and when newly pregnant. There are concerns that large quantities can wreak havoc on a woman’s ovulation cycles and hormones. Another worry is that caffeine can disrupt a woman’s muscle contractions typically occurring within her fallopian tubes. These contractions occur in order to help a woman’s egg travel smoothly from ovary to uterus.
6 Got Milk?
Many people don’t realize how closely linked fertility patterns are to breastfeeding. In fact, breastfeeding is sometimes touted as nature’s birth control because new moms nursing infants often experience a menstrual reprieve and typically have an extremely light flow or none whatsoever (called amenorrhea).
Yet despite this evidence, ovulation may continue to occur which is why using breastfeeding as birth control is never a great idea.
Another little known secret about fertility and breastfeeding is that when an actively nursing mother experiences a sudden decrease in her milk supply, either due to her baby eating solids, receiving formula as supplement or because of stress, her fertility can skyrocket.
While it may not be the most ideal time to welcome yet another baby into the fold, couples struggling with previous infertility issues may not care. Many parents have children close together in order to achieve the family of their dreams as soon as possible.
5 Frequent Friskiness
Engaging in frequent sex can affect a woman’s immune system in many positive ways. People often underestimate the role the immune system plays in terms of prepping a woman’s body for achieving and sustaining a pregnancy. It is thanks to the immune system that a sperm and egg come together in the first place and it also further assists by helping the fertilized egg implant into the uterine wall. It also recognizes the fertilized egg and keeps a pregnant woman’s body from attacking it as a foreign invader.
Enjoying habitual sex passes along a message to a woman’s reproductive system that she is in full baby-making mode and this can trigger a number of fertility boosting changes within. It is also suggested that frequent friskiness keeps a man’s sperm moving and eager to do what nature intended.
While there are no definitive answers in terms of frequent sex assisting in achieving pregnancy, enough of a link has been determined in order to warrant further investigation. When groups of women were studied, tests found that women engaged in frequent relations had an engaged immune system ready for a pregnancy while women who abstained did not have the same signs.
4 Butt Out
When a person smokes, they are releasing more than 7000 potentially harmful chemicals throughout their body. It only makes sense that a person’s reproductive system can definitely fall casualty to the possible dangers. Studies have shown that male smokers may suffer from hormonal problems as well as erectile dysfunction which can lead to a decreased sperm count and motility issues.
Female smokers often experience ovulation disruption and they are at higher risk of undergoing premature menopause. As well, the effects of smoking can cause damage to their reproductive organs and eggs.
Second-hand smoke can be just as damaging as well which is why it’s important that any woman trying to conceive lives and works in a smoke-free environment. Most experts suggest women who smoke quit two months prior to trying to get pregnant. This gives their body a chance to flush out the toxins before sheltering a baby.
3 Track Down Ovulation
If a woman hasn’t properly pinpointed her most fertile days each month, chances are her pregnancy tests are coming up negative. It may not sound complicated, but figuring out the ideal days to get busy can take a bit of investigating. But when the time investment pays out in a positive pregnancy test, it will all be worth it.
The good news is that there are several different ways to calculate the best days for baby-making each month. For women who can set their calendar around their periods, it may just be a matter of counting backward in order to figure out ovulation days and then using this information for the future.
For women with slightly irregular cycles, never fear - here are a few other ways to track ovulation:
- Record the quantity and quality of cervical discharge. It's less than ideal however has proven fruitful for many women.
- Daily recording of her basal body temperature is also a good predictor as there is generally a slight uptick following ovulation.
- There are also a million apps available for download as well as ovulation predictor kits for purchase that will solve the mystery without as much legwork required.
2 Grab Some Zzzzs
For any women out there suffering through infertility, it may be time to wake up and smell the dirty diaper. Getting less than eight hours of shut-eye per night may be the culprit behind the empty crib. According to fertility specialists, eight to nine hours of sleep each night is considered optimal for baby-making purposes.
Sleep is directly linked to hormones like progesterone, estrogen and leptin to name a few. Leptin is a key hormone affecting ovulation and if a woman is not sleeping well, her body may not be producing enough of the hormone she needs in order to regulate and maintain her ovulation pattern.
Something else to keep in mind is working the night shift or the “infertility shift” as it is known in some circles. No matter how much sleep a woman gets per day, working the night shift can throw off her natural circadian rhythm which may disrupt her body’s reproductive system.
1 The Great Boxers vs Briefs Debate
Choice of male undergarment may seem inconsequential where the act of conception is concerned, but it doesn’t hurt to heed the expert’s advice. And in most cases, experts suggest that men opt to wear boxer shorts over briefs. The reasoning is simple - tighty-whities are just that...tight. Wearing snug underwear can raise a man’s body temperature above normal which makes for a less than ideal environment for sperm survival.
While there’s no clear science to back the “boxers over briefs” theory up, fertility specialists are big believers in men keeping their nether regions open and airy as opposed to tight and sweltering. It’s also suggested that men who plan on fathering a child in the near future steer clear of hot tubs and saunas for the very same reason. In a nutshell, save the heat for the bedroom.