It’s a common misconception that getting pregnant is fun and happens easily, when it’s estimated that up to one in six couples in Australia have difficulty conceiving in the first 12 months. There are many factors affecting both female and male fertility and there is only a short time period each month where conception is even possible, so it’s of little wonder it can be challenging to achieve.
A significant factor affecting fertility is age. Generally, for females, fertility begins to decline about the age of 35 due to a reduction in egg quality. For men, while there is a subtle decrease in sperm count and quality, the impact of age is far less significant.
During the fertile years, lifestyle choices, weight and external factors such as exposure to chemicals can affect the ability to conceive and have a healthy baby.
Below are six effective ways to boost your fertility. Speak to your gynaecologist or fertility nurse at any stage of your fertility journey for more ways to increase your opportunity to conceive.
- Know your cycle
Find your fertile window, during which you should have intercourse regularly. A normal menstrual cycle lasts about 21-35 days (start counting on the first day of your last period). A woman’s fertile days are usually three or four days before ovulation and a day or two after ovulation. To help determine when you’re ovulating, there are urine or saliva-based ovulation kits available over the counter. Both types check for the presence of hormones that indicate ovulation is imminent. Many women also have physical signs of ovulation such as mucus changes, or ovulation pain. Some women chose to monitor changes in their basal body temperature.
- Eat well
There are no surprises that if you eat well, you feel well. A well-balanced diet means incorporating the five food groups of vegetables and legumes, fruit, grains and cereals, lean meats and dairy sources, and limiting or avoiding foods high in added sugar. Diets with the correct balance of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) are best and it’s essential that micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are also being covered for optimal function. Women who are wanting to become pregnant should supplement their diet with folate and ensure their Vitamin D and iodine needs are being met. Zinc is an important nutrient for men to help support healthy sperm function. For both men and women, a diet high in anti-oxidants is beneficial.
- Kick cigarettes in the butt
Toxins from cigarettes damage eggs, age ovaries, and interfere with the fertilisation and the implantation process. While smoking reduces fertility, when cigarettes are cut out, some of this function returns. For men, smoking can affect the development, quality and number of sperm. See your doctor for more information on quitting smoking or visit www.quitnow.gov.au.
- Increased lovemaking
It may seen obvious, but yes… you need to be having sex to make a baby! Having sex every one to two days in the fertile window is associated with the best chance of pregnancy.
- Seek calmness and serenity
Many people’s lives are stressful, and some find that extreme stress may even impact on their menstrual cycle. Learning to manage stress through relaxation techniques such as mindfulness mediation, yoga, or talking to a counselor or friend can help get you back on track.
- Reduce chemicals
It’s a hard fact to swallow, but many pesticides and herbicides – which are chemicals used to kill insects and weeds that threaten crops – can have an impact on your fertility and the health of your offspring. If you’re looking to get pregnant, it is always a good idea to eat organic fruits and vegetables, wash those with residues carefully and avoid applying pesticides to your lawn or garden. To minimise exposure to chemicals in the home, try limiting the use of plastics (use glass or hard plastic bottles instead), wash produce well even if you are cooking them and use chemical-free cleaners where possible.
A helpful resource with more information, including an ovulation calculator, can be found at: https://www.qfg.com.au/trying-to-conceive/plan-your-pregnancy.
Dr Ben Kroon is an accomplished fertility specialist, gynaecologist and obstetrician.
He has achieved the highest level of advanced specialist training in infertility, making him one of only a few fertility and reproductive endocrinology subspecialists in the state. He has a special interest in male and female infertility, endometriosis, fibroids, PCOS, ovulation disorders, recurrent pregnancy loss and fertility preservation.