10 Ways to Maximize Your Natural Fertility
By: Dr. Kara Ehlers
As a fertility specialist, I spend all day, every day counseling patients on how to maximize their chances of getting pregnant. For many people, attempting pregnancy is kind of a taboo topic. No one wants to have to answer questions every month about whether or not she is pregnant, so many couples don’t say anything which means they may miss out on valuable tips and tricks for decreasing time to pregnancy. Here is my top 10 list of how to maximize natural fertility.
1. Optimize your health.
It is well established that women who are very thin or who are obese have a harder time getting pregnant and staying pregnant. If you are obese, losing even 5-10 pounds can make a big impact in your ability to get pregnant. If you need to lose weight, it is important to do so in a safe and healthy manner by eating a well-balanced diet and increasing exercise. It is also important to limit alcohol intake as there is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy and heavy drinking likely decreases fertility. High caffeine intake (>5 cups of coffee/day) has also been shown to decrease pregnancy rates, so limit caffeine intake to the pregnancy recommendation of 200 mg (roughly 2 cups of coffee) per day.
2. Start vitamins early.
Folic acid is by far the most important component of your prenatal vitamin in early pregnancy. Folic acid helps to prevent certain problems with the development of the baby’s brain or spinal cord, but works the best if it is already in your system BEFORE getting pregnant. It is generally recommended, if possible, to start folic acid 2-3 months before attempting pregnancy.
3. STOP smoking.
While the dangers of smoking in regards to cancer and lung disease are common knowledge, many people don’t realize how bad smoking is for fertility. Smoking affects your natural fertility by aging the eggs and causing them to be used faster which leads to early menopause and fewer years where a woman can get pregnant. Smoking also increases the chance of miscarriage. For men, smoking decreases the number of sperm and the number of normal appearing sperm. Plus, children of parents who smoke are more likely to have asthma and allergies. All good reasons to quit smoking!
4. Talk to your OB/Gyn.
Your OB/Gyn can help you optimize your health and maximize your chances of natural fertility. They will check your thyroid, make sure you aren’t anemic, and make sure your vaccines are up to date, all of which are important PRIOR to pregnancy.
5. Timing is Everything!
For busy couples, it may be difficult to have frequent intercourse, so if you can only find time together a few times a month, you want to make sure it is the right time. The best times to have sex are the couple of days before ovulation and the day of ovulation. Ovulation predictor kits are great for helping couples time intimacy. Most kits will give a window for increased fertility and peak fertility.
6. It’s okay to have sex every day (if you want).
There is a persistent belief that daily intercourse lowers the chance of pregnancy, but studies have shown this isn’t true. Daily intercourse actually yields the highest rate of pregnancy, but intercourse every other day is almost as good. That being said, there are still decent pregnancy rates having sex weekly, so don’t stress out if you can’t have sex every day, just try to focus efforts around ovulation if possible.
7. There isn’t a “magic” position.
While there are many old wives’ tales with regards to sexual position and chance of pregnancy or chance of having a boy vs a girl, there isn’t any actual evidence to support any specific sexual practices. So do what you want to do.
8. Avoid lubricants if possible.
Most commercial lubricants can negatively affect the way sperm move and while I would never claim using a lubricant is sufficient for birth control, they may decrease your chances of getting pregnant. For most couples, lubricants are not necessary for intercourse; however, IF you feel you need a lubricant, it is important to choose one which does not harm sperm. Both Pre-Seed and ConceivEase are commercially available lubricants which do not harm sperm, but mineral oil and canola oil are also great.
9. Track your cycles.
You can either use the old fashioned mark your cycle on the calendar method or download one of the many free apps for your smartphone. I recommend Clue Period Tracker which was rated the best period tracker app by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. It has many useful tools in addition to simple period tracking, it’s free, and the information cited has references. Tracking cycles helps you know your periods are coming at regular intervals and is helpful to predict ovulation and key days for intercourse. If you don’t have regular cycles, it could be a sign you aren’t ovulating consistently which requires evaluation by a doctor.
10. Try not to make everything about getting pregnant.
While it is clear that stress and anxiety can contribute to problems getting pregnant, they are really hard to avoid, especially as months tick by on the calendar and you still aren’t pregnant. Try to schedule pressure free date nights with your partner which don’t necessarily end with sex. You may also want/need to schedule alone time to do something just for you. Some people find massages or acupuncture helpful while others would rather take a long bath or read a good book. Know yourself and what works for you.
Finally, if you are less than 35 and aren’t pregnant in a year or over 35 and aren’t pregnant in 6 months or are having irregular cycles, GO SEE YOUR DOCTOR. Around 85% of couples will be pregnant within a year of attempting pregnancy, so if you aren’t getting pregnant, it could be a sign that something is preventing you from getting pregnant and you may need extra help to achieve your goals of a family. Fortunately, there are fertility specialists, like all the physicians at Vios, who have received special training to help couples conceive. Treatments range from pills and shots to inseminations and in vitro fertilization. Most couples can conceive without IVF, so don’t let that be a barrier to seeking evaluation.
If you still have questions about maximizing your natural fertility or think something may be off, contact us today to schedule a consultation!