Are you wondering how to increase fertility? Look no further, the WUKA experts are at it again with their expert knowledge, this time on how to boost fertility.
What is Fertility?
Fertility refers to the body’s ability to become pregnant, to conceive a biological child. Infertility is the exact opposite- defined when pregnancy does not occur after at least 12 months of trying.
Primary infertility refers to a person who has never been pregnant, and who is struggling to conceive. Secondary infertility occurs when someone has previously been pregnant, but is subsequently having difficulty conceiving again.
Signs of a fertility problem
According to the NHS, around one in 7 people have trouble conceiving, which can place a strain on both you and your partner - emotionally and physically.
Women over the age of 36 may struggle to conceive as the chances of falling pregnant begin to decrease once you hit your mid 30s. There are also lifestyle factors and some medical conditions that could make it more difficult to conceive.
Problems with ovulation
Some conditions, such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or either an overactive or underactive thyroid can make getting pregnant more difficult. Both conditions can cause problems with ovulation.
Premature Ovarian Failure can also cause infertility, as in this case ovulation is not occurring at all.
Scarring from surgery
Some types of surgery can scar the fallopian tubes or cervix, which can make it more difficult to conceive.
Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that appear in or around the uterus, and in some cases can either block a fallopian tube or prevent a fertilised egg from attaching.
Endometriosis can cause damage to the ovaries or fallopian tubes that may cause fertility issues. Some treatments for endometriosis may also affect your ability to get pregnant - for example, if your doctor preserves hormone treatments to block signals to the ovaries.
Speak to your GP about this if you have endometriosis and are trying to get pregnant.
Pelvic Inflammatory disease (PID)
PID affects the upper genital tract, including the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. This condition can cause issues with fertility if left untreated.
How long can it take to get pregnant?
Current guidelines from the NHS advise that 84% of couples will conceive naturally within one year, and 92% within two. Couples who have been trying without success for over 3 years have a 25% or less chance of conceiving naturally.
It’s a good idea to speak with your doctor before you try to conceive to make sure you’re as healthy as possible, and that any medications you take would not affect getting pregnant or harm a foetus.
How can I increase my chances of getting pregnant?
You can increase your chances of becoming pregnant by having regular sexual intercourse without contraception. The timing of this matters too. It’s a good idea to not only track your cycle, but to also monitor your ovulation each month, so that you can make sure you’re having sex at the optimal time for conception.
Lots of women monitor ovulation by taking their basal body temperature, using a thermometer specially designed for this. Temperature must be taken first thing upon waking, without getting out if bed or moving too much.
Ovulation test kits can also be used, and some women check their cervical mucus for indications that they’re ovulating too.
You’re most fertile during ovulation, so your chances of getting pregnant are higher if you have sex at this time - usually around 2 weeks before your period.
How to boost fertility
There are some lifestyle factors that can affect your ability to get pregnant, but luckily there are ways that you can boost your fertility easily at home.
Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight can impact your fertility. According to this study done in 2018, “Overweight and obese women need longer time to conceive and undoubtedly are at higher risk of infertility.”
A narrative review of many studies carried out also came to the same conclusion- that women who are overweight may take longer to conceive naturally and will be at higher risk of miscarriage too.
But it’s not just carrying a few extra pounds that can affect your fertility - being underweight can also lead to irregular periods or stop menstruation, which will obviously have a direct impact on your ability to conceive. Eating a balanced and fresh diet is key to overall health and can have a positive impact on your fertility.
Reducing trans fats, a form of saturated fats, can be helpful to your fertility as research shows that these fats can be linked to ‘ovulatory disorder infertility’.
However, not all fats are bad and it’s important to include healthy fats in your diet, such as:
- Unsaturated vegetable oils such as avocado and coconut oil.
- Organic butter
- Pasture-raised eggs and meats
- Nuts and seeds
- Full fat dairy
Healthy carbs to also include in your diet include:
- Wholegrains such as oats, brown rice, and quinoa
- Whole fruits
Oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel are also good for a fertility diet, because they contain omega-3 and omega-6.
Folic acid is recommended during pregnancy and this can be found in your diet (although it is advised to take a supplement too). Foods such as green leafy vegetables, some spreads, and cereals contain folic acid.
It’s important to check with your doctor about the right prenatal vitamins for you to take to ensure you are getting the right balance of vitamins leading up to conception. These include vitamin D, iron, vitamin C, and calcium.
Most women are advised to take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before conception until the 12th week of pregnancy. This is to prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects, including spina bifida.
Your doctor may prescribe you additional folic acid as some women need more due to other medications they may be on and other women may need to take folic acid longer than 12 weeks.
If you don’t buy a prenatal vitamin you’ll need to check that your multivitamin doesn’t contain too much vitamin A, as this can be harmful to the baby’s development.
Exercise is important to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to obesity and ill-health, including having an impact on fertility.
Exercising too much can also have a negative impact on your fertility, especially if you are already within a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) range.
In order to support fertility, it’s ideal to exercise in moderation, have a regular workout plan, not to be too vigorous, and listen to your body.
Avoid tobacco and alcohol
The health risks associated with smoking are well documented, and especially if you’re planning to become pregnant.
A 2000 study found that, “Although adverse factors such as smoking delay but do not prevent conception in most couples, the effect may be critical in some persons, such as those attempting to conceive late in life or those who require treatment for distinct subfertility.”
And when it comes to alcohol, the conclusions are much the same, with some doctors advising against drinking completely when trying to conceive.
This 2010 study concluded that there is no ‘safe dose’ as alcohol can affect the foetus at as early a stage as implantation - but does concede that some women who moderately drink do not experience problems with fertility.
It seems the jury is out somewhat on this one, but if you’re concerned about the amount of alcohol you’re drinking, speak to your GP who can refer you to services that can help.
Stress is one of the main causes of disruptions to your cycle, which can also lead to irregular periods or missed periods. Try to manage your stress if you can- gentle exercise such as yoga can help, and meditation is another great tool.
Its also a good idea to prioritise sleep as much as you can too, as sleep deprivation is another major cause of stress on the body - both emotionally and physically.
Research has shown that some chemicals can have an impact on biology and can cause problems with the body’s endocrine system. This can affect various areas of the body including reproductive, neurological, and cardiovascular systems.
Harmful chemicals and materials such as dioxin, non-organic cotton (contains dicofol & trifluralin), polyester, and some pesticides, can be found in a range of everyday products including, paper towels, toilet paper, make-up removal pads, non-organic tampons, and pads.
The vagina is made up of fatty tissues and glands which are very absorbent. By using non-organic pads and tampons we are placing harmful chemicals into, or next to, our vagina’s. Chemicals that are on these products can be absorbed into the bloodstream and can disrupt levels of oestrogen.
More research is needed before a strong link is established between harmful chemicals and infertility. However, potentially harmful chemicals are being used in many cosmetic and personal hygiene items. Whether you are trying to get pregnant or not, making the switch to reusable or organic period protection is a step towards improving your overall health and the environment.
When to see a doctor about fertility
If you’ve implemented lifestyle changes and you’ve been actively trying to conceive for over 12 months (or 6 months if you’re under the age of 35), it’s a good idea to book an appointment with your GP to discuss any potential issues that could be making it difficult.
Your partner should come with you to your appointment so that his health history can also be taken, to get a full picture of his fertility too.
Your doctor may carry out blood tests, a scan or a laparoscopy to investigate further. These tests can take time to complete, so having as much information about your cycle and ovulation history will help you to answer your doctor’s questions quickly.
You’ll most likely be asked about how long you’ve been trying to get pregnant, how often you’re having sex, how long since you stopped contraception. Some medications can also affect fertility, so your doctor will ask about that too.
There are different treatments that your doctor may discuss with you. There are medications that can help, such as clomifene or tamoxifen (to help with regular ovulation), metformin, gonadotrophin (to stimulate ovulation).
There are also surgical procedures that might be recommended, for example to treat endometriosis or uterine fibroids.
Your doctor may also recommend assisted conception- Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) or In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF).
Read more about your cycle and fertility:
What fertility tests can be done?
Your doctor can advise you on the fertility tests that are most appropriate for you. Usually, blood test will be carried out, and depending on any other medical conditions your doctor might suggest a scan or laparoscopy.
Can fertility drugs delay my period?
Fertility drugs will be prescribed to help regulate ovulation and won’t affect your period by delaying it. Some women find their period is more regular whilst taking fertility medicine.
Can fertility drugs cause fibroids?
Some medicines may put you at higher risk of developing fibroids due to the increased levels of oestrogen in the body. Your doctor will advise you of the risks associated with the fertility drugs you’re prescribed.
Are fertility tests accurate?
At home tests may be fairly accurate, but it’s always a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor to get a professional opinion on what could be causing difficulties in getting pregnant.
Why does fertility decline?
Female fertility declines naturally with age. The body begins to produce fewer eggs, and the quality of those produced can also decrease. There are also lifestyle factors that can affect fertility, such as diet, stress and smoking/ drinking alcohol.
How does PCOS affect my fertility?
PCOS is a common but treatable cause of infertility. With PCOS, the hormonal imbalance causes a disruption to egg production, which can lead to difficulty in conceiving. Speak to your GP about treatments that are available for you.
How does endometriosis affect my fertility?
Endometrisosis can make it more difficult to get pregnant, although many women who suffer from mild symptoms can conceive naturally. Your doctor can refer you for specialist treatment if you’re trying to get pregnant and are concerned about the effects of endometriosis.