To optimize women’s fertility, taking better care of their bodies is a good first step. But what else can women do to improve their odds of having a baby? The most important advice for a woman who wants to get pregnant is to get to know her body, specifically her menstrual cycle. Here are some tips that may help increase a healthy woman’s chances of becoming pregnant.
Get pre-conception counseling.
About 60 to 90 days before you’re ready to start trying, make an appointment with your ob-gyn. “He or she will discuss your reproductive goals, screen you for conditions such as anemia that might need treatment, and consider less toxic alternatives to any prescription or over-the-counter medications you take,” says Kelly Pagidas, M.D., a fertility specialist with Women & Infants Center for Reproduction and Infertility in Providence, and an associate professor at Brown University Medical School. Clearing up any issues upfront can prevent delays down the road when your fertility is declining due to diminished quality and quantity of eggs.
Check your thyroid levels. “We’re seeing increasing numbers of women whose thyroid is very subtly under-functioning,” says Jani Jensen, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist and assistant professor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “A slight dysfunction could lead to difficulty becoming pregnant or miscarriage.” But many doctors don’t test your levels because the accepted normal range applies to 28-year-old women and 80-year-old men alike. You and your doc may need to be extra vigilant.
Don’t feel you have to abstain from sex.
You may have been advised to wait a few days between sexy times with your guy because men need time to build up enough sperm. “That’s not true,” says David Ryley, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at Boston IVF fertility clinic and clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School. “Ejaculation effects seminal volume, not the concentration of sperm. The concentration is more important and not influenced by the frequency of sex.”
Switch up your coital positions. Some research suggests that missionary is best for being impregnated, but the data is not conclusive. “There’s no doubt that some [positions] are more comfortable,” Dr. Pagidas notes. “Just do what feels right for you so you’re more likely to keep up a consistent routine.” Oh, and you don’t need to elevate your legs afterward. Says Dr. Jensen: “It does not make one bit of difference in conception.”
Record menstrual cycle frequency. A woman who wants to have a baby should monitor whether the first days of her periods tend to come the same number of days apart every month, which is considered regular. Conversely, her periods may be irregular, meaning her cycle lengths vary from month to month. By tracking this information on a calendar, a woman can better predict when she might be ovulating, which is the time when her ovaries will release an egg every month. A woman’s egg is fertile for only 12 to 24 hours after its release. However, a man’s sperm can survive in a woman’s body for up to five days.
Have sex every other day during the fertile window. The “fertile window” spans a six-day interval, the five days prior to ovulation and the day of it. These are the days each month when a women is most fertile. Some women are turning to new technology tools, such as fertility tracking apps and websites, to help them keep tabs on when they may be more likely to conceive, but a study done in 2016 suggests the apps may not be that accurate. Research has shown that there hasn’t been a big difference in pregnancy rates between couples who had sex every day during the “fertile window” (37 percent) compared with couples who did it every other day (33 percent). “And having sex every other day might be easier for a couple to pull off”. But there are some water-based vaginal lubricants that can decrease the movement of sperm, so Pavone recommended using Pre-Seed rather than Astroglide or K-Y Brand Jelly when lubrication is needed.
Eat healthy foods.
Although there may not be a specific fertility-promoting diet, eating a variety of healthy foods can help prepare a woman’s body for pregnancy by giving her adequate stores of critical nutrients such as calcium, protein and iron. This means eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, dairy and healthy sources of fat. Besides taking a supplement containing folic acid, a woman can also obtain this B vitamin from foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, fortified breads and cereals, beans, citrus fruits and orange juice. When trying to get pregnant, eat lower amount of high mercury fish, such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish. Consuming more than 500 milligrams of caffeine a day has been linked with a decrease in fertility in women. Having 1 to 2 cups of coffee, or less than 250 mg of caffeine, per day before becoming pregnant appears to have no impact on the likelihood of conception, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Know when to seek help. Both the woman and the man should consider having an infertility evaluation if the woman is 35 or older and has not become pregnant after six months of having sex regularly without using birth control, Pavone said. Pavone also recommended that a woman who is under 35 and her partner should consult a fertility specialist if she has failed to become pregnant after one year of having unprotected intercourse on a regular basis.