Trying to get pregnant? Pay attention to simple things -- diet, timing of sex, even your lubricant -- and you may conceive faster.
If you're like most couples who are trying to conceive, you want to get pregnantsooner rather than later.
Having intercourse as close as possible to ovulation can definitely help. But fertilityexperts say there are other ways men and women can boost their fertility. These simple measures can increase the chances that next month will be the month you'll squeal: "We're pregnant!"
Read on for the best suggestions culled from fertility specialists who often recommend these measures before turning to assisted reproduction.
1. Her Fertility Booster: Weight Control
Being underweight or overweight can delay the time it takes a woman to conceive, research suggests.
Preconception weight is often an overlooked factor in fertility, says William Gibbons, MD, director of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and president-elect of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. But research suggests keeping a healthy weight can help with conception. "I am not sure women think about it as an issue for their fertility," he says.
In one study, researchers evaluated the body mass index (BMI) of 2,112 pregnant women. A BMI of 18.5-24.9 is considered normal weight, 25-29.9 is overweight, and 30 or higher is obese.
Women in the study who had a pre-pregnancy BMI of 25-39 had a twofold increase in the time it took to get pregnant. A lower BMI is even worse, the researchers found. Having a BMI below 19 increased the time to conception fourfold. Gibbons tells women to stay at a healthy weight when trying to conceive.
2. His Fertility Booster: Protect Those Sperm
There are many fad diets today that recommend getting rid of carbohydrates from your diet. Researchers have actually found that there may be something to these diets for those looking to conceive. Why? Refined carbohydrates, such as those found in breads, pastas, white rice and other foods of this sort, may actually lower your fertility. Some of the 17 different nutrients that are lost in the process of refining grains are thought to help fertility. Therefore, when you eat processed foods you rob your body of foods that may enhance your fertility. Try, instead, to focus on whole grains that haven't been processed and that are full of antioxidants, B Vitamins and Iron.
Fruits and Vegetables
Everyone tells you to eat your fruits and vegetables. When it comes to conception - they really mean it. The fruits and vegetables with vibrant colors may help to boost your fertility. Even if they don't, they are certainly an important part of your daily calorie intake. Two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables every single day are recommended to naturally boost your fertility. Enjoy dark red peppers, dark green lettuce, leaf vegetables, kale and the like.
such things as tight underwear, heated car seats, laptop computers, or cell phones -- may impair male fertility.
The idea that changing to looser underwear -- boxers instead of briefs -- will boost fertility by keeping genital temperatures down is now somewhat of an old wives' tale,
Although earlier studies seemed to point to boxers as the better choice for preserving fertility,
What about exposing the testicles to other sources of heat? The American Society for Reproductive Medicine says controlling temperature doesn't play much of role in boosting fertility. But some doctors, including McClure, do recommend staying away from certain sources of heat. Sitting in a hot tub day after day, even if a man has no known fertility problems, should be avoided,
researchers found that repeated exposure to high water temperatures through hot tubs or hot baths did have an adverse effect on men's fertility.
For instance, in a study published in Human Reproduction, researchers found that scrotal temperatures went up in laptop users who used the computer on their laps, and warned that long-term exposures to high scrotal temperatures may harm sperm.
In another study, Cleveland Clinic researchers collected sperm samples and found that those samples exposed to the radiofrequency electromagnetic waves from cell phones for one hour were adversely affected compared to samples not exposed. In a report published in Fertility and Sterility, the researchers conclude: ''We speculate that keeping the cell phone in a trouser pocket in talk mode may negatively affect spermatozoa and impair male fertility."
3. Her Fertility Booster: Watch the Beverages
Drinking too much coffee or too much alcohol can impair a woman's fertility, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine says.
Experts say that more than five cups of coffee a day or the equivalent, about 500 milligrams of caffeine, are associated with lower fertility. In another recent study, the researchers who looked at body weight also looked at caffeine and tea intake. They found that drinking more than six cups a day had an adverse effect on fertility.
But don't give up your daily cup of coffee just yet. Moderate caffeine consumption, says Gibbons, seems to be OK. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, one or two cups a day is acceptable. His advice for women who are coffee or soda drinkers: "Stay under 200 to 250 milligrams of caffeine a day."
The studies on alcohol intake and women's fertility have produced mixed findings. But Swedish researchers reporting in Fertility and Sterility have found that women who drank two alcoholic beverages a day decreased their fertility by nearly 60%.
Once again, moderation is key, say experts. Although those higher levels of alcohol, such as two drinks or more a day, should be avoided when trying to get pregnant, And, of course, once you find out you are pregnant, you'll want to cut out the alcohol completely because drinking can increase the risk of birth defects.
Smoking cigarettes can impair both a woman and a man's fertility, research suggests. Researchers from Portugal reviewed the literature on cigarette smoking and fertility. They found that it affects how receptive the uterus is to the egg. In men, smoking can reduce sperm production and damage DNA. The study is published inCurrent Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
For women, giving up smoking before pregnancy is wise, experts suggest, becausesmoking while pregnant has been shown to boost the risk of miscarriage.
Taking advantage of what doctors call the "fertile window" can boost your chances of pregnancy. It's best defined ''as the six-day interval ending on the day of ovulation." And pregnancy is most likely to occur with intercourse within the three days before the day of ovulation.
Patients often wait until the day of ovulation or later to have intercourse, says Richard Paulson, MD, chief of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology there. He tells them: "Err on the early side."
He also advises keeping close track of ovulation -- either by the calendar method, figuring ovulation occurs about 14 days before the menstrual period is due, or by using an ovulation predictor kit, widely sold online and in drugstores.
Delaying lovemaking -- or as some couples say, ''saving up'' -- isn't going to boost the chances of pregnancy, McClure tells couples who ask about this approach.
"After about a week, the [sperm] count goes up a bit, but the motility decreases," he says. Not having sex for more than five days may affect sperm counts adversely, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. But intervals as short as two days don't harm sperm density, it says.
Although daily intercourse produced the highest pregnancy rate in one study, it may pose too much stress on the couple, according to the society. And every-other-day sex, in the same study, produced nearly as good a pregnancy rate.
With more frequent intercourse, couples may turn more to vaginal lubricants. That's OK, doctors concur, if the lubes are picked wisely.
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, some lubricants can actually decrease fertility. That's because some have spermicides.
What to use? "Canola oil," says Gibbons.
"Even peanut oil is good," says McClure. It's crucial, he says, to avoid lubricant with spermicidal agents.
Impromptu household lubes may not be good either, he says. "I had a patient yesterday with a great [sperm] count and no motility [swimming ability]," McClure says. When he asked a few more questions, he got the root of the problem. "He was using soap for a lubricant." So he informed the patient, "Soap killed the sperm."
You also want to avoid commercially available water-based lubricants. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, commercially available water-based lubricants, such as Astroglide, KY Jelly, and Touch may inhibit sperm motility by 60% to 100% within 60 minutes of incubation. Canola oil, however, did not have the same effect.
The studies comparing lubricants have been published over the years in a variety of journals, including Human Reproduction and Fertility and Sterility.
Exposures to pesticide, especially agricultural pesticides, may harm both men and women's fertility, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine warns.
Exposure to some solvents and toxins -- including those used in printing businesses and dry cleaning establishments -- can adversely affect women's fertility.
Food ideas to help your fertility
Whether virility or ovary issues keep you awake at night (for all the wrong reasons!), the following foods should have you eating your way to a better level of fertility in no time.