pregnancy, Women's Health


Statistically more babies are born in October than any other month of the year. Actually the entire fall is crazy busy throughout the maternity ward. That means a lot of you are likely considering getting pregnant right now. The internet is chock full of ‘hints’ on improving fertility, but it is loaded with an equal amount of anxiety-provoking misinformation as well.  So what really works and what’s merely an old wives tale? Here’s what the most recent studies say:

1. Have sex

Have sex everyday or every other day for 5 days before and 5 days after ovulation.  Ovulation usually occurs  2 weeks before your period starts. Do not have sex more than once a day, as that can lead to diluted semen.

Things that do not effect chances of conception:

  • Female orgasm
  • Sexual position
  • Female position after sex

NO, it will not help if you stand on your head afterward. Neither is there a top secret magic sexual position that improves your chances of getting pregnant.

What may effect conception: lubrication. The best lubricants for fertility are canola oil, mineral oil or Pre-Seed.

2. Don’t smoke

Smoking is the culprit for up to 13% of all cases of infertility. Either partner’s smoking can effect their ability to conceive. The effects of smoking on your reproductive system can take up to a year to be reversed. There are so many reasons to quit smoking, but here is another excellent one: it can help make you more fertile.

3. Maintain a healthy weight

A BMI between 17-27 is ideal for conception. Recent studies report >60% of the US population are overweight. In some instances, being overweight can lead to higher insulin level, which can inhibit ovulation. This is a condition know as PCOS. In other instances, overweight women will have regular cycles (meaning they are ovulating) but still be subfertile. The good news is that even a modest weight loss of 10% of body weight can improve fertility.

Being too thin can also lead to subfertility. Your body senses that you don’t have enough reserves to handle the added nutritional demands of a pregnancy, so your brain tells your ovaries to shut down, causing your periods and ovulation to cease. This is often seen in cases of eating disorders.

4. Exercise in moderation

For women with a BMI of >25, exercise was found to cause a slight improvement in fertility. However women with a BMI of <25, who exercised vigorously > 4 hours a week were found to have a slightly decreased fertility.

Much like being too thin can shut down ovulation, extreme athletes like marathon runners and dancers can go through times of no cycles (no ovulation) when training intensely.

A man’s level of exercise has not been shown to effect fertility, with the one exception.  Men who bicycle > 5 hours a week were found to have lower sperm counts.

5. Healthy diet

Is there a magic food that will make you pregnant? No. However there have been several large studies looking at the diets of women with a history of infertility who become pregnant.

The dietary recommendations based on this study:

  • Get the majority of your protein from plants
  • Eat high fat dairy food
  • Take a multivitamin with iron
  • Eat complex carbohydrates
  • Eat 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day

Another smaller study has supported the Mediterranean Diet to improve fertility.

Celiac Disease (gluten sensitivity), if undiagnosed or untreated, can lead to infertility. The treatment for gluten sensitivity is to follow a gluten  free diet.

6. Limit caffeine

It is recommended to limit caffeine to less than 300 mg a day. Here’s a helpful chart to know how much Starbucks you can drink.

7. Alcohol in moderation

While a little wine might be helpful in conception (wink-wink); excess intake may inhibit fertility. Studies show that consuming >14 alcoholic drinks a week has an adverse effect on fertility in both women and men. Consuming 3-13 drinks per week had a a slight negative effect on the woman’s fertility in some studies; but none on the man’s. Three or fewer drinks a week had no effect on fertility. There is no safe amount of alcohol in pregnancy, so once the stick turns pink, then you should abstain completely.

8. Know when to see a physician

Most couples will conceive within 6 months of trying, with 85% becoming pregnant within one year. If you are less than 35 and have regular menstrual cycles (every 21-35 days), it is recommended to see a doctor if you haven’t conceived after one year of trying. If you are over 35, it’s recommended to see a doctor after 6 months of trying.  If you do not have regular cycles or if you experience severe pain with your period or intercourse, you should see a doctor right away.

There is not a magic formula for conceiving. No magic food or sexual position that guarantees quicker results. What does work best is being healthy and regular sexual activity.

Hopefully your journey to pregnancy will be a smooth. Check out this previous post on recommendations for the first trimester once you do conceive.

In the meantime, enjoy the process!

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