Research shows that fertility rates in the UK are dropping (1) and it is estimated that one in six couples in Western countries experience fertility problems and this number is growing. Thankfully, there are a number of steps you can take to help improve your fertility. Here are 12 ways to increase your chances of getting pregnant naturally:
Check your weight
Being either overweight or underweight can damage your fertility. Both are counterproductive so make sure your weight is within a healthy range.
If you are underweight (less than 22 per cent body fat), it can mean your oestrogen levels may be lower than normal which can cause infertility. Eating regularly and reducing exercise will help to recover body fat levels, improving the body’s health and fertility.
If you think you are overweight, measure your waist–hip ratio. This is done by dividing your waist measurement by your hip measurement. Do not use body mass index (BMI) as this is out of date. If your waist–hip ratio is 0.8 or higher, then your fertility would benefit from some weight loss.
Give up smoking
Smoking greatly affects both male and female fertility, therefore it’s best not to smoke at all when trying for a baby.
Don’t drink more than two glasses of red wine a week (125ml/1.4 units per glass)
Drinking two glasses of red wine a week can help blood, reduce stress and regulate hormones. But be careful to drink no more than two glasses a week!
Other alcoholic drinks, such as spirits should be avoided, and beer and lager should be drunk in moderation-no more than a couple of bottles a week.
Reduce your use of painkillers
Most people are unaware that commonly used painkillers can affect fertility. Painkillers such as paracetamol, aspirin and NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and indomethacin, can interfere with male and female fertility.
If you suffer from pain and need pain relief, acupuncture is very effective at relieving pain and doesn’t have any negative side effects. Alternatively, you can use topically applied gels or balms to relieve localised pain.
In all cases, however, it is important to seek medical advice from your doctor.
Exercise, like everything else in life, is good only in moderation. Too little of it causes tiredness, stress and ill health, whereas exercising too much can weaken the body and damage fertility, for example reducing the number of eggs a woman has available for fertility.
Do cardio exercise two to three times a week plus soft exercises such as yoga and Pilates.
As technology has grown with the promise of making our lives easier, we have surrounded ourselves with computers and gadgets, often becoming addicted to them. Technology may well have made our lives easier in some ways, but a negative side effect has made us less able to switch off our minds, which makes us stressed, anxious and tired.
Take a break from technology, relax and have fun. Also, try practising mindfulness or meditation each day.
Go to bed at around 10pm and sleep for seven to eight hours.
There is a saying: ‘Two hours before midnight is worth 10 after.’
To enhance your fertility, try not to go to sleep later than 10pm and sleep for seven to eight hours. It will take some practice if you’re not used to it, but you’ll notice how much better you will feel for it.
Don’t have a bath after you ovulate; have a shower instead.
Having a bath after ovulation is a no-no, as the heat around the uterus can cause a fertilised embryo to dislodge from the uterus wall, causing an early miscarriage. However, it’s okay to have a bath before you ovulate.
Men also need to be careful how much heat they subject themselves too, especially their groin area. A man’s testicles are outside their bodies to keep them cooler for optimal sperm production. Excessive heat in the groin area damages sperm production, motility and the DNA within the sperm head. For these reasons, men should avoid baths altogether and just have warm showers instead.
Know your plastics
The use of plastics is a growing problem, not only for the environment but also for male and female fertility as they can act like oestrogens. There are many things you can do to limit your exposure to plastics.
- Keep all plastic containers out of the heat and sun as these can cause the chemicals within them to be released into your food and fluids
- Always try to buy foods that are not pre-packed in plastic and use paper bags to pack loose fruit and vegetables
- Don’t reuse clear plastic water and soft drink bottles
- Limit the use of cling film. Use wax paper or parchment paper to cover your food
- Store food in glass, ceramic or stainless-steel containers
- Don’t cook food or put hot food into polystyrene (this includes disposable foam plates, cups and packing materials)
- Don’t heat foods in plastic containers
Have weekly acupuncture treatment and take Chinese herbs daily
Acupuncture and a combination of Chinese herbs can have a beneficial effect upon the body in both men and women and can help to regulate hormone levels. Incorporating targeted herbs and acupuncture into your comprehensive fertility plan can help boost your chances of having a baby.
Reduce your exposure to air pollution or wear a mask.
It’s well known that air pollution affects the respiratory system causing people to develop problems with their breathing, such as asthma, but it’s less well known how air pollution affects female fertility. Exposure to air pollution can reduce the number of eggs a woman has.
Avoid walking next to busy roads, standing at junctions, using the underground system or breathing in any type of combustion (cigarette, BBQs, fires) smoke. If you can’t avoid being exposed to air pollution, you can protect yourself in three ways:
- Take high doses of B vitamins – B9 (2.5mg), B6 (50mg) and B12 (1mg) – this can reduce the harmful effects of air pollution upon the body.
- Wear an air pollution mask.
- Change your car for one that is more environmentally friendly, i.e. one without a diesel engine and that has some form of electric propulsion.
Reduce your exposure to electromagnetic waves (EMWs)
In today’s modern world we are constantly being bombarded with EMWs.
Research has shown a correlation between increased mobile phone use and reduced male fertility and studies have also shown that men who use a laptop connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi to surf the net for more than four hours a day can have significant problems with their sperm which can lead to infertility.
In women, mobile phones can affect thyroid function, causing irregular levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which can also lead to infertility.
You can protect yourself from EMWs by either reducing your use of gadgets that emit EMWs, turning off your Wi-Fi at night or by neutralising them with semi-precious stones such as tourmaline.
By making lots of little changes to your diet and lifestyle, and with the added awareness of how your body works, you can take back control of your fertility and increase the chances of becoming pregnant.
(1) Birth rate in England and Wales hits record low. BBC News, 1 August 2019, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-49192445
(2) Obesity associated advanced glycation end products within the human uterine cavity adversely impact endometrial function and embryo implantation competence. Antoniotti, Gabriella, et al., s.l. Human Reproduction, 2018.
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