WHEN it comes to getting pregnant, it can seem to be a game of luck.
There doesn't really seem any golden solution that fits everyone trying for a baby.
Some women seem to fall pregnant at the drop of a hat without trying, while others go through years of failed attempts – despite seemingly doing everything right.
But there are ways to improve your fertility.
Consultant gynaecologist Dr Larisa Corda says that it has to be a multipronged approach that involves both mind and body.
Writing for Healthista, she says there are 12 small lifestyle tweaks you and your partner can make to up your chances of getting pregnant.
1. Quit smoking and minimise booze
Giving up cigs has so many health benefits and one of them is boosting your fertility.
Not only can it negatively affect your child once you fall pregnant but before that, smoking can damage the lining of the womb, the eggs and sperm.
Alcohol can cause issues.
"The liver is the main organ in the body responsible for processing toxins," Dr Corda told Healthista.
"If the liver is preoccupied or overburdened with processing alcohol or cigarette toxins, then it can’t do one of its other major jobs which is to clean up any substances or hormones made in the body that need to be deactivated, otherwise they themselves start to have harmful side effects on your fertility.
"A liver incapable of detoxing can also lead to excess oestrogen in the body and lowered levels of progesterone, the combination of which is not conducive to fertility."
2. Sleep more
Better sleep hygiene leads to less stress, and, according to Dr Corda, a higher libido.
Sleep is also vital to processing harmful substances in the body, boosting immunity and keeping us lean – all of which are important factors when it comes to fertility.
"Ensuring that your bedroom becomes a sanctuary that is conducive to sleep is important because you need enough rest to support your physical, mental and emotional health – all of which impact your fertility," she said.
"This means clearing out the clutter, not using any electrical devices such as TVs and mobile phones before bedtime, and ensuring the room is dark enough to allow you to get the crucial 7-8 hours sleep a night."
She also recommends using natural cancels – especially those with the scent of lavender – as well as a natural face oil, a naturally sourced pillow spray and hand cream, "all of which can become a beautiful bedtime ritual that helps with preparing your mind and body for sleep".
3. Have more sex
Kind of obvious but if you want to up your chances of getting pregnant, you want to be having as much sex as possible.
Forget trying to time it with your fertile window; having regular sex means that you won't be stressed out concentrating on when that window occurs.
Dr Corda explains: "As long as you’re having sex several times a week, there will be sperm available to fertilise the egg, as sperm can survive in the reproductive tract for several days.
"In fact, recent studies are suggesting that the conventional advice of abstaining for a few days in between is perhaps overcautious and that sperm quality may actually improve with more regular sex."
So it's a yes to spontaneous, pleasurable sex – particularly as having sex in the run-up to ovulation has been shown to boost immunity which makes conception more likely.
4. Bin the bleach
Where we know it or not, we come into contact with around 120 toxins a day.
We can't control air pollution but we can decide what we bring into the house, via our cleaning products.
Recent studies have found that toxins influencing sperm DNA can be passed on to kids, so it's definitely worth trying to use as natural products as possible.
That means swapping the Mrs Hinch-grade bleaching materials for things like rubbing alcohol or brands like Ecover which are natural and environmentally-friendly.
5. Exercise more
Exercising, like quitting smoking, only really does good to our bodies.
Moving more is going to help boost circulation to your reproductive organs and help you to maintain a healthy body and mind.
Be careful not to overdo it, though. Too much exercise is just another stressor.
6. Get rid of toxic people
It's not just toxic products you need to be wary of, but also people.
"There is a saying that we become the five people we spend the most time with, so make sure you chose people who bring you nourishment and joy, who support and care for you and take the time to connect with them," says Dr Corda.
"For all those that don’t, or who judge you, make sure you detox them out of your life, much the same as you’re doing with your environment.
"Toxic friendships are just as harmful."
7. Set up a daily ritual
Daily rituals can bring about more happiness, comfort and relaxation.
It can be as simple as having a warming mug of herbal tea whilst being tucked up in bed.
Herbal teas are full of polyphenols that can help your gut bacteria.
If you're based in a hard water area, Dr Corda also recommends investing in a water softener (like a Brita filter).
She says that hard water may have some impact on a range of issues, including reproductive health.
8. Switch to a natural contraception
The pill is a great invention which has prevented tonnes of unwanted pregnancies but if you've been using it for a long time, then you could find that your natural hormone levels have been thrown out of whack.
If you think you might want to try for a baby any time soon, why not talk to your GP about going onto a more natural form of contraception?
Natural cycle monitoring could be an option (make sure that you genuinely are OK with getting pregnant first!), as of course, are condoms.
9. Improve your gut health
Gut health impacts so many parts of the body and our ability to conceive is one of them.
A good balance of bacteria is necessary to our overall health and fertility and can be improved by taking probiotics and eating more fermented foods.
It can also play a role in IBS and when you've got IBS symptoms rumbling on, that can put you off having sex. So by addressing your gut issues, you'll also be leaving yourself open to the possibility of more bedroom action.
10. Try to de-stress
Easier said than done but stress – both mental and physical – can cause all manner of problems, including impaired fertility.
Dr Corda recommends ditching the caffeine and trying to settle your nerves as much as possible.
"Meditation, yoga, mindfulness, being outdoors in nature, having a bath, or spending time with close friends can all help.
"Acupuncture, reflexology, hypnotherapy and reiki have also been shown to be beneficial."
11. Try a multivitamin
It should go without saying that to up your fertility you need to be eating a healthy, balanced diet.
But even if you are trying to eat well, you might be slightly down on some crucial vitamins and minerals.
Men can benefit from taking a supplement rich in vitamin C, E, selenium, zinc and garlic to support healthy sperm.
Women, on the other hand, need more foliate acid and vitamin D.
12. Eat organic
Organic food is a little more expensive than the regular stuff and for many of us, it's never even a consideration.
But Dr Corda says that eating organically and seasonally means that you'll know that your food has been exposed to fewer hormones, pesticides, added preservatives, chemicals, sugar and additives.
"You need to get strict about what you’re putting inside of yourself as it literally influences what you conceive," she says.
"All of the above can have serious and harmful effects on your own body but also, as recent epigenetic studies are showing, can be harmful in terms of influencing the development of your baby and their health later in life.
"Choose food in its most nutritious and natural state possible, which means buying organic where you can and not over-processing or over-cooking the ingredients, and having a predominantly plant-based diet of seasonal and colourful fruit and veg – the darker the skin, the better the antioxidant value."
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