If you’re trying to conceive there are several things you can do to help your chances of conception. Here are my seven top tips to help you boost your fertility naturally.
Think male factor
Fertility is so often thought of as a female issue. But it takes a sperm and an egg to make an embryo and the quality of both is important. Each also take around 3 months to mature so it’s a good idea to start thinking about how both partners can enhance their fertility in advance.
Sperm quality has fallen drastically in recent years and ranges that are considered ‘normal’ may not be optimal for conception. It’s important to look at the volume, concentration, motility and morphology in sperm results. Is the volume adequate for some to make it to the egg? How is the progressive motility, are enough of the sperm swimming forwards or are they going round in circles? What is the morphology like (shape of the sperm)? For example a morphology of 4% is considered normal range but is low for conception, we’d be looking for 14% minimum.
Diet and lifestyle changes really work for men looking to improve sperm quality. The basics are important but easy to overlook: Drinking enough water, eating whole foods, reducing alcohol, & stopping smoking. Exercise is good but there is such a thing as too much, 50 mile bike rides could have a detrimental effect.
There is a great documentary on Channel 4 about male fertility and how it can be enhanced by making diet and lifestyle changes that I recommend to anyone thinking about fertility.
Monthly cycle tracking
Female fertility is closely linked to the menstrual cycle. We’re looking for a 28-32 day regular cycle and crucially, an ovulation. The best way to track ovulation is with BBT charting. This involves using a thermometer to take a temperature first thing every morning. In the first half of the cycle (follicular phase), temperatures are lower, and when progesterone builds in the second half (luteal phase), they rise. By looking at a monthly graph you can see when the rise in temperature happens and this shows ovulation has taken place.
Looking at cervical mucus is another good way to confirm ovulation. Fertile mucus will start to be seen a few days before ovulation occurs and is slippery like the consistency of egg white. Ovulation doesn’t always happen on day 14, for many women it is day 17 or 18 and without knowing when it is, it is impossible to time sex.
Have plenty of sex!
This may sound obvious but you need to have plenty of sex and you need to make sure you’re having it at the right time of the month. Aim for (at least) once a day for the five days of you fertile window which is four days pre ovulation and one day after. So if you discover you’re ovulating on day 18, you need to be having daily sex from day 15-19 to maximise your chances of fertilisation.
Pro tip: It will also further enhance your chances of conception if the female climaxes at the same time, or after the male. This is because at the time of orgasm, the cervix lowers down to collect sperm. Not everyone can climax and it is still possible to get pregnant if you can’t but this is optimal.
Reduce stress and bring in some joy
Being stuck in fight or flight can have an impact on our hormones and therefore fertility so it is important to think about your mental health when you’re trying to conceive. Activities that activate the parasympathetic nervous system (our rest and digest state) like yoga, meditation and breathwork are great. Try box breathing for a simple but powerful exercise you can do at home: breathe in for a count of four, hold for four, out for four and hold for four.
Think about the activities that bring you joy and make time for them. Whether it is dinner with friends, walks in nature, or cooking, if it relaxes you and makes you happy make space for it.
Diet has a huge impact on menstrual health for women and can also impact sperm quality for men. There is no one size fits all but as a general rule it is important to:
- Prioritise eating nutrient dense foods and forget calorie counting
- Eat plenty of real foods: Vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fish, eggs, poultry and lean meat
- Eat the rainbow to ensure diversity and get plenty of fibre to support your microbiome
- Cut down on highly processed foods or anything with unrecognisable ingredients as they can cause inflammation
- Eat healthy fats as they are needed for hormone production
- Eat plenty of protein (at least 80g for women), ideally at every meal particularly breakfast: Beans, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, edamame, nuts, seeds, fish, eggs, meat, dairy
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid alcohol
Remember that you are looking to support another life, and to do that your body needs to be well nourished.
Get enough sleep
Sleep is very important to health and wellbeing as it is our bodies way of recovering and regenerating. Poor sleep impacts on hormones and stress levels, and therefore fertility. Some tips to help improve sleep:
- Avoid screens for an hour before sleep time
- Stick to a similar bedtime every day
- Allow enough time in bed to get a solid 8 hours
- Allow wind down time in the evening for a couple of hours if you can
- Try a high quality magnesium supplement if you’re having trouble with sleep
Acupuncture and fertility
Acupuncture is a popular complimentary therapy for people looking to enhance their fertility. Studies have shown that it can help to regulate hormones, increase blood flow to the uterus and reduce stress and anxiety that can be experienced by couples trying to conceive. An acupuncturist trained in fertility will also be able to help with diet and lifestyle advice, cycle tracking and checking all the relevant tests have been carried out to rule out any underlying conditions.
Get in touch for a free phone consultation to discuss how acupuncture may be able to support your fertility.