If you’ve been trying to concieve for a while, don’t panic – one in seven couples have trouble getting pregnant. Your first stop is your GP if you’ve had trouble for more than a year. If you’re aged 36 or over, make an appointment after six months.
Your doctor may carry out some tests to rule out conditions such as endometriosis – when cells normally found inside the womb start growing outside – and will start investigating other possible reasons you’re having problems conceiving.
In the meantime, taking steps to boost your fertility naturally can help maximise your chances.
It may sound obvious, but many couples struggling to conceive simply aren’t having enough sex. Regular sex increases levels of oestrogen in your body, which helps regulate your periods and boost your fertility. About three times a week is ideal.
Get to a healthy weight
Being overweight can cause insulin resistance, which, in women, can affect hormone balance and interfere with ovulation. Research shows overweight men can also suffer from lower sperm quality, decreased libido and erectile dysfunction.
Being underweight can also influence your ovulation – a lack of body fat can affect hormone balance – so try to maintain a healthy weight for your height.
Stock up on prenatal multivits
These contain your must-have pre-conception nutrients, including folic acid and vitamin B12, and other nutrients that can aid fertility. A study by Warwick University found women taking a prenatal multivitamin and mineral supplement were more likely to conceive, and to stay pregnant.
Beat bad habits
For women, smoking can trigger an early menopause – as much as nine years early, according to one study! Men, it’s time for him to quit too; smoking reduces sperm motility and production.
Researchers from Harvard University found drinking more than six units a week – around three 175ml glasses of wine or six measures of spirits – can reduce a woman’s chance of conceiving by 18 per cent, and a man’s by 14 per cent. So cut back if you often share a bottle together in the evenings.
Switch to herbal teas
You should both go easy on the takeaway lattes. In women, caffeine can interfere with ovulation, while research has found men who drink three cups of coffee – roughly the smallest size sold in coffee shops – a day are only half as likely to get their partner pregnant.
Swap at least some of your cuppas for herbal teas. If you can’t quit caffeine completely, go for green tea, which is much lower in caffeine than coffee or standard tea.
Try fertility supernutrients
As well as taking a supplement to cover the basics, it’s worth topping up with extra nutrients shown to help with fertility. Women who are deficient in vitamin D are only half as likely to conceive as those who get enough.
Evidence shows coenzyme Q10 can help improve sperm motility, and in women it has been found to help lower the risk of chromosomal abnormalities in eggs.
Omega-3 fish oils might help regulate female hormones, particularly if you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). And US scientists say a fatty acid called DHA found in fish plays a role in sperm production.
Go for alternatives
It’s time to get the needle: acupuncture has been shown to improve rates of pregnancy in women having IVF by 65 per cent, so it could also help with natural conception.
Stress can sometimes interfere with ovulation too – not to mention your sex drive – so practise techniques that help you relax. One study discovered that hypnotherapy helped women trying to conceive.
Some research has even found being entertained by clowns helps boost IVF success! It’s thought to be due to the relaxing benefits of laughter, so watching your favourite comic on TV may have similar effects.
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This article has been adapted from longer features appearing in Healthy, the Holland & Barrett magazine. Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.