Five Ways to Enhance Your Natural Fertility
A fantastic question
As a fertility specialist, couples often ask me what they can do to optimize their own natural fertility. What steps can they take to help them get pregnant? And in all honesty, it’s a fantastic question.
In full disclosure, human reproduction is a complicated process that fails more often than it succeeds. Every month, young women have only a 20 percent chance of having a spontaneous pregnancy. That means 80 percent of the time, attempts at pregnancy are unsuccessful for that particular cycle.
Top 5 ways
So if you are trying to achieve pregnancy and begin planning your family, here are my top five ways you can help increase your chances at getting pregnant:
- Don’t wait forever! The biggest obstacle to fertility that I see as a reproductive endocrinologist is delayed childbearing. Women are born with a finite number of eggs and as we age, so do they. For women, the chance of successful pregnancy decreases significantly after age 35. Interestingly, male fertility does not see a significant decline until age 50.
- Map your cycle. A typical menstrual cycle averages 28-30 days, with peak ovulation most commonly on days 14-16. Peak fertility is a three-day interval, ending on the day of ovulation. Ovulation predictor kits can help you to know when your most fertile period is within your menstrual cycle so you can time intercourse appropriately. That being said, timed intercourse can be stressful for couples attempting fertility. Studies have shown that the success rate for those who use ovulation predictor kits and those who have intercourse every other day during a cycle is just about the same.
- Maintain a normal body mass index (BMI). Multiple studies have shown that both obesity and being very thin can have a negative effect on your fertility. Obesity contributes to irregular menstrual cycles leading to difficulty in conception, and very thin women experience similar difficulty in conception as regular menstruation also requires a certain proportion of body fat.
- Take folic acid. Current recommendations are that women who are trying to get pregnant should take a 400mcg folic acid supplement every day. There have also been many studies showing that dietary variations such as low-fat diets, vegan, vegetarian, vitamin-enriched diets, antioxidants or herbal remedies do not improve fertility rates.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking increases the risk of infertility. Research shows smoking alone can decrease your chances of success by up to 40 percent per cycle by directly affecting egg quality and tubal function.
It is important to understand that successful fertility cannot always be achieved naturally – even despite your best efforts! If you are under the age of 35 and haven’t been able to conceive after a year of unprotected intercourse, or after six months if you are over the age of 35, you should have an evaluation from a fertility specialist. If you have any questions regarding your fertility, talk to your Methodist OB/GYN, or come visit the Reproductive Health Specialists at Methodist Women’s Hospital.