Do you dream of hearing the pitter-patter of little feet toddling around your living room? Are you planning to become a mommy soon? The odds are in your favor: 84% of women under thirty-five who are trying to conceive will get pregnant within the first year.
While news reports about infertility can be frightening, the majority of women will conceive without difficulty. However, if you want to increase your chances of becoming pregnant, there are some dietary and behavioural changes you can make that may boost your fertility.
Fertility is decreased in both men and women who are deficient in vitamin C, especially smokers. Men who get less than 60 milligrams RDA of vitamin C daily (equal to the amount in an orange) have been found to have high levels of damaged sperm. In one study, sperm counts increased by almost 60 percent in men who took 1000mg for two months.
Women should avoid megadoses of vitamin C because it can dry up cervical fluid, preventing sperm from reaching the egg. Limit the amount you take to the dose included in your prenatal vitamin.
Zinc deficiency has been linked to low sperm counts and poor sperm motility. It has also been implicated in miscarriage.
Vitamin E may protect sperm-cell membranes. In one study, men who took 200mg of vitamin E daily increased their fertility by about 30 percent in one month. Men taking four grams daily of the amino acid arginine, powdered and dissolved in water, experienced a significant increase in sperm count and motility in some studies.
The chemicals in commercial lubricants can kill sperm. Studies show sperm motility is lessened by 60-100% after sixty minutes of contact with lubricants. Petroleum jelly, plain glycerin and even saliva can also kill sperm.
Lengthen the amount of time you spend on foreplay to ensure you are aroused and your natural vaginal secretions are increased. If you must use an additional lubricant, try egg whites because they encourage sperm motility.
Make love with the man on top; also know as the missionary position. Sperm is deposited closest to the cervix during sex in this position because it allows the deepest penetration.
...or at least highly caffeinated stuff there. Your chance of becoming pregnant is reduced by almost one-third if you or your partner ingests high amounts of caffeine, about 300-700mg daily. (One cup of regular coffee has 100mg of caffeine while regular tea has 30mg.)
Women who drink at least 2 cup of tea per day nearly double their odds of conceiving. Researchers believe the antioxidants in tea may be responsible.
While men's alcohol consumption doesn't appear to affect fertility, women who have one alcoholic drink a day reduce their chance of conceiving by 50%. Even two drinks a week can lower your odds.
Studies show that high rates of milk consumption are related to a decrease in fertility. Galactose, a sugar in milk, has been found in high concentrations in infertile women.
Marijuana decreases fertility in men by having a negative effect on sperm production in the testis; decreasing sperm motility and inhibiting the release of enzymes that let sperm penetrate the egg. It can also disrupt a woman's ovulatory cycle.
Echinacea is used to enhance the immune system, ginkgo biloba to improve memory and St. John's wort to treat depression. In a recent study high doses of each of these herbs have been shown to damage reproductive cells and prevent fertilization of eggs in laboratory hamsters. There have been no studies to date that show their effect on human fertility but you may want to reconsider using them while you are trying to conceive.
You are most fertile when you are neither too thin nor too heavy. You need at least 18% body fat to ovulate and your best chance of conceiving is when 20-25% of your body mass is fat tissue. On the other hand, your monthly cycle can be disrupted by too much fat, which affects estrogen levels. Being 25% over your ideal weight can stop ovulation.
Douching can change the pH balance inside the vagina, altering it so that sperm are adversely affected. It can also wash away the cervical fluid that helps sperm through the cervix on their way to the egg.
Stress can cause irregular ovulation or even stop your periods. It is important to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and get at least eight hours of sleep a night. Try yoga or meditation to help de-stress or see a counselor to learn stress management techniques.
A couple's most fertile time of day is between 5pm and 7pm. The number and quality of sperm varies throughout the day, peaking in late afternoon with a sperm count that is 35% higher than it is in the morning. Since women are most likely to ovulate between 3 and 7, some researchers suggest couples leave work early for a baby-making rendezvous.
And, of course, it is essential that you have sex when you are fertile. You can determine when you are ovulating by using an ovulation detection kit or by practicing FAM (Fertility Awareness Method). By observing your waking temperature, cervical fluid and cervical position you can pinpoint the days when you are able to conceive. Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler has sample charts and detailed instructions on how to use FAM.
[Note from Lynn: Many guides for boosting your body's chances of conceiving are out there. One of the ones we like is Pregnancy Miracle. Though I don't care for the name, the program itself has many great ideas for improving your health in specific ways that may help your chances of conceiving. Good luck--I had secondary infertility myself, and Lou's arrival was somewhat of a surprise!]
Cathy Allison is a freelance writer and fulltime mother who lives in Vancouver, BC.