Approaching the age of 35 and being recently married, I noticed that many people hint about me getting pregnant. My age playing a major role in this I realized that this is a topic of interest to many women.
Like many women I devoted a lot of time to my career. Getting into medical school and later into medical residency training in family medicine, I spent a lot of time not thinking of a family and delaying the decision-making.
This is a rather normal way of living these days where couples both pursue education and a career choosing to delay child-bearing. At a certain point though there is a decision to be made and many questions to be answered about fertility and health.
When thinking of getting pregnant, now or in the future, there are some things worth considering to improve your chances. When we talk about fertility and the biological clock we mainly think about a woman’s age and factors that are beyond our own control like medical issues that affect fertility.
Although this definitely plays a role there are many more things to consider and some easy steps to follow to improve your fertility and chances of conceiving.
It is important to realize that your chances of conceiving are influenced by the fertility of both partners and that it is worth looking further than just a woman’s age.
The following 12 steps may help you do that and increase the chances of getting pregnant:
Visit your physician before trying to get pregnant
Your physician can provide useful information about your specific situation as a couple to improve your reproductive health and increase your chances to conceive.
Fertility peaks in the early twenties and then decreases over time in both men and women. In men testosterone and sperm quality decrease after the age of forty and in women after the age of 35 the amount of egg cells decline and ovulation occurs less frequently even if you still have regular periods.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t get pregnant but it may take longer. Taking care of the following steps may improve your changes significantly.
Boost your sex life
To improve your chances of getting pregnant it is important to not time or schedule sex since this may have an inhibiting effect on arousal and may cause you to have less sex. Having sex every two or three days throughout the month will give you the best chance of getting pregnant.
It is important to realize that the use of vaginal lubricants like saliva, natural oils and commercial lubricants can negatively affect sperm function and reduce your chance of getting pregnant.
Watch your diet and vitamin intake
Use vegetable oils and limit but do not avoid carbs: eat vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and a limited amount of whole grains. Temporarily limit skim milk products and switch to whole milk products since low-fat dairy products may negatively affect fertility in women.
Take multi vitamins including folic acid and vitamin D for women and anti-oxidants including vitamin C for men. Eat plenty of iron-containing plants like pumpkin, spinach, beets, tomatoes and in lesser amounts whole grain products.
Improve your exercise and get moving
Moderately physical active men who exercise three times a week for one hour seem to have better sperm quality than inactive men. Bicycle riding for more than five hours a week has been demonstrated to have a negative impact on sperm quality.
Moderate exercise in women has been proven to have a protective effect on fertility. However excessive exercise with increased duration, frequency and intensity can decrease female fertility and as much as more than four hours a week rigorous cardiovascular exercise may negatively impact fertility in women.
Maintain a healthy weight
Both obesity and being underweight in men and women can influence fertility and lower the chances of conceiving. In men this is mainly the result of a reduction of semen quality and concentration and in women it causes an increase in miscarriage and inhibition of ovulation.
Learn to relax and minimize stress
In both men and women stress seems to be linked to decreased fertility. Not only stressful life events and psychological disorders like depression and anxiety disorder influence fertility but also work and social stress seem to have a great impact on the chances of conceiving. Decreased stress levels are associated with improved fertility in both sexes.
Although there appears to be a relationship between stress and infertility, it is uncertain which is the cause and which is the effect. To be on the safe side it can’t hurt to start focusing on relaxation and reduce stress as much as you can when trying to conceive.
Avoid tight clothing and keep cool
This advice mainly is for men. Research shows that the type of clothing a man chooses to wear may influence his fertility. Tight fitting underwear and pants may reduce sperm quality and the same might be true for increased scrotal temperature. It is safe to say that it’s best to avoid tight fitting clothing, hot baths, saunas, steam baths and taking frequent long car or bike riding trips without taking breaks.
Limit alcohol and caffeine intake
Drinking alcohol has been linked to decreased sperm quality, ovulation dysfunction and decreased probability of conception. Although it is clear that alcohol influences fertility it is not entirely clear what amount relates to an increased risk.
It is best to consider avoiding drinking alcohol completely but if you do choose to drink it is best to do it in moderation.
Caffeine may increase still birth in women and increases the time it takes to get pregnant. It is safe to drink 1-2 cups of coffee a day.
Don’t smoke or use drugs
Men who smoke before or during conception risk decreasing their fertility in comparison to non-smokers. Smoking tends to decrease total sperm count, function and fertilizing capacity of sperm cells. Women who smoke risk decreased ovarian and uterus function, impaired fertilization of their egg cells and disruptions in hormone functioning causing decreased fertility.
Marijuana has been linked to an increase in female hormones and a decrease of testosterone in men and causing abnormally shaped sperm cells and impaired ovarian function in women. Cocaine is linked to abnormal sperm cells and steroids impair the production of sperm cells.
Be careful with (prescription) medications
A number of medications have been reported to interact with fertility and pregnancy. When you are taking (prescription) medications it is good to talk to your physician about this before trying to get pregnant and to mention this every time a prescription is written for either of you.
Stay clear of radiation and chemicals
Exposure to pesticides, lead and other toxins can affect sperm quantity and quality and female fertility. Also be aware that radiation like x-rays can damage your fertility if you are not adequately protected.