You’re ready to get pregnant! You are constantly tracking your cycle, so you can identify your fertility window. You do the baby dance on your ovulation day (and surrounding days- just to be sure!). Whether you are just starting or have been TTC for a while, there are ways you can increase your fertility (naturally).
I want you to know that it’s completely normal to be nervous, anxious, and excited about this journey. There are a few things you should know, that will (hopefully) bring you a little relief as you start trying to grow your family. My doctor told me it can take a woman under the age of 37, with no known fertility issues, up to a year to get pregnant! That’s a long time.
Before TTC, many of us though that birth control was the only way to make sure we didn’t get pregnant. Then we expect to get pregnant immediately. No wonder why we panicked after missing one pill! However, for most women, it doesn’t happen that quickly. It can take months of trying, to yield a BFP, and that’s completely normal.
Lastly, something that my friends, family, and momma keep reminding me is that I don’t have control over when we will get pregnant. There are some things we can do to increase our fertility (and overall health) to help get a BFP!
How to Increase Your Fertility (Naturally)
Antioxidants for Female Fertility
If I’m trying to be healthy, I will pick something up at the grocery store that says it’s “packed with antioxidants.” Just reading this, generally makes me feel good about buying it. Why is that? What even is an antioxidant?
Antioxidant is a big word to describe something that cleans up stress causing substances (called free radicals) from your body. How does this relate to fertility? Buildup of these substances can negatively affect the quality of your eggs.
Foods that have antioxidants in them can improve fertility by cleaning up the bad stuff in your body. Basically, they act as a line of defense to keep those precious egg cells healthy. So then it makes sense to include them in your diet if you’re trying to get pregnant, right? Absolutely! (Side note: free radicals are unavoidable and are a by product of many physiological processes that occur naturally in your body, like digestion!)
Types of Antioxidants
- Lipoic Acid
- Lipoic acid is a great antioxidant to add to your diet if you’re trying to get pregnant! It protects the female reproductive organs and improves the health of egg cells.
- Foods that include this: red meat, spinach, broccoli, yams, potatoes, beets, and brussel sprouts. Look for leafy greens in the produce aisle to pair with your steak, the next time you’re at the grocery store.
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin E is another great antioxidant to help strengthen egg cells. It also extends sperm life by increasing production of cervical mucus.
- Foods that include this: Almonds, avocados, sunflower seeds, spinach kale and broccoli (which sound like ingredients for a refreshing and crunchy salad, by the way) are all good sources of Vitamin E. Additionally, when cooking, opt for either olive oil, coconut oil or sunflower oil which all have this antioxidant.
- Vitamin C
- O is for Oranges….and Ovulation! Oranges contain high levels of Vitamin C, which is a wonderful antioxidant for fertility. Did you know that it can trigger ovulation and support your menstrual cycle?
- Foods that include this: Other foods that are high in this antioxidant include broccoli (and other dark leafy green vegetables) papaya, pineapple, strawberries, bell pepper (red and green), and kiwi. Your spice cabinet may also be chock full of Vitamin C if it includes the following: thyme, parsley, coriander, dill weed, cloves, saffron, cayenne, paprika, chili powder, oregano and rosemary. Time to marinate some chicken with all of these and see what happens!
- Although it’s name may be tricky to remember, it’s one of the most effective antioxidants that the body produces.
- Foods that include this: Avocado, walnuts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale contain a form of Glutathione that is easy for the body to absorb. Incorporating these foods into your diet will help cleanse your body and create a baby-ready environment.
Top Foods to Increase Fertility
One thing to keep in mind when you’re revamping your diet to increase fertility is that, variety is very important. Maximizing your exposure to different types of nutrient rich foods ensures that you’re getting a little bit of everything good!
From antioxidants to phytonutrients, a lot of these beneficial substances have a synergistic effect in the body. In other words, they work together…i.e. like vitamin c increases iron absorption! It wouldn’t make sense to eat a load of iron rich food and then skimp on the vitamin c, now would it? So, diversify your intake!
1. Dark green Vegetables
If I were to describe any food with “packed with antioxidants” it would be broccoli. From my research, broccoli has a number of different kinds of antioxidants that are helpful to relieve oxidative stress. Broccoli even contains an antioxidant, called Lipoic acid, which helps regenerate other antioxidants. Besides Broccoli, dark green vegetables in general tend to have high levels of antioxidants. Lettuce, leeks and kale are a few of the other key players that should be included in your next fertility salad.
2. Beans and Lentils
Beans and Lentils are a great protein option for vegetarians, or those just wanting a one-day-a-week alternative to meat. They are also high in fiber and folic acid both of which are essential to reproductive health.
Avocados are considered a healthy fat and are rich in the powerhouse of antioxidants (Glutathione). They contain a bunch of the health nutrients that promote fertility and are free of many that hinder it (like sugars, saturated fats and sodium). If you are a fan of avocado like me, try to incorporate some avocado toast into your morning routine!
4. Whole Milk/Dairy products
Dairy products, such as whole milk, contain high levels of calcium which is essential to reproductive health. This means full fat ice cream is on the table too (but remember, moderation is key!) Studies have shown that consuming whole milk has reduced rates of failed ovulation in women.
Blueberries and raspberries are rich in antioxidants as well as other nutrients that increase fertility. Blueberries also strengthen the lining of the uterus to help promote implantation. Both support reproductive health and protect egg cells.
Breakfast is Important for Fertility
We all know that eating a protein and carbohydrate rich breakfast boosts energy levels to help you get through those long Monday morning (and rest of the week) meetings. Eating a well-balanced breakfast is not only important for your overall health, it also supports fertility health.
Here is one of my favorite recipes for a conception-friendly breakfast: Red + Green Frittata
Eggs not your thing? Here is 5 other delicious breakfast recipes, 3 of which are egg-free: Click Here
In a hurry? Try a quick breakfast smoothie filled with many nutrients that promote fertility! Here’s are a few you can try:
- Ultimate Fertility Smoothie by Seaside Sundays
- 3 Hormone Boosting Fertility Smoothies by Caroline Zwickson
Sugar and Fertility
I am definitely guilty of opting for a bag of chips over a piece of fruit as a snack. When you really think about the comparison of nutrients (or lack thereof) in both, you begin to realize how often we rob our bodies of things that are good for it.
Excess sugar has the power to deprive us of essential nutrients and, for those trying to conceive, it can interfere with fertility. Paying attention to your blood sugar level and foods that affect this will greatly help with fertility. Sugar heavy foods cause low blood sugar levels, which can effect estrogen levels and, in turn, ovulation.
High levels of sugar in the body also leads to inflammation and can cause obesity which is a precursor to infertility. This doesn’t mean that grabbing a bag of chips or a cookie every once in a while, will significantly affect your ability to conceive but doing it all the time will most likely have a negative impact on your reproductive, and overall, health. Moderation is key!
Fiber and Fertility
Fiber helps to stabilize blood sugar levels in your body by slowing things down. It’s digested throughout the day which will help you not overeat. Fiber is also helpful in removing excess hormones like estrogen from the bloodstream. Cereal is a great way to incorporate fiber into your conception diet (add some whole milk to really help boost fertility!).
Natural Supplements that Increase Fertility:
It’s a good idea to start taking a pre-natal supplement as soon as you decide you want to start trying for a baby. A lot of prenatal supplements have antioxidants in them, as well as folic acid, which is imperative to baby’s neural tube development in the first few weeks of pregnancy.
General health impacts fertility so it’s important to address any deficiencies (Vitamin D is a common one!) Schedule an appointment with your doctor to get a work-up done to ensure that you don’t have any vitamin deficiencies that may affect your ability to conceive.
- Fish Oil/Cod liver oil which have omega-3 fatty acids, help increase fertility by reducing inflammation and creating hormonal balance in the body.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are also known to increase cervical mucus promoting healthy vaginal health. It can increase chances of pregnancy.
Both Cod liver oil and Fish oil also have Vitamin A which enhances the quality of cervical fluid. Finally, they help regulate menstrual cycles- a well-regulated cycle encourages conception!
- Probiotics are a well-known gut health support system, but what you may not know is that good gut health can also support fertility. Bad bacteria in the body creates a non-hospitable environment for a baby, making it hard to conceive one. Probiotics combat these bad bacteria and clean-up the body, thereby increasing fertility. You can find probiotics in yogurt, dark chocolate, sourdough bread kombucha and kimchi.
Teas for Fertility (Fertili-tea)
Tea for two has a new meaning when it comes to trying to conceive. Teas are great for overall reproductive health because they contain a lot of the antioxidants and nutrients mentioned earlier.
- Red Raspberry leaf tea is often recommended for those trying to get pregnant. It’s known to strengthen the uterine lining which can prevent miscarriages in early pregnancy.
- Green tea is one of the most popular teas on the market. It’s often referenced because of the long list of health benefits. It’s showed to be linked to weight loss which can improve fertility in overweight women, who are trying to conceive. Green tea also has antioxidant properties and is one of my favorite ways to decompress after a long day!
Other herbs commonly found in fertility teas that have shown to balance hormones and regulate cycles include Nettle leaf tea and Chasteberry tea. Be sure to consult your doctor before using any fertility teas to ensure that they are safe for you.
Exercise and fertility
Telling yourself that you’ll go to the gym tomorrow for the fifth year in row might be affecting your chances of conceiving. A study posted in the Fertility and Sterility journal showed moderate activity for any length of time in women of all body types correlated with increased fertility.
Hate exercising? Well, an active lifestyle doesn’t have to mean two hours of intense exercise after a long day at work! A casual 30-minute stroll around the neighborhood can do wonders!
When you have a moderately active lifestyle before you get pregnant, it helps set your body up for a healthier pregnancy. This also decreases the chances of certain pregnancy conditions, such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. Consistent physical activity has also been linked to quicker conception rates.
Exercise helps with weight management, which can have a positive effect on fertility. Adipose tissue (fat cells) produce estrogen and having too much (meaning, higher than recommended based on your individual body type) can result in an excess production of estrogen. This imbalance effects the reproduction system negatively. Thus, being at a healthy weight improves overall health and fertility.
Grab a friend, or your partner and get moving! Maybe sign up for a yoga class? Yoga is a great activity to continue into pregnancy as well.
Cutting out Toxins for Fertility
The term “BPA free” became a popular marketing buzz phrase after research showed the harmful affects of this environment toxin on the body. It’s found in common household items such as plastic containers and children’s toys. It makes sense that increased awareness of it’s negative effect caused widespread alarm.
BPA causes a hormonal imbalance in our bodies. Environmental toxins, such as BPA, can also have an effect on a women’s reproductive health. A recent study from Harvard found that BPA plays a role in 20% of unexplained infertility.
Phthalates and Parabens
Other toxins that you need to be wary of if you are trying to conceive, include phthalates and parabens. They can be found in cosmetic products, shampoos and other topicals we put on our body.
Phthalates are found in products containing synthetic fragrances, such as dish washing liquid and laundry detergent. Additionally, exposure to surface cleaners (including carpet cleaners!) in high amounts has been associated with decreased fertility in women (BabyCenter.com)
Check your cosmetic and household products to ensure that these harmful chemicals are not listed in the ingredients. Generally, if a product is free of these chemicals, (fragrances, BPA, parabens and phthalates) it will be listed on the packaging.
Some unhealthy heavy metals such as lead and cadmium regular appear in color cosmetics (in many lipsticks, foundations, eyeshadows, etc). Cadmium and Lead are linked to infertility in both men and women. Lead has also been found to increase rates of spontaneous abortion. Both chemicals should be avoided when trying to conceive. (For more information click here)
Dioxins and Organophosphates
Dioxins and organophosphates also pose a risk to your health and are found in many pesticides and herbicides. Since many of the fruits and vegetables we consume are often at risk of containing pesticide residue, it’s important to properly clean them before consumption. When possible, buy the organic version if it’s available. Organic products can get pricey so what you can do is at least buy the fruits and vegetables listed on the and only buy those organic.
If you work in an environment with frequent exposure to thing such as harmful chemicals (i.e. jet fuel), radiation, and excessive heat you may need to take some extra precautions when trying to get pregnant. Research has shown these to negatively impact menstrual cycles and decrease fertility.
Worried about whether or not you’re ready to be a parent? I definitely did. Constantly. What I didn’t realize was that the stress from worrying might be hindering me from even having the chance to become one. If this sounds like you, then the first thing you must do is realize that stress is inevitable and there’s no way to ever completely get rid of it.
What you can do, is find ways that work for you to cope with it to reduce the effect it has on our body. Some things that work for me include sleeping, mindfulness and talking to someone like a therapist or a friend. Taking care of your mental health will prevent stress from affecting the hormones that control ovulation.
Acupuncture is also a good option! This traditional Chinese medicine can target pressure points in your body to improve blood flow to the uterus and ovaries. It can also help regulate hormones and create balance in your cycle. Acupuncture is also a good way to help you relax.
Other Tips to Increase Fertility:
Getting to Know Your Body Can Help Increase Fertility
It’s easy to under appreciate the importance of tracking your cycles for fertility. Even women who are not quite ready to have a baby should have a general idea of what a normal menstrual cycle looks like them, for reproductive health reasons. I’ve had the same period tracker app since college. I could tell you where I was in my cycle 5 years ago to the date.
Although this seems like unhelpful information, it was nice to bring these statistics to my doctors appointment. Research has shown that the stability of your cycle can provide information about your overall reproductive health. Technology has made it incredible easy to collect data, identify patterns and assess what the best time is for you and your partner to get to baby makin’!
Smoking + Alcohol and Fertility
Smoking is linked to a decrease in fertility and an increase in ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages. Research has shown that smoking causes a decrease in egg supply and harms reproductive organs. If you are trying to get pregnant, it is advised that you stop smoking. This goes for both you and your partner!
Alcohol. Most woman know that they shouldn’t drink during pregnancy. However, did you know that drinking when trying to conceive is also linked to ovulation disorders? For this reason, it’s a good idea to take a break from drinking alcohol as soon as you start trying to have a baby to improve fertility.
Everyone’s fertility journey is different, but a good start for someone ready to embark on this journey is to first look at overall health. For example, improving your diet by adding healthier and diverse food options, especially those that also contribute to reproductive health, will help your body become a healthy environment for a baby to grow.
Take some time to sit down with your doctor, and possibly a nutritionist, to determine what changes you need to make to create that hospitable place. Your doctor can also suggest lifestyle changes tailored to the current state of your health. Hopefully reading this article gave you some ideas of where to start on your path to increased fertility. Treat your body well and then enjoy the fruits of your (impending) labor!
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