In this guide we explore how education and lifestyle can help you conceive, as well as discuss what might be getting in the way of becoming pregnant.
Between 10% and 20% of couples don’t manage to conceive within the first year of trying for a baby. That’s no reason to worry though. In any month, a woman has a 15% to 25% chance of conceiving – so there’s always a good possibility of this month being the right one.
There are a huge number of factors affecting fertility and there are many things you can do to maximise your chances. In this guide, we’ll explore how education and lifestyle can help you conceive and also some of the things that might be getting in the way of becoming pregnant.
A vital first step when you start planning having a child is educating yourself. You will need to understand what your body needs for conception to occur to maximise your chances of success as early as possible.
The first step towards pregnancy is to transition off of your contraceptives. But you’ll need to make that decision quite early. If you’re on the pill, patch or ring, you’ll need to stop or remove it around three months before you start trying to conceive. For the IUD, it’s 1-3 months before trying for a baby, and if you’re on the progestin injection then you need to stop getting it at least three months before.
Understand your own body
Learn as much as you can about ovulation and your own fertility. The very best time to have sex comes around 14 days after the first day of your last period – when your body is ovulating and you’re at your most fertile. Once an egg is released, you have between 12 and 24 hours before a sperm can no longer successfully fertilise it, so understanding your own body is arguably one of the best things you can do to maximise your chances.
Learning from past experiences
Make sure you book a prenatal check-up with your GP. If you’ve tried for a baby before, you can learn a lot from past experiences, so you should give them as much information as possible. Family medical history could also flag up potential problems. Identify any medications that might affect your chances of conception; all three of these questions you can ask at your pre-natal GP visit
Don’t forget the sex
The most important point – simply have sex, regularly and often. Understand when your ovulation tends to occur and focus on enjoying your time with your partner rather than making it all about the timing, as this can put undue pressure on both parties, which can actually do more harm than good. It is generally recommended that you should try every other day beginning the week before ovulation or just after the end of your period.
By carrying out your own research on fertility you can find out a lot you didn’t know and use this information to increase your chances of conception. Look for advice from reputable sources (including us here at Moody) and don’t be afraid to ask friends and family who have children for advice.
Reviewing your lifestyle
Your lifestyle determines the healthy balance of your hormones, which in turn puts your body in the most receptive condition to get pregnant. We have explored this in more detail in our Moody Guide To Female Fertility Vitamins, but for now here are some quick tips:
Diet and nutrition
Your diet plays a huge role in putting your body in the best condition for conceiving. Unfortunately, only 20% of people eat a truly healthy, balanced diet that gives them the nutrition they need. It’s vital to ensure you’re eating a balanced and healthy diet, based on whole, unprocessed foods and to consider taking nutritional supplements to boost your fertility.
Vitamins and nutrients
Did you know that women with low Vitamin D – which is produced in the skin mainly by exposure to sunlight – are only half as likely to conceive? The following vitamins play an important role in your body’s readiness to conceive due to their role in including supporting hormonal health and balance, plus stabilising blood sugar levels, to help the body better manage stress.
Focus on eating foods rich in these or choose supplements that incorporate them. Look out for supplements that are specifically formulated for the pre-conception stage and those that are approved by Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) or Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) – as you can be sure the active ingredient is in high quantities in the product.
Staying active and fit is very important as well. Other than keeping your weight within the healthy BMI region (between 18.5 and 24.9), it’s important to keep active to boost metabolism and circulation, both of which contribute to egg production and fertility. However – very intense exercise creates an environment in the body that can hinder or even stop ovulation and prevent pregnancy so try to not over do it.
Certain medications may interfere with fertility and can alter ovulation, affecting a woman’s ability to ovulate. Some medication can also affect the endometrial receptivity to a pregnancy. Some reports show that NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Ibuprofen, can have a minor impact on fertility. Other prescription drugs may also hamper your ability to become pregnant.
Factors that May Make Getting Pregnant Harder
Conceiving a child is a natural activity for the female body and getting pregnant can often happen when you least expect it. Some women will find it harder to conceive than others though, so if you’re having trouble it’s important to relax and connect with your body. There are certain things that can hinder or make conceiving harder, but that’s not to say they mean getting pregnant will be impossible.
It’s important to be aware of some of the main causes of low fertility, in the hopes of potentially counteracting them. Below are some of the most common factors that make getting pregnant harder:
Take a look at family history or talk to a relative who’s conceived before. Certain hereditary factors might be getting in the way of your fertility. There’s no fertility gene or one single characteristic that leads to infertility – but polycystic ovaries and endometriosis can be inherited and can have implications on trying to conceive. Discuss these conditions with your GP – as well as any other long-term existing conditions – to be sure that you can put plans in place to maximise your chances.
Being obese can make conceiving much harder due to interference with hormones. On the other hand, underweight women are also twice as likely to take more than a year to successfully conceive. Once again, a balanced diet and an active lifestyle is key to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.
Poor diet and lack of exercise
A poor diet will have a negative impact on your chances of conception, regardless of whether you overweight or obese. Cutting down on those fatty and processed foods, as well as alcohol and maintaining a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit along with regular exercise is key here.
Stress and anxiety
Stress and anxiety can be a problem too. The hypothalamus part in the brain dictates our hormone levels which controls the release of the egg. Unfortunately, stress has an influence on the hypothalamus too and can therefore affect fertility levels. When stress, anxiety or grief is sudden and unpredictable, it’s common for these to have a negative impact on your chances of conceiving. Combating stress isn’t easy, but recognising you are stressed is one of the first steps to reducing it.
The last point to consider is age and its clear correlation with fertility. Over time, the ovaries release fewer eggs of good quality and a handful of women even go through menopause early. You're most likely to become pregnant between the age of 20 and 24 and over time your fertility level will gradually drop. With age, normal ovarian hormone signaling can become less efficient and multiple pregnancies may be more likely. Whilst there’s nothing wrong at all with this, these pregnancies by their nature can be more problematic. All these factors and possibilities are important to bear in mind.
Conceiving and getting pregnant can be one of the most natural processes any woman can go through. It can also be one of the most stressful if you’re having trouble getting pregnant. Issues with fertility and conception often can’t be predicted but if you keep in mind the educational and lifestyle choices discussed in this guide, as well as take time to get to know your own body and cycles, there’s a lot you can do to increase your chances of getting pregnant.
To read more on supporting conception see our guide to female fertility vitamins