One in eight couples struggle with infertility according to the National Survey of Family Growth and for about 20 percent, the cause of their inability to conceive is unknown.
If you’re one of these couples desperate to have a baby, here’s the good news: There are things you can do to improve your chances of conceiving, whether you’re undergoing fertility treatments or not. Here are eight.
1. Track your ovulation
Dr. Amos Grunebaum, a double board-certified OB/GYN based in New York City and product formulator for Fairhaven Health, says many of his patients don’t have sex frequently enough and don’t know when they’re actually fertile. Ovulation predictor kits, charting your basal body temperature and fertility monitors can help to pinpoint your most fertile times.
2. Go to the doctor
According to RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, one-third of infertility issues lie with the man, which is why it’s important to get your guy evaluated. For your check-ups, make sure your doctor rules out an obstruction in your fallopian tubes, scarring of the uterine wall or cervical opening, or problems with cervical mucus or vaginal pH. “These are physical things that a fertility specialist would be able to very quickly—medically and surgically—be able to help you with,” according to Alisa Vitti, a hormonal and reproductive health expert and author of Woman Code.
3. Get a blood test
A simple blood work-up can check your hormone and micronutrient levels, specifically vitamins D3, B, A, E, and iodine, all of which can affect your fertility. If you have unexplained infertility and you are nutrient deficient, “then a great place to start, instead of going right into the IVF process cold, would be to actively start to supercharge your biochemistry with the essential micronutrients for fertility,” Vitti said.
4. Change your lifestyle
Smoking, alcohol and extra pounds can all impact your chances of conceiving. Plus, healthy eating is important for ovulation and sperm production, according to Hethir Rodriguez, a fertility expert and herbalist who specializes in natural fertility. Eat an organic diet that includes lean protein, dairy, grass fed meat, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and essential fatty acids from flax, nuts, and seeds. In fact, according to a recent Harvard School of Public Health study, women undergoing IVF who ate the highest amount of monounsaturated fats found in foods like avocado, nuts and seeds were three times more likely to have a baby.
5. Deal with infections
If you’ve had chronic bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract, or yeast infections, or STDs like HPV or chlamydia, they could be the reason why you’re not able to conceive, according to Vitti. Talk to your doctor about treatments or seek out the help of a natural fertility expert who can prescribe an immune boosting dietary protocol.
6. Track bowel movements
What’s happening in the bathroom might actually clue you in to the reason for your infertility. Vitti says that prolonged constipation can lead to increased levels of estrogen in the blood stream, which affects the delicate balance between estrogen and progesterone that is vital to maintain a pregnancy. Plus, diarrhea and IBS could indicate a micronutrient deficiency.
7. Talk to a natural fertility expert
According to a recent study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, women who used Chinese herbal medicine were twice as likely to get pregnant within a four month period as those who used Western medical fertility drug therapy or IVF. “The great thing with natural therapies and lifestyle changes is they can work in conjunction with what your fertility doctor might want you to do or it’s something great to do beforehand,” according to Rodriguez. A natural fertility expert can assess your diet and lifestyle, address any underlying conditions and can prescribe a variety of natural treatments.
Struggling with infertility can add to your everyday stress, but it can actually inhibit your ability to conceive, according to a University of California, Berkeley, study. Exercise, meditation and making time to decompress and have fun are all great ways to manage your stress. Fertility yoga classes can help with circulation and manage stress as well.
Julie Revelant is a freelance writer and copywriter specializing in parenting, health, healthcare, nutrition, food and women's issues. She’s also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.