Published March 01, 2014
Some women get pregnant effortlessly; others spend months or even years trying to conceive. Why? Experts concede it's still largely a mystery.
"We have hints—factors like when your mom went through menopause and how regular your cycles are—but they don't tell us everything," said Dr. Sarah Berga, chair of ob-gyn and women's health at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. "So much of it depends on the individual."
That said, there are ways you and your partner could increase your chances of getting pregnant. Try these lifestyle tweaks.
Kick your soda addiction
Women who drink two or more servings of any type of soda a day have about a 16 percent lower fertility rate than women who don't drink any, according to a 2012 study co-authored by Lauren Wise, ScD.
Go to bed early
Research suggests that women undergoing IVF treatments see the best results when they regularly clock seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Stop tossing and turning and sleep soundly with these seven tips for the best sleep ever.
Be a better brusher
Gum disease can add an extra two months to the amount of time it takes to become pregnant, 2011 Australian research shows. Make sure you get your teeth checked before trying to conceive.
Exercise, but not too much
Thin women who work out vigorously five hours a week or more are 42 percent less likely to get pregnant than those who don't exercise as strenuously, Wise's research suggests.
Don't let him turn into a couch potato
Guys who watch more than 20 hours of TV weekly have a 44 percent lower sperm count than those who watch almost none, a 2013 Harvard study showed.
Get a handle on chronic anxiety
"If your stress levels become high enough, you'll simply stop ovulating," Dr. Berga explains.
Try giving up gluten
A recent Columbia University study suggests that 6 percent of women with unexplained infertility have celiac disease. "They produce antibodies that may interfere with the development of the placenta," said study author Dr. Peter Green. After subjects went on a gluten-free diet, they were able to conceive within a year.
Encourage him to lose weight
Men who are overweight or obese are more likely to have low total sperm counts and concentration, according to a study from 2013.
...And quit smoking
Lighting up leads to lower sperm quality, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which is why it recommends quitting smoking if trying to conceive.
...And move his phone
Men who store phones on their belts or in their pants pockets have lower sperm counts, according to a review published by the Environmental Working Group, possibly due to the electromagnetic waves they emit.