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Natural Ways to Improve Your Chances of Getting Pregnant
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim
Updated on June 1, 2009
If you and your partner have been given clean bills of health but you're struggling to get pregnant, you should know that some simple dietary and lifestyle measures can dramatically increase your chances of getting pregnant.
What follows is a list of the most important steps that you and your partner can take to increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Use the Fertility Awareness Method to Time Intercourse
During each of your menstrual cycles, you have a window of about two to three days during which your body is optimally fertile. The beginning of this fertile window can be predicted by two easy-to-measure factors:
Your basal body temperature.
As soon as you wake up every morning, before you do anything (including getting out of bed), take your basal body temperature orally and record it on a fertility tracking calendar.
As you get close to ovulating, your basal body temperature is likely to drop ever so slightly before sharply spiking upward - this change in temperature indicates that ovulation has occurred, and should happen within 12 hours of ovulation. Your temperature will remain elevated until the beginning of your next menstrual cycle.
After charting your cycle for a few months, you should be able to notice a pattern to your daily basal body temperatures, and use this pattern to predict your fertile window.
Intercourse should occur from 1-2 days before ovulation to 2 days after ovulation. It's best to have intercourse every other day during this window, and to have the man save as much sperm as possible leading up to this window.
The quality of your cervical mucous.
As you approach ovulation during each menstrual cycle, your cervical mucous will increase in quantity, slipperiness, and stretchiness, reaching a consistency that resembles that of egg whites. Ovulation typically occurs within two days of when your cervical mucous becomes like egg whites.
Observe the consistency of your cervical mucous during your cycle and aim to have intercourse when your mucous is like egg whites. Cervical mucous that resembles egg whites is needed to facilitate optimal movement of sperm toward your egg.
If you would like more guidance on the Fertility Awareness Method, I recommend that you read: Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health
Strive to Be at a Healthy Weight for Your Structure
Being underweight or overweight - even by just a bit - can significantly disrupt your menstrual cycle; there are numerous reasons for this, and the most important one is that your body fat produces a number of hormones - like estrogen and leptin - that influence your reproductive and overall health. Too much body fat typically leads to a fertility-disrupting state called estrogen dominance, while too little fat is often associated with an undernourished state that can't support a healthy pregnancy.
According to The Nurses' Health Study, a body mass index (BMI) between 20 and 24 allows for your best chance of getting pregnant. To calculate your current BMI, use the simple BMI tool found here.
Be Physically Active
Your skeletal muscles act as reservoirs for excess blood sugar, so building and maintaining your muscles can help keep your blood sugar and insulin at healthy levels, which is important to preventing disruption of the many hormones that influence ovulation and fertility.
The three main types of physical activity that you want to engage in are:
Activities that build and maintain skeletal muscles (lean tissue mass).
Examples include: resistance (weight) training, hiking and climbing, and activities of daily living that involve heavy lifting.
Activities that keep your heart, lungs, and blood vessels well conditioned (aerobic exercise).
Examples include: brisk walking, light jogging, tennis, tossing a frisbee, swimming, dancing, yoga, and pilates.
Activities that promote flexible skeletal muscles.
Examples include: dancing, yoga, and pilates.
The only warning with regard to exercise is to refrain from a vigorous schedule of intense exercise that is intended to keep your weight low. Regular, intense exercise, when combined with being lean, can disrupt your production of gonadotropin-releasing hormone. And a low gonadotropin-releasing hormone level can cause your pituitary gland to decrease production of luteinizing hormone. Luteinizing hormone is needed for your eggs to mature, and for your endometrium to be prepared for implantation of a fertilized egg.
How hard you should exercise depends on your current level of fitness, but a good guideline to follow is this: don't get to a point of intensity that makes it difficult for you to have a conversation.
If you are overweight, it's important to regularly engage in aerobic and muscle strengthening exercise; both can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight for your structure.
If you're underweight, it's best to emphasize muscle strengthening activities, as building and maintaining lean tissue mass is the best way to gain weight healthfully. Be careful not to overdo aerobic exercise, as doing too much aerobic work may cause you to burn some of your lean tissue mass.
Ensure Nutritional Excellence
Your body is being prepared to create an entire human being from scratch. This is an obvious statement, but one that should stress the importance of providing your body and future baby with a steady supply of nutrient-rich foods that are capable of building healthy life.
The most essential ways to ensure nutritional excellence are:
Eat mainly plant-based foods.
Here's what the The Nurses' Health Study, tells us about protein consumption and fertility:
Adding one serving per day of red meat, turkey, or chicken can cause an almost 33% increase in risk of ovulatory infertility.
Adding one serving per day of fish or eggs doesn't seem to influence ovulatory infertility.
Adding one serving per day of legumes and nuts provides modest protection against ovulatory infertility.
It's best to get most of your protein from plant foods like legumes, vegetables, whole grains, and small amounts of nuts and seeds. Including fish and/or eggs in your diet can provide additional dietary protein that shouldn't hurt your chances of getting pregnant. In fact, the healthy fats in fish and eggs are likely to increase your chances of getting pregnant, which leads us to...
Eat healthy fats; avoid unhealthy fats.
The first and most important dietary fat-related recommendation is to avoid trans fats. Eating trans fats typically leads to higher blood sugar and insulin levels, as trans fats hurt your ability to clear sugar from your bloodstream after a meal. And higher blood sugar and insulin levels lead to reduced fertility.
Eating trans fats can also lead to increased inflammation throughout your body, which can disrupt ovulation, conception, and the early stages of your baby's development while in your womb.
The most common and concentrated sources of trans fats in the North American diet are margarine, shortening, French fries, fried chicken, doughnuts, cookies, and pastries. To give you some numbers, about 30 to 50 percent of the fat in most commercially prepared French fries, cookies, and doughnuts is trans fatty acids.
Foods that are rich in healthy fats, and that can be eaten regularly to increase your chances of getting pregnant are:
Eat foods that are naturally abundant in complex and simple carbohydrates; avoid foods that are rich in heavily processed carbohydrates.
One of the most common causes of infertility is chronically high blood sugar and insulin levels, which are often seen in women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Foods that are rich in heavily processed carbohydrates, and should be avoided whenever possible, include:
French fries and potato chips
Foods made with white flour
Soft drinks and fruit juices
Beer and wine
Foods that are naturally rich in complex and simple carbohydrates, and that don't lead to reduced fertility include vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Ensure adequate intake of folate and iron.
Folate (folic acid) is essential to the process of building and replicating DNA, and DNA is built and replicated rapidly during conception and pregnancy.
Folate is also essential to keeping your homocysteine level at a healthy range; high homocysteine can increase your risk of experiencing high blood pressure and miscarriage during pregnancy.
Healthy foods that contain folate include:
- Lima beans
- Romaine lettuce
Nonheme iron (found in legumes, vegetables, fruits, and plant-based, whole food nutritional supplements) can improve your fertility, most likely because iron, like folate, plays an important role in DNA synthesis.
Though you need both heme and nonheme iron to be optimally healthy, for the purpose of ensuring an optimal supply of iron for fertility, it's best to emphasize intake of plant foods that are rich in nonheme iron, as any excess nonheme iron that enters your digestive tract leaves your body via your stools, whereas excess heme iron (found in animal products) can get stored in your body, where it can generate large quantities of harmful free radicals.
- Goji berries
- Lima beans
- Navy beans
Our super green food formula is an excellent whole food source of both folate and nonheme iron - it's what my wife used, along with cod liver oil and acerola cherry powder, before, during and after her two pregnancies.
Work at Feeling Emotionally Balanced
When your body experiences chronic physical and/or emotional stress, it will convert progesterone into the stress hormone, cortisol. In fact, if you experience significant stress while you are pregnant, your body may actually draw upon your growing baby's progesterone stores to manufacture enough cortisol to meet your needs.
The point is, stress can lead to a depletion of progesterone, which causes estrogen dominance, which can disrupt your menstrual cycle and decrease your fertility.
Clearly, there are no easy solutions to transcending chronic emotional stressors. But it certainly can't hurt you to make time for journaling, meditating, praying, spending with people you enjoy, and doing things that you find fun and relaxing.
If you are hoping to get pregnant in the months ahead, I hope that you find the suggestions in this article to be helpful. If you've experienced pregnancy and have any additional tips for women looking to get pregnant, please consider sharing your experiences in the comments section below. Thank you.
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