By Dr Raewyn Teirney, Gynaecologist & Fertility Specialist
MBChB, FRANZCOG, CREI
Many couples who I see at the fertility clinic often ask me the same questions: "What tips can I give them to improve their chances of a baby?", "What are the best tips for getting pregnant?", "Do I have any tips for conceiving?" This of course is a great time to talk to them about modifying lifestyle factors and improving overall health and well being. The more people plan and prepare for conception the better their chances are!
Below are five recommendations that I always give to the couples that I see in clinic.
Fertility Tip 1: Be the Ideal weight for fertility and pregnancy
An ideal weight for pregnancy is a body mass index (BMI) is between 19.5 and 24.5. Studies show it is harder to conceive when a person is overweight especially when BMI is greater than 25. Likewise it is also difficult to conceive if your BMI is too low. Being underweight can also impact fertility by affecting the hormones important for egg quality and ovulation. Excess weight can increase the chance of menstrual abnormalities and and can can cause interference to your ovulation.
Fertility studies have demonstrated that women only had to lose just 5% to 10% of their body weight to improve the chances of ovulation and subsequent pregnancy.
Ideally, women and men should incorporate moderate levels of exercise at least 4-5 times per week. Running, cycling, gym workouts or a nice brisk walk around the local park. I suggest working towards losing about 0.5 kilos per week.
Fertility Tip 2: Eat a healthy balanced diet rich in antioxidants
Eating a balanced diet is important in supporting a healthy body and maintaining good nutrition especially when pregnant. Eat a balanced diet from the five food groups, especially those high in antioxidants. Antioxidants act as scavengers removing nasty free radicals that can impact fertility. Examples of antioxidants are vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, zinc, garlic, folic acid, Lycopene. Foods containing these include leafy green veggies, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, beetroot, nuts, and fish.
Fertility Tip 3: Stop smoking - There is no safe level of smoking
Studies show that women smokers have lower fertility compared to that of non-smokers. In couples undergoing fertility treatment, studies show pregnancy success rates are also reduced, with a higher miscarriage and stillbirth rate. Men who smoke may have reduced semen volume and sperm count and more abnormal sperm compared to non or ex-smokers. Toxins found in tobacco smoke, such as cadmium, nicotine, lead and radioactive elements may directly affect the testes and sperm production.
Fertility Tip 4: Reduce your alcohol consumption
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) recommends that men and women drink no more than five standard drinks per week if they are wanting to conceive. Also, due to the difficulty in knowing what is a safe level for a pregnant woman to drink, the recommendation is no drinking at all during pregnancy.
Excess drinking it thought to affect fertility by direct damage to sperm and eggs which could result in poor reproductive outcomes such as miscarriage.
Fertility Tip 5: Track and monitor ovulation
Many women I see have no idea when they are ovulating and many do ask for help on this. There are only 2-3 fertile days each month. Clinical studies have shown that women who are aware of their most fertile days by tracking their cycle have an increased chance of falling pregnant. Clinical studies have also shown that many women using guesswork can get their ovulation timing wrong. This would explain why it may take longer to conceive for some.
Two methods women can use to help track and pinpoint the fertile days are the urine LH ovulation tests sticks which test for the LH (luteinising hormone) surge that occurs 24 to 36 hours prior to ovulation and measuring basal body temperature using a digital thermometer to measure small changes in the body temperature.