The desire to have children can encourage some women to make healthier lifestyle choices. They may become more conscious of the foods, beverages and drugs they put into their bodies, and may set aside time to exercise.
For women who want to optimize their fertility, taking better care of their bodies is a good first step. But what else can women do to improve their odds of having a baby?
The most important advice for a woman who wants to get pregnant is to get to know her body, specifically her menstrual cycle.
Here are 6 tips that may help increase a healthy woman’s chances of becoming pregnant, assuming that neither she nor her partner have a known fertility problem.
Record menstrual cycle frequency
A woman who wants to have a baby should monitor whether the first days of her period tends to come the same number of days apart every month, which is considered being regular. Conversely, her periods may be irregular, meaning her cycle lengths vary from month to month. By tracking this information on a calendar, a woman can better predict when she might be ovulating, the time when her ovaries will release an egg every month.
A woman’s egg is fertile for only 12 to 24 hours after its release, according to the March of Dimes. However, a man’s sperm can survive in a woman’s body for about six days, notes Planned Parenthood.
Women with regular cycles generally ovulate two weeks before the arrival of their periods, Pavone said. It’s harder to predict ovulation in women with irregular cycles, but it usually occurs 12 to 16 days before the start of the woman’s next period.
There are several methods women can use to help determine their most fertile days each month.
Home ovulation-prediction kits can take some of the guesswork out of finding when a woman is ovulating. They’re good to use for this purpose.
Other clues to ovulation include the basal body temperature method, in which a woman takes her temperature before she gets out of bed every day and charts this on a graph for at least three menstrual cycles. After a woman ovulates, her basal body temperature typically increases less than half a degree Fahrenheit (0.3 degrees Celsius). A woman is most fertile during the two to three days before this slight rise in body temperature.
Strive for a healthy body weight
Being too heavy can reduce a woman’s odds of conceiving, but being too thin can make it even harder to have a baby.
Here’s good news: Staying well nourished boosts your odds of conceiving! Make sure to include enough protein, iron, zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin D in your diet, because deficiencies in these nutrients have been linked to lengthened menstrual cycles (and therefore less frequent ovulation) and a higher risk of early miscarriage. Ask your doctor if you should take a daily multivitamin supplement. And be sure to eat protein-rich foods, such as meat, fish, low-fat dairy products, eggs, and beans.
Give up alcohol
A growing body of research has linked alcohol consumption with a decreased ability to get pregnant (it can also harm a developing fetus). Alcohol alters estrogen levels, which may interfere with egg implantation, although pouring an occasional glass of Pinot with your dinner is unlikely to harm fertility. You should also consider cutting back on caffeine while you try to conceive and during your pregnancy. Although study results have been mixed, research suggests that caffeine affects female hormone levels and may affect how long it takes to get pregnant. The bottom line: If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, be a teetotaler and limit your daily java fix to 200 mg of caffeine per day. (That’s about one to two cups or 12 ounces of coffee.
Kick Butt (Cigarettes, That Is)
As if you needed another reason to quit smoking: Cigarette toxins not only damage a woman’s eggs, interfering with the fertilization and implantation process, but also cause the ovaries to age.Smoking can lead to fertility problems in both women and men. Chemicals found in cigarette smoke, such as nicotine and carbon monoxide.It’s also a good idea for women to stay away from secondhand smoke, which may affect their chances of becoming pregnant. Marijuana and other recreational drug use should also be avoided while trying to conceive.
Have sex every other day during the fertile window
If the demands of your hectic life have dampened your sex drive, it’s a good idea to start having sex more often. Some research suggests that women who engage in regular (at least weekly) intercourse are more likely to have predictable menstrual cycles and normal ovulation than women who have sporadic sex. One theory: Your husband emits sex hormones that influence your reproductive system. Weekly sex may also cause you to produce more estrogen. And there’s no question that frequent sex helps when you’re actually trying to conceive. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, having sex every one to two days during yourfertile window is associated with the best chance of pregnancy. But because mandatory sex on certain days can become a chore, you might also try making love every few days all month long.