How to increase your odds (without a major overhaul—promise!)
If you’re reading this, chances are that somewhere along the way, you learned that getting pregnant is nowhere near as easy as that high-school sex-ed class made it seem. The reality: about one in six couples in Canada and one in eight couples in America have trouble conceiving.
But the good news is that there are evidence-backed ways that men and women can optimize fertility—and many are small habits that are easy to adopt without a drastic lifestyle change. If you’re already trying or planning to start soon, these easy tips on how to increase fertility can help shorten the length of time it takes to conceive and also support a healthy pregnancy.
Add antioxidants to your daily routine.
You’ve likely heard that people with eggs hit their peak fertile years in their twenties, with the decline beginning in their thirties. Similarly, by the age of 40, sperm have more DNA damage, which is linked to lower fertility, abnormal embryo development, and higher rates of miscarriage.
Until we can nail down time travel, your best bet is to load up on antioxidants. These are molecules that fend off free radicals (unstable atoms that damage your cells, contributing to aging and illness) and improve DNA fragmentation in sperm. You can find antioxidant properties in minerals, like zinc and selenium; vitamins, such as Vitamin C; enzymes, like CoQ10; and amino acids, such as L-carnitine. Fortunately, these nutrients are all easy to get in a daily prenatal.
Fill your morning mug with green tea.
We know, we know—quitting caffeine is basically impossible. But if you tend to go heavy on the java, cutting back could increase fertility. A 2016 study found that those who had four or more servings of caffeine a day pre-pregnancy had a 20-percent increased risk of miscarriage compared to those who had none. For men, studies suggest that over 100 mg per day may impair fertility. If you’re wondering how much caffeine is in your cup, a short Starbucks Blonde has 180 mg.
Switching over to green tea can still give you a little pep—it packs about 40 mg per cup—with a bonus hit of health-boosting antioxidants. If you need the taste of coffee, decaf has about 7 mg per cup.
Ease up on the drinks.
We all know to cut the booze during pregnancy, but too much alcohol can also have negative impacts on sperm and eggs. A 2011 study looked at couples undergoing IVF and found that the odds of having a live birth were 21 percent lower when both partners had at least four drinks per week at the time of their cycle start, compared to couples who drank less than that.
The journey to conceive can be a long one, so it helps to have a few tasty alcohol-free alternatives up your sleeve. We love flavored sparkling waters (throw in a citrus wedge), ginger beer, pomegranate juice (at least it looks like wine) and kombucha, which is also great for your gut health. Fortunately, there are more and more zero-percent beers, wines and spirits than ever before, too.
Limit your exposure to toxic chemicals.
Chemicals such as BPAs, parabens and phthalates are known as endocrine disruptors, which means they can mess with your body’s hormones. When it comes to female fertility, that can translate to impaired egg and embryo quality, failed implantation and increased risk of miscarriage. On the male side, toxic chemicals can decrease sperm count, concentration and motility.
That sounds scary, but start with small steps you can take to limit your exposure to these chemicals. For example, make the switch from plastic water bottles and food containers to glass or stainless steel options. Replace household cleaners with more natural options (water and vinegar makes for an easy all-purpose one) and stick to beauty products that dodge harmful chemicals (EWG.org can be a helpful resource).
You don’t have to overhaul your life, but mindful adjustments can optimize fertility and get you primed and ready for pregnancy.