How to Increase Fertility
Whether you’re just getting ready to start trying or you’ve been attempting to get pregnant for a while without success, many people want to know how to increase fertility or how to increase the chances of getting pregnant.
The good thing is that there are some easy lifestyle changes that both men and women can make to significantly increase fertility and the chance of getting pregnant naturally. If needed, these natural remedies to increase fertility can be combined with some more aggressive medications and treatments to further improve the odds of getting pregnant. Remember, infertility is clinically defined as the inability to get pregnant after 6 months (if over the age of 35) or 12 months if under the age of 35, and there is no shame in seeking help from a fertility doctor when needed. Some, like those with PCOS or blocked tubes, certainly have a reason to get help from a specialist even sooner.
It’s also important to remember that the sooner men and women can make these changes, the more they increase the chances of getting pregnant. Egg and sperm development both begin as far as 90 days prior (well actually around 74 days for sperm) to ovulation and ejaculation, so changes you make today don’t fully take effect for a full 90 days. Because of this, it’s important that the changes you make to increase your fertility and the chances of getting pregnant are done in a sustainable way. Take your time, go slow, but get started with improving your fertility today.
How to Increase Fertility Naturally
Whether you’re a man or a woman, most people want to take the path of least resistance and find ways to improve their fertility naturally prior to seeking expensive fertility treatments. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that behavior and dietary changes can be all that’s necessary to increase your fertility and help get you pregnant, so let’s get started with that.
Foods that Increase Men and Women’s Fertility
Eat Fat to Increase the Odds of Getting Pregnant :
One of the primary reasons couples have difficulty conceiving is inflammation. Chronic levels of inflammation are often the result of micro contaminants found in the air we breathe, the water we drink, but mostly in the foods we eat. Inflammation elicits an immune response, which sends our bodies into further turmoil. An overactive immune system can attack egg, sperm, embryo, and even a developing fetus. This can result in difficulty achieving pregnancy, maintaining pregnancy, or repeated miscarriages.
Eating fat is one of the easiest ways to reduce inflammation and improve immunologic function. Fat is an essential component of our diet and plays a vital role in total body health. Fat gives our cells structure. It’s necessary for bone health, to protect our liver from toxins, make our immune system function correctly, and fat allows our bodies to absorb a number of essential vitamins.
Saturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce inflammation , whether it’s through dietary consumption or intravenous intralipids. Fat may suppress the activity of natural killer cells in our immune system and help dial back the immune response and thus inflammation. At CNY Fertility, Dr. Robert Kiltz recommends a high fat, moderate protein, and low to no carbohydrate diet. He calls this the B.E.B.B.I. Diet (pronounced “baby”) for its mainstay foods: Bacon, Eggs, Butter, Beef, and Ice cream made from full-fat heavy cream (with little sugar).
Eat fat, but Avoid Trans Fats when Trying to Increase Your Fertility
Highly processed and fried foods tend to be high in trans fats. These types of fats can be harmful. They’re a form of unsaturated fat. The most damaging trans fats are high in omega-6 and occur when certain oils (vegetable, canola, soybean, corn) are chemically altered to remain solid at room temperature, such as the case of margarine or shortening.
Trans fats have been associated with ovulatory problems. Diets higher in trans fats and lower in unsaturated fats have been linked to infertility. A large observational study concluded that a diet higher in trans fats and lower in unsaturated fats was linked to infertility.
Antioxidants Can Boost Fertility
Antioxidants have been a buzz word for quite a while, but what are they? Throughout our bodies, we have free radicals, which are unstable cells that cause damage and disease. Going back to high school chemistry, when oxygen molecules split into single atoms with unpaired electrons, they become unstable free radicals and seek to bond to other atoms or molecules. As this continues to happen, it begins a process called oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress damages cells in our bodies and can lead to a range of damage and disease, as simple as wrinkles in our skin, and the quality of sperm and egg. Antioxidants can deactivate these free radicals preventing further damage.
For men, in particular, eating foods high in antioxidants may help improve sperm quality. Various studies have shown that antioxidants like folate and zinc may improve fertility in both men and women. Men who chose to eat up to 75 grams of walnuts daily were able to improve sperm quality in one study .
Another study followed 60 couples going through IVF and found that taking an antioxidant supplement improved their chances of conception by 23%.
Antioxidants are found in foods like fruits, vegetables, certain nuts and grains that contain vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and folate.
Be Caffeine Conscious When Trying to Increase Your Chances of Getting Pregnant
That morning cup of coffee might be a non-negotiable part of your morning routine, but when it comes to caffeine, don’t overdo it. A cup of coffee to start the day is fine, but multiple cups and a steady stream of caffeine-laden beverages throughout the day can have an adverse effect on your fertility, leading to longer times to conceive and higher miscarriage risk . When trying to conceive, it’s good to limit your caffeine consumption.
How to Increasing the Chances of Getting Pregnant with Supplements
While whole foods are usually the best source of nutritional foundation, certain supplements for both men and women have been shown to improve fertility and the chances of getting pregnant.
Key Nutrients in Fertility Supplements for Improving Women’s Fertility
– Myo-Inositol and D-Chiro-Inositol: Myo and D-Chiro are two forms of Inositol known to improve the way the body uses insulin and promote normal hormone levels, regular menstrual cycles, and normal ovulatory function when taken together in a specific ratio.
– CoQ10 : Helps to provide energy to cells and is believed to promote improved egg quality.
– Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps the body metabolize essential nutrients. It’s tied to the metabolism of calcium, the operation of the endocrine system, the immunological system, and bones’ mineralization. Researchers have found that women with sufficient vitamin D levels are almost twice as likely to conceive, compared with the women who had insufficient levels of vitamin D. We recommend women with vitamin D levels less than 20 ng/ml take a supplement.
– Folate: Folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, is an essential supplement for preventing congenital disabilities. When taken daily in dosages of 400 mcg prior to conception, folic acid can reduce the occurrence of neural tube defects like spina bifida by as much as 80%.
– Fish Oil: Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for maintaining a balanced production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that help regulate important physiological functions like blood pressure, blood clotting, nerve transmission, inflammatory and allergic responses, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract functioning, and the production of other hormones.
Many other nutrients including Vitamin A , Vitamin E , Iron , Iodine , and Choline are also good choices for priming the body for pregnancy.
Recommended Supplements for Women:
There are many supplements and even fertility supplements out there, but it’s important to source high-quality third-party tested supplements when it comes to your fertility and having a baby. We recommend Molecular Fertility brand supplements.
Key Nutrients in Fertility Supplements for Improving Women’s Fertility
– Selenium: Selenium supplementation improves sperm counts, motility and morphology as well as sperm concentration.
– Lycopene: A powerful antioxidant that protects sperm from oxidative DNA damage. Can improve sperm motility and a man’s reproductive potential.
– CoQ10: Has the ability to block cell damage and enhance sperm count/concentrations and sperm motility
– L-Carnitine: L-Carnitine helps support a male’s energy, stamina, and sperm health. Improves sperm motility and morphology and is important for proper sperm maturation. Taking a supplement may be helpful in men with and without fertility issues.
Many other nutrients including Vitamins A, B12, C, D, and E, Zinc, Folate, Beet juice, spirulina, and antioxidants like alpha-tocopherol can also be helpful in boosting male fertility.
Recommended Supplements for Men:
Similar to women’s fertility supplements, when it comes to how you can improve male fertility with the help of supplements, there are many choices. Again, we turn to Molecular Fertility’s male fertility line.
How Yoga Can Improve my Chances of Getting Pregnant Naturally
Practicing yoga on a regular basis can help improve your fertility through three main benefits: stress reduction, improved circulation, and a more balanced immune system. The breathing techniques used with yoga can help lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the body. Yoga movements can improve blood flow to the reproductive organs in both men and women, providing more oxygen and other vital nutrients. Yoga can help raise the number of white blood cells in the body, which may be a plus when it comes to fertility.
Several studies have concluded that yoga helps couples overcome infertility and increases the success rate of ART by improving the physiological and psychological states of both men and women. While high-intensity exercise can increase inflammation and decrease fertility, the low impact movement of yoga may help you get pregnant faster .
Massage Your Way to Pregnancy
Massage can be used to gently manipulate the muscles and connective tissue to reposition the pelvic organs so that any blockages or adhesions and congestion are removed. This allows the body to self-regulate, heal, and regenerate. In addition, there is increased blood flow, and the functioning of the lymphatic system and nervous system are optimized.
There’s data to suggest massage can help open blocked tubes, treat endometriosis, and treat elevated levels of FSH, which can all decrease fertility. A study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine looked at 1,392 women having difficulty conceiving. After massage, there was a 60% success rate in opening a least one tube and a 57% pregnancy rate for women whose tubes were opened. Both female and male fertility can be improved by using these massage techniques.
Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)
An increasing number of studies have shown a connection between improved fertility and laser therapy—for both men and women. LLLT may improve pregnancy rates even in women who haven’t previously been successful with fertility treatments like IVF.
High-power lasers are typically used to cut through or destroy tissue; low-power lasers are used to relieve pain or stimulates and enhances cell function. LLLT is also known as photobiomodulation (PBMT), cold laser therapy, low-intensity light therapy, and soft laser therapy.
LLLT helps to stimulate blood flow to the reproductive organs and enhance cellular energy production which can improve egg quality. This is particularly significant for older women who may be struggling with poor egg quality. Several studies in Denmark and Japan showed that LLLT applied to the neck and ovaries may enhance mitochondrial activity and ATP production, reducing oxidative damage. Mitochondria power our cells, and ATP is the main source of cellular energy. Eggs have 200 times more mitochondria than other cells and require a lot of energy to divide and implant. Older eggs tend to produce less ATP, which may be why they are less likely to develop and implant. LLLT can improve energy stores at the cellular level to achieve better pregnancy outcomes.
LLLT has also been shown to increase the percentage of live sperm cells and improve sperm motility in men .
Quit Smoking to Increase Fertility
In addition to the many health problems linked to smoking, fertility is yet another factor impacted by the decision to smoke. Toxins in cigarettes may lead to DNA damage of the ovarian follicles, where the eggs develop. Smoking can decrease the total number of eggs a woman has in her ovaries and cause the ovaries to age prematurely. Smoking can also impact the health and development of a fetus resulting in congenital disabilities, lead to miscarriage, and extend the time it takes you to conceive. Smoking just According to a 2017 study on the subject, six or more cigarettes per day will significantly harm your ability to conceive.
To improve your fertility and overall health, it is best to quit smoking well in advance of trying to get pregnant. Women who quit a year before trying to conceive can improve their fertility rates .
Smoking is also believed to affect male fertility as well .
A sip of alcohol here or there or an occasional glass of wine doesn’t appear to affect fertility, but excessive consumption and quite possible even moderate consumption may impair fertility. Studies have found that drinking more than 8 drinks per week is associated with a longer time to get pregnant.
Studies looking at moderate alcohol consumption have not been as conclusive with some finding no adverse effects and others showing five or fewer drinks per week may lower fertility in women.
Exercise: What to Do / What Not to Do
Exercise is the one category where less really is more in terms of fertility. Moderate intensity movement and weight-bearing exercises like walking, yoga, Barre, or Tai Chi are great ways to stay active, reduce stress, and minimize inflammation, but excessive and intense exercise like running high mileage or cross-fit classes can have the opposite effect when it comes to fertility.
In some women, an hour or more of vigorous exercise each day can decrease the body’s production of the hormones that stimulate ovary function. This can cause the ovaries to become underactive and stop producing eggs and estrogen. This risk increases with exercise duration and intensity. What’s more, intense exercise sessions cause the body to break down the proteins in muscles, producing ammonia, a chemical that can inhibit pregnancy, and heat up.
Avoid Stress & Find Ways to Relax
Several recent studies have found a link between a woman’s day-to-day stress levels and lowered pregnancy chances. For example, women whose saliva had high levels of alpha-amylase, a marker for stress, took 29% longer to get pregnant than women who had lower levels.
Our bodies are incredibly smart and recognize that periods of high stress are not good times to have a baby. Stressful periods can also have an impact on lifestyle, such as having sex less frequently and turning to unhealthy habits like drinking too much caffeine, smoking, and drinking too much alcohol—all of which are detrimental to a woman’s overall health and lower her odds of conceiving.
How Acupuncture Can Help you Get Pregnant
Acupuncture is a great way to relieve stress (and reduce cortisol levels), which is particularly important when trying to conceive and just for general good health. It’s been shown to help reduce depression, which can be problematic for women struggling with infertility. It also can decrease stress and anxiety that can contribute to fertility problems. When combined with IVF, several studies have shown acupuncture leading up to and immediately before and after embryo transfer may positively affect pregnancy outcomes.
Drugs and Medications to Increase Fertility
Sometimes natural treatments and lifestyle adjustments just aren’t enough to improve fertility. When this is the case, fertility specialists look to a variety of pharmaceuticals to provide an extra boost to fertility.
For Both Men & Women
Low Dose Naldextrone (LDN) is frequently prescribed to both men and women to help jump-start their immune systems. Because infertility may be due to the immune system’s overreaction to one’s own hormones, LDN in low doses can balance and regulate the immune system without overstimulating it.
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) may be prescribed to women to combat low ovarian reserve or poor egg quality. In men, HGH acts at the testicular level to improve testosterone levels and sperm maturation. The use of HGH for male infertility may help increase sperm concentration and motility.
Female Fertility Medications
Intralipids are fat that is administered via IV. Intralipids have been shown to improve the likelihood of implantation and reduce pregnancy loss by lowering the activity of the natural killer cells in the immune system.
Antibiotics help wipe out bacteria and thus toxic byproducts and inflammation within the reproductive system that can cause failure to implant and miscarriage.
Tacrolimus (Prograf) targets and down regulates the immune system that can be responsible for recognizing and attacking the embryo as an invader.
Prednisone is an anti-inflammatory that can help suppress an overactive immune system.
Aspirin (Low-dose) has been shown to improve ovarian responsiveness, uterine and ovarian blood flow, implantation, and pregnancy rates in patients undergoing fertility treatments.
Lovenox prevents blood clotting and can be prescribed in cases of recurrent miscarriage or where there’s a known blood-clotting disorder.
IVIG (Intravenous Immunoglobulin) is composed of human antibodies. Studies suggest that it may reduce the number of natural killer (NK) cells in the body and/or absorb or block a woman’s antibodies, which could be causing the body to attack the pregnancy.
Filgrastim (Neupogen) increases white blood cells, thereby suppressing the immune system, so it does not attack the embryo.
Viagra improves blood flow and nutrition delivery. It can be used as vaginal suppositories to prepare the uterus for implantation.
Antihistamines like OTC Claritin or Benadryl can help suppress an overactive immune system and combat inflammation.
Metformin may be prescribed to PCOS patients to lower insulin levels and balance the metabolic system.
Orlissa is used to treat endometriosis.
Male Fertility Medications
Clomid has been found to improve sperm production and function in men and may help with hormone imbalances.
hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) can be used to raise testosterone production which has the potential to benefit sperm quality.
To maximize chances for pregnancy and if there is a suspicion of endometriosis or other blockages, surgical diagnosis and treatment may be recommended.
Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that allows your surgeon to visualize the pelvic cavity, ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes to diagnose and correct endometriosis, adhesions, and myomas that may be preventing pregnancy.
Hysteroscopy is a minimally invasive diagnostic and corrective procedure to visualize, investigate, and correct (if discovered) the source of abnormal uterine bleeding or suspected cause of infertility and miscarriage.
LIT is a procedure that takes white blood cells from the father, isolates and injects them into the skin of the prospective mother to introduce the husband’s immune cells to the woman’s immune system in preparation for pregnancy.
ERA is an endometrial biopsy that is then analyzed to determine a woman’s endometrial receptivity (how likely an embryo is to stick). The test is performed to help prevent implantation failure by identifying a woman’s unique and optimum “window of implantation.”
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy is an injection of concentrated platelet-rich plasma protein derived from whole blood and centrifuged to remove red blood cells. It can be used in the ovaries to improve egg quality or in the uterus to improve uterine lining and implantation.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) is primarily a facilitator of natural conception. Sperm is collected, concentrated, and deposited into a woman’s uterus using a catheter. To be successful, at least one of the woman’s tubes must be open and the male partner should have a decent sperm count.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) removes eggs from a woman’s ovaries, which are then fertilized with sperm from a partner or donor in a laboratory. After the embryos are allowed to grow for 3-5 days, one embryo (but occasionally two) is subsequently transferred back into the woman’s uterus during an embryo transfer. IVF is used in conjunction with many different medication protocols to produce more eggs, higher quality embryos, and improve the uterine lining for implantation.
Donor Eggs/Donor Sperm may be utilized when sperm or egg quality are believed to be the reason a couple isn’t conceiving. Egg quality is one of the major reasons pregnancy rates go down in older women and miscarriage rates go up. Older women using their own eggs may not be able to conceive. When this is the case, donor egg IVF may be recommended.
Egg Freezing is a way to preserve your eggs when they are most healthy and plentiful. Since egg quality and quantity decline with age, freezing eggs during your 20s or early 30s can effectively “stop the clock” on the eggs you’ve frozen since your chances of having a child are all based on the age of the eggs you’re using, not your biological age at the time you use them.
The Bottom Line
There’s not a singular magic bullet that can amp up fertility in men and women. Reproduction is a complicated process of carefully timed bodily functions and systems. Increasing your chances of pregnancy is really about many different lifestyle changes: what you eat, the supplements you take, how you move, living clean, and making balanced, healthy choices. Fortunately, when combining some of all of the above, you can indeed improve the chances of getting pregnant.
Still, many will struggle to get pregnant and need the help of a reproductive endocrinologist, IUI, IVF, or other treatments to grow their family and there is nothing to be ashamed about that – 1 in 8 couples can be diagnosed with infertility and because age plays such a critical factor, it’s best to get help sooner than later.