There's an onslaught of information out there about the best ways to concieve, so it can sometimes be confusing. Luckily, there are ways to boost your fertility right inside your fridge!
We’ve got some of the best foods for you and your partner to optimise your chances of conception and get you feeling great for the nine months to come.
First up, if you’ve been having problems conceiving (one in every seven couples report difficulty getting pregnant), take a look at what might be the causes behind it. Factors that can affect fertility include the following:
Age: Women get less fertile as they get older, so bear this in mind if you’re planning a pregnancy. You may want to talk to your doctor if you’re in your mid to late 30s and have been trying for a while.
Stress: Problems such as work and relationship issues can put pressure on your body, causing ailments such as a low immune system or poor digestion, which can reduce fertility levels.
Weight: If you’re overweight or underweight, you may have difficulty conceiving. Check out our ways for regulating your weight below. Even if those don’t apply, it’s sometimes just not as easy for some people to conceive. Subsequently, it’s important to do everything you can (safely) to ensure that your body is as healthy as can be. Diet is a great place to start – it’s one of the quickest ways to ensure you get nutrients that are essential for pregnancy, and is much cheaper than fertility treatments.
'If you're overweight or underweight, you may have difficulty conceiving. It's important to do everything you can to ensure that your body is as healthy as can be'
TOP FERTILE FOODS
Oily fish – These are an amazing source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve both blood circulation and sperm mobility. Be sure to limit how much you eat if you do become pregnant, though – there can be high levels of mercury in some types of fish.
Avocados – as well as being high in monounsaturated fats, avocados are a great source of vitamin E, which is essential for sperm and egg health.
Red meat – lean red meat is an excellent source of protein, and is also a great source of vitamin B12, the vitamin that helps formation of the blood and the nervous system.
Dairy products – studies have shown that women who eat at least one portion of dairy a day are less likely to suffer from fertility problems than those who don’t. If you’re lactose intolerant, you can get the benefits of dairy from fortified soya milk.
'Boost your fertility with some alternative workouts'
Garlic – OK, it’s not exactly great if you’re trying to keep baby-making romantic, but garlic is an amazing immune booster, and also contains vitamin B6 (a vitamin that’s great for stress reduction). Stir it into pasta sauces for Italian-style dining.
Whole grains – these are a staple of any healthy diet, but are particularly useful if you’re looking to get pregnant. Switch to wholegrain bread, pasta and cereals if you’re not eating them already.
Fruit and vegetables – again, you’ll be used to hearing that these are good for you, but there’s no better time to make sure you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals. Aim for at least five portions per day (this is so easy – have some juice with your breakfast, a side salad with your lunch, a piece of fruit for a snack and two portions of veg with your dinner).
Chillies – these boost blood flow around the body, meaning your reproductive organs won’t be compromised by poor circulation. Try a slightly hotter curry than your usual, if you can handle it!
Leafy green vegetables – We know they’re boring and you read about them in every health article around, but it’s for a reason! Leafy greens are rich in iron, folates and vitamin C, all of which can help with fertility. Try pak choi in a stir-fry or baby spinach in a salad or sandwich.
Pumpkin Seeds– these are packed full of the mineral zinc, which is great not only for the general immune system, but also increase sperm count. These are great to have at your desk if you’re working – they give long-lasting energy as they’re high in protein and polyunsaturated fats as well. Other zinc-rich foods include shellfish and white meats like chicken and turkey.
You may also find a multivitamin supplement beneficial if you’re planning to get pregnant, particularly if you’re a fussy eater. Be sure to buy one that is suitable for pregnant women, though – a lot of multivitamins contain high quantities of Vitamin A, which can cause birth defects.
As well as a multivitamin, taking up to 400mcg of Folic Acid in addition to your meals can help to ensure a proper genetic formation of eggs and sperm, and can prevent some birth defects.
'Try a slightly hotter curry than your usual, if you can handle it!'
As far as herbal supplements go, we’d recommend that you proceed with caution – sometimes, natural remedies can interfere other medications or antibiotics – always check with your GP or pharmacist if you have any doubts.
However, if you’ve been given the all-clear for herbal remedies, supplements such as Black Cohosh and Dong Quai can help balance women’s hormones, whereas Damiana and the hilariously-named Horny Goat Weed can boost testosterone levels and sperm count in men. Visit your local health food shop to pick up the supplements – expect to pay between £10-20 for high-quality tablets, though. It's recommended that you stop taking them as soon as you find out that you're pregnant, though.
GETTING IN SHAPE
Even if it’s just a couple of times a week, exercising can work wonders for your fertility. While all the between-the-sheets action that comes with conceiving might count as getting fit, you may want to boost your fertility a little more with some alternative workouts.
Aim for two to three sessions a week, so as not to over-exert yourself. A little bit of cardiovascular exercise (such as jogging or swimming) coupled with some resistance training (exercises with weights, or sit-ups) should get you into much better shape.
Exercise regimes like yoga and Pilates are a good option if you’re not much of a gym bunny, as they build muscle without too much cardiovascular exertion. Even brisk walking will improve blood flow around the body, as well as well-being and libido function.
If you have a BMI of less than 17, talk to your doctor about a weight-gain plan. Sometimes being underweight can lead to problems with fertility, so adding on some pounds with weight training and lots of protein in your diet could boost your chances.
If your BMI is higher than 28, consult your GP about weight-loss plans to get you in the best shape for a baby. Beware of fad diets, though – now is not the time to skimp on any food groups, so make sure you have protein, complex carbohydrates and good fats (such as nuts and seeds) in your diet.
Your lifestyle may need a few tweaks as well if you really want to optimise fertility. Smoking, drinking and recreational drug use can all reduce your chances of conceiving, so try and live life as cleanly as you can. This doesn't mean you have to give up partying altogether, though - consider a night out dancing with the girls to be cardiovascular exercise!
All of these options may help you conceive, but if you have been trying for a baby for longer than two years, there may be an underlying fertility problem. Consult your GP if you’re looking for options about fertility treatment.
By Amy Bangs