If you considering getting pregnant, there are various things you can both do to optimise your bodies for making a baby.
Once you've finally decided to try for a baby, it's easy to get frustrated when it doesn't happen. You may be used to planning your future, but pregnancy seldom happens on command. However, there are various things you can do to increase your chances of conceiving.
Have sex during ovulation
In order for pregnancy to occur, the sperm must reach the egg around the time of ovulation. If you're eager to get pregnant and it hasn't happened after a year of trying, you can contact a gynaecologist or a fertility clinic to request a fertility assessment.
Smoking should be completely avoided during pregnancy and around children. This applies both to active and passive smoking.
• Women: Female smokers take longer to get pregnant and are at higher risk of miscarriage and genetic disorders than non-smokers. Female smokers also enter menopause sooner.
• Men: Smoking impacts negatively on sperm quality. Nicotine is believed to impair sperm production by affecting blood circulation and hormone levels.
Don't drink alcohol
Drinking alcohol is also unsuitable for many reasons.
• Women: Pregnant women should avoid alcohol completely as it harms the foetus.
• Men: Studies have also shown that high alcohol intake makes men less fertile.
Maintain a healthy weight
• Women: Both overweight and underweight women have more difficulty getting pregnant. It increases the likelihood of miscarriage and of the baby developing heart defects and other disorders.
• Men: Above all, being overweight can negatively affect men's sperm production.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet
Everyone should eat a healthy, balanced diet. This particularly applies to women and men planning a pregnancy, both in order to control their weight and to get the necessary nutrients for optimum hormone production.
• Women: All women planning a pregnancy should take a folic acid supplement of 400 micrograms a day. Folic acid is a vitamin B that reduces risk of miscarriage and of the baby developing spina bifida. It should be taken before and during the first trimester.
• Men: Many vitamins, amino acids and other nutrients have been cited as very important to male fertility. There is currently not enough evidence to recommend any specific supplement for men. Instead, aim to eat a varied diet and take folic acid and zinc.
Avoid very strenuous exercise
• Women: A very demanding exercise regime can disrupt a woman's ovulation, which decreases her chances of becoming pregnant.
• Men: Cycling for too many hours can make men temporarily impotent. Research has shown that less than three hours of cycling a week is healthy and protects against impotence, while more than three hours significantly increases risk of impotence.
Limit coffee to two cups a day
• Women: Coffee has the highest caffeine content, but many other drinks also contain caffeine. Studies have found a link between women's coffee intake and both delayed pregnancy and increased risk of miscarriage.
• Men: Recent studies have also shown that coffee can negatively impact male fertility. For this reason, women and men planning a pregnancy are recommended to drink no more than two cups of coffee a day. Also go easy on energy drinks as some are high in caffeine.
Age – don't wait too long
Biologically, the most fertile age is between 20 and 25 for women, and 35 for men.
• Women: A woman's fertility starts dropping after age 30-32 and declines at an increasingly rate after age 35. Many women over 40 have difficulty becoming pregnant. Moreover, the risk of miscarriage increases with age.
• Men: Age also affects male fertility. Older men have been found to have lower sperm quality. A man's age also affects the risk of the woman miscarrying.
Some pharmaceutical drugs can affect fertility
• Women: Taking certain painkillers can reduce a woman's chances of becoming pregnant. Although the effect is temporary, this can still be useful to know. These painkillers include:
- ibuprofen - for example Ipren
- diclofenac - for example Voltaren
- naproxen - for example Naprosyn
• Men: Some drugs may have a negative impact on sperm quality. These painkillers include:
- antihistamines, against allergies
- sulphasalazine, for instance for treating ulcerous colitis, an intestinal disease
- some antibiotics if taken for prolonged periods
- cytostatics, radiation
- beta blockers and some other drugs can increase the risk of impotence
If one of you regularly takes other pharmaceutical drugs, ask a doctor's advice. Never stop taking an important drug at your own initiative.
Heat can reduce sperm quality
The testicles produce the best sperm in cool temperatures, about two degrees Celsius below normal body temperature. Spending a long time in a hot environment is believed to raise the temperature of the testicles, which can lead to lower sperm quality. Sitting with a notebook computer on your lap, driving for a long time or using a warm electric blanket have been found to make the testicles warmer.
Stress can reduce fertility
It is known that severe stress can disrupt ovulation in women and cause impotence in men. However, it is unclear whether everyday stress negatively affects fertility.
Acupuncture can help women
Acupuncture treatment for involuntary infertility has been tried on a small scale. Among other things, acupuncture has been used to control pain during IVF treatment. It is also hoped that acupuncture can increase blood flow to the ovaries and thus improve the eggs' development. Although acupuncture has not been conclusively proved to be effective, but many people choose to try the method.