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Fertility 101

A woman only knows how fertile she is once she tries to conceive. If you are trying to get pregnant, get to know what factors affect fertility, how to boost yours, and what to do if you’re not succeeding.

Boosting Your Fertility

Maintain a healthy weight. According to the Nurses’ Health Study, a BMI of 20 to 24 puts you in the “fertility zone”, the ideal weight for getting pregnant.

Eat a fertility-boosting diet. Chavarro offers these dietary guidelines for optimizing fertility:
• Take a multivitamin that contains folic acid and iron. Folic acid will decrease the risk of birth defects and may influence ovulation and help women get pregnant faster.
• Avoid trans-fats, found in fast food and commercial products.
• Eat more vegetable protein (like beans and nuts) and less animal protein.
• Drink a glass of whole milk or having a small dish of ice cream or full-fat yogurt every day; temporarily trading in skim milk and low or no-fat dairy products for their full-fat versions.

A healthier diet is also proven to increase sperm quality and motility (ability of sperm to move) so get your partner on board with a healthy diet too.

Get our recipes for fertility-boosting meals.

Make healthy lifestyle choices. Exercise, get enough sleep, don’t smoke, and limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine.

Reduce your stress. Domar suggests that women who are having difficulty conceiving take concrete steps to lower their stress levels, “Pick up a cognitive behavior book which will teach you some stress management skills, see a therapist, or ask your primary care physician for a cognitive behavioral therapist. Get a relaxation CD and listen to it every day. There are a lot of things you can do on your own to reduce your stress.”

Get treatment for depression and/or anxiety. Depression and anxiety are known to hinder fertility. If you are suffering from either of these conditions, talk to your primary care physician to get a referral for treatment.

Reduce your exposure to toxins. Follow these guidelines from RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, to cut down on potential harmful chemicals in your diet and home that may hinder your fertility.

• Avoid fish that contain high levels of mercury, dioxin and PCBs (like swordfish and albacore tuna)
• If possible, eat organic. Wash and peel conventional produce before eating to remove pesticides.
• If necessary, filter water at home.
• Reduce or stop using pesticides and herbicides for home, lawn, garden, and pet care. Try non-toxic alternatives.
• Avoid sports/water bottles and other products that contain BPA (Bisphenol A).
• Don’t microwave foods in plastic.
• Use personal care products that are free of phthalates and other harsh chemicals.
• Use a “green” dry cleaning service. If that’s not an option, air out dry-cleaned clothes before bringing them into your car or home.
• Rid your home of indoor air pollutants. Keep your home ventilated, especially when vacuuming, cleaning, painting, or doing anything that stirs up toxins.
• Avoid use of synthetic air fresheners, fabric softeners, and fragrances.

See also our 10 ways your home is making you infertile story

Get a preconception checkup. Meet with your OB/GYN to get an assessment of your overall health and see if she can help you identify lifestyle changes that could improve your chances of getting pregnant and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Ask these questions [] on your visit.

Increasing your chances of conception

Upping your odds of getting pregnant requires optimizing your fertility and getting the timing of your um, efforts right. If you were daydreaming in 10th grade bio, brush up on your ovulation basics. It will also help to learn the signs of ovulation.

There are lots of tools that can help you track your ovulation. Use our ovulation calendar to find your most fertile days and the best time to TTC (try to conceive), and our fertility chart to track the signs of ovulation including your basal body temperature and cervical mucus . If you want to step up your efforts, think about getting an ovulation predictor kit and read up on our tips for getting pregnant.

Not sure when to seek treatment? Find out on the next page

-- Kelly Alfieri

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