While it can be normal for conception to take several months, there are several life factors that can affect male and female fertility. The following conception tips may increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
It is important that men and women adopt a healthy lifestyle prior to getting pregnant.
- Eliminate Alcohol, Caffeine, Smoking, and Drugs: In addition to being caused by uncontrollable factors such as past medical history and biological issues, female infertility may also be affected by lifestyle factors that a woman can regulate. Studies have shown that consumption of alcohol and caffeine, smoking, and recreational drug use can contribute to infertility. By eliminating alcohol and drugs, limiting caffeine intake, and quitting smoking, a woman will most likely improve her chance of getting pregnant.
- Stay Fit: Since obesity can affect fertility and pregnancy, getting and staying fit is an important factor affecting the chance of getting pregnant. When trying to get pregnant, an appropriate body mass index (BMI) falls between 20 and 30. Some physicians and dieticians believe that an optimal BMI for pregnancy may be as low as 18.5 and 25. Regardless of the specific number, a woman trying to increase her fertility should eat well, exercise within parameters outlined by her doctor, and maintain a healthy weight.
- Reduce Stress and Depression: One pregnancy conception tip that is sometimes overlooked is stress reduction. Stress and depression can take a toll on a woman's body and decrease her fertility. A woman who is under stress or suffering from depression should discuss this possibility with her physician before attempting to get pregnant.
Acupuncture and Fertility
One of the most popular natural infertility treatments is the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture. It is inexpensive compared to infertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization, and is safe, noninvasive, and relatively painless. Studies seem to show a correlation between acupuncture and fertility improvement.
How Acupuncture Works
Acupuncture is based on the belief that the body has 20 energy pathways that, when blocked, create problems such as illness, pain, and even infertility. The strategic placement of tiny acupuncture needles in specific "energy points" in the body is intended to release these blockages and restore a healthy energy balance.
Western researchers have found a connection between acupuncture and fertility. They found that acupuncture helps to release certain hormones in the brain including endorphins, the "feel good" brain chemicals that help reduce pain, relax the body, and help regulate a woman's menstrual cycle. Studies have also shown that acupuncture treatments can help improve sperm quality in men that have unexplained infertility.
Infertility Problems Treated by Acupuncture
Acupuncture works better for couples experiencing infertility due to a functional problem, such as irregular ovulation, than a structural problem, such as blocked sperm ducts. A series of one-half-hour to one-hour treatments, once or twice a week for several weeks or months seems to be effective in improving fertility. Acupuncture also seems to substantially increase the success of other infertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).
The use of herbal remedies for infertility is an ancient practice that dates back to 200 AD. Fertility herbs are made from roots, leaves, bark, fruits, and flowers, and come in tablet, pill, granule, or tea form. Fertility herbs are believed to have a positive effect on the hormonal system, reproductive organs, and sex drive. They seem to work best for fertility problems due to infrequent or irregular menstrual periods in women or for hormonal imbalances in men and women.
Fertility Herbs for Women
- Red Clover: One of the most popular herbal fertility remedies, it is said to nourish the uterus, relax the nervous system, and balance hormones. It is high in calcium, vitamins, and magnesium.
- Chastetree Berry: Also known as Vitex Angus, it is used to help balance hormones by stimulating the pituitary gland, which produces sex hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
- Black Cohosh: Also used in the prevention of miscarriage and in the treatment of menopause, it is said to improve hormone functioning due to its phyto-estrogens.
- False Unicorn Root: Used to encourage ovulation and restore hormonal balance.
- Dong Quai: A traditional Chinese fertility herb that is said to help balance estrogen levels and improve the chances of embryo implantation.
- Raspberry Leaf: Used to restore a hormonal balance and nourish the uterus. Some sources say it is most effective when used with Red Clover.
- Lady's Mantle: Is thought to assist in the regulation of menstruation and to help build up the uterine lining.
- Stinging Nettle: Used to help regulate the body's hormones, ovulation, and menstruation. It is high in chlorophyll and minerals.
Fertility Herbs for Men
- Panax Ginseng: Also called Chinese or Korean ginseng, it is a popular infertility remedy in Chinese medicine, and is believed to increase testosterone levels, sperm count, and sperm motility.
- Astralagus: Is thought to improve sperm motility and count.
- Tribulus: Regulates hormones and increases testosterone.
- Saw Palmetto: Commonly used for prostate health, it also seems to increase fertility.
There are also many herbal remedies for infertility that include combinations of the above herbs. For advice on which herbs would be best for you, it is important to consult a properly trained herbalist or naturopath. Most medical doctors do not prescribe herbs as a treatment for infertility.
Do Natural Fertility Herbs and Pills Really Work?
There is no conclusive evidence that fertility herbs help increase fertility. For this reason, medical doctors in the United States have been reluctant to include these natural infertility treatments in conventional treatments for infertility.
Caution should be taken when adding fertility herbs to an infertility treatment program. Although these treatments are described as "natural," fertility herbs can cause adverse effects when combined with other herbs, prescription medications, or over-the-counter drugs. Some serious side effects can occur, such as stroke, heart attack, and seizure. It is important to consult your health care provider before you begin taking herbs for infertility. When taking these natural infertility treatments, follow package directions exactly and consult your health care provider if you experience any unwanted effects.
The FDA and Fertility Herbs
Although the use of herbal remedies for infertility is an ancient practice, little regulation exists today for herbal remedies in the United States, so caution is advised when choosing herbs for infertility. The FDA does not regulate herbs, but the independent public health organization U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) enforces its own standards. Those products approved by USP include a seal reading: "USP Dietary Supplement Verified."
Although most doctors agree that a healthy, balanced diet is the best way to get the vitamins and minerals you need, there are some over-the-counter fertility vitamins and nutritional supplements that have been shown to increase fertility. The addition of these natural fertility vitamins may help a couple conceive when the source of their infertility is due to a deficiency of vitamins and minerals.
- Vitamin C: A lack of vitamin C causes sperm to clump together. Men who take vitamin C daily may see an improvement in sperm count and motility. Vitamin C may also improve the chances of conceiving for women who are on the fertility medication Clomiphene.
- Vitamin E: Increasing vitamin E intake has been found to increase the probability of success with IVF procedures.
- Vitamins B6 and B12: B6 has been shown to increase fertility in women. B12 helps to improve sperm count in men.
- Zinc: Zinc maintains testosterone production in men and leads to improved sperm count and motility. It also helps women use estrogen and progesterone more efficiently.
- Folic Acid: It has long been known that folic acid helps prevent birth defects when women take it before becoming pregnant, but it also improves fertility.
- Selenium: An antioxidant that helps reduce the risk of birth defects, selenium also increases sperm count in men.
- Iron: Infertility in women has been linked to a deficiency in iron.
- Prenatal Vitamins: It is advised that women take a prenatal vitamin when they begin to try to become pregnant.
Male Fertility Boosters
Even though the woman is usually the main focus when a couple is having a baby, male infertility can impede conception just as often as female infertility. Male fertility vitamins and herbal supplements promise to increase sperm count, motility, and quality. Although not verified by the FDA, it is believed that male fertility is helped by the following vitamins and herbal supplements:
- Vitamin E
- Zinc Sulfate
- Yohimbe Bark
- Coenzyme Q10
Female Fertility Boosters
Just as prenatal vitamins are supposed to help a fetus develop and protect an expectant mother, fertility vitamins or boosters are believed to improve a woman's fertility. Many physicians recommend prenatal vitamins with folic acid during pregnancy, but these supplements may also help prevent infertility. Below are vitamins and herbal supplements recommended to improve female fertility:
- Folic Acid
- Dong Quai
- Wild Yam
- Chaste Tree Berry
- Black Cohosh
- Evening Primrose Oil
Find a Fertility Specialist
If you are planning to get pregnant, you should speak with your physician. A doctor can provide additional fertility information and pregnancy conception tips. DocShop offers a directory to help patients find a local reproductive specialist.