You might not be ready for a baby quite yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start taking a few simple steps to ensure best results when the time is right. This is probably especially on your mind if you’ve suddenly developed “baby hypnosis,” but aren’t quite to the making-babies phase of life. (A new study shows that more women are now having babies in their 40s than their 20s, so if you’re waiting until a bit later in life, you’re not alone. The average age for a first pregnancy is now 30.3.) The following seven fertility-boosters are just good practices, regardless of whether or not you want to keep your womb healthy, since if it’s good for baby-making, it’s also good for your body.
Improve Your Diet
According to The Fertility Diet: Groundbreaking Research Reveals Natural Ways To Boost Ovulation and Improve Your Chances Of Getting Pregnant, which was written by a pair of doctors out of the Harvard School of Public Health, women who eat more "good fats," plant protein and whole grains will make more eggs than those who eat a diet higher in "bad fats," red meat and refined carbohydrates. Full-fat dairy products were also preferred over skim varieties. The diet promoted as a result of these findings and other science-backed research, called "The Fertility Diet," has been shown to improve the chances of conception for women with a host of fertility issues ranging from polycystic ovary syndrome to endometriosis.
Manage Your Stress
Most of the research surrounding stress and fertility does not bring good news. According to one study, women who show higher levels of alpha-amylase, which is an enzyme found in saliva that serves as a biological indicator of stress, are 29% less likely to get pregnant within a month than those who show lower levels. What's more, high stress levels more than double the chances of a woman failing to get pregnant after a year of trying. This data makes a lot of sense from a biological perspective, if you think about it—it doesn't make evolutionary sense for a woman to procreate if she's living in a stressful environment, as the survival chances of her offspring are likely limited by whatever is causing her stress.
If you're anything like us, information like this, well, stresses you out. Instead of stressing about how stressed you are, however, try thinking of your stress like, say, you do your acne. We know it sounds weird, but if you know that greasy foods and sleepless nights make you break out, you'll try to stop indulging in both in order to clear up the acne, right? The same approach works when it comes to stress—if you know that certain people, environments, schedules or the like stress you out, stop including them in your life as much as possible. Whatever you can't control beyond that could be managed through meditation (we love Headspace!), exercise or a shift in mindset around the very concept of stress.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
According to widely cited research, both overweight and underweight women suffer from fertility issues. Most of us are likely in a healthy range, but if you're concerned that you're on either side of the spectrum, you can ask your doctor to help calculate your BMI and make a plan to gain or lose weight accordingly. The Fertility Diet states that optimum BMIs for reproductive purposes are in the 20 to 24 range. You can get a rough estimate of your BMI here, though we still recommend seeing a doctor before making any drastic dietary changes as a result.
Before you freak out, just know that research on the effects of both alcohol and caffeine on fertility is far from definitive. Some researchers recommend limiting your coffee intake to one to two cups per day, which seems like logical advice regardless of whether or not you're trying to conceive.
On a more potentially disheartening note, many experts recommend avoiding alcohol altogether when trying to conceive—this is because they have yet to determine the exact level at which alcohol consumption affects chances of conception, they just know that it does. To be honest, however, most of our mommy friends were definitely not avoiding alcohol when they conceived, so we think that with this one, moderation is key unless you're actively trying to conceive and having trouble (in which case you might want to ask yourself if you really want to prioritize alcohol over your unborn baby, and if the answer to this is yes, then you might have some other questions to ask yourself—no judgment).
Take Folic Acid Supplements
Folic acid has long been known to aid in proper development of a fetus once the baby is already in utero. Now, however, there is evidence that folic acid intake (and potentially even just consumption of any multi-vitamin) may also improve chances of conception to begin with. That said, prenatal vitamins specifically contain more iron than is recommended for a non-pregnant woman, so talk to a doctor before adding any such supplements to your daily diet.
Avoid Trans Fats At All Costs
The trans fats hidden in a lot of junk foods can increase infertility by 70%. Now, we know a lot of doughnut-eating women who got pregnant just fine, but there's no reason not to avoid the types of foods in which these unhealthy fats are hidden if you're looking to conceive, all the same.
Wait Four Months To Conceive
Egg and sperm quality can both be improved, and apparently this process takes 120 days. Everything you ingest or inhale can affect your eggs (and your partner's sperm), so if you're thinking of getting pregnant, start observing good health practices at least four months in advance.