Fertility Help: 11 Things to Try Before Seeing a Doctor
When to See a Fertility Doctor
Fact: It takes the average young couple 4-6 months to conceive, with approximately 85-95% getting pregnant after one year of trying. For some, with "a serious medical illness, previous abdominal or pelvic surgery, a personal or family history of PCOS [polycystic ovary syndrome], endometriosis, or premature ovarian failure," seeking the help of a fertility specialist right away may be the best route, says Serena H Chen, MD, director of reproductive medicine at the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science in New Jersey on behalf of Fertility Authority.
But for the rest of you, if you want to up your chances of getting pregnant faster, before you make an appointment with a fertility specialist, consider these tricks you can try at home.
Trick #1: Sperm-Friendly Lubricant
When choosing a lubrication, make sure you read the label and look for one that says it's sperm-friendly.
"Many lubricants contain spermicide, which can kill sperm," says Jerald Goldstein, MD, founder and medical director of Dallas-based Fertility Specialists of Texas. Before you splash out for a new bottle of lube, consider what you might already have at home. "Believe it or not, vegetable oil is a safe and effective lubricant that has no effect on sperm," Goldstein adds.
Trick #2: Supplement With Myo-inositol
For anyone who struggles with PCOS or isn't ovulating regularly, studies have found taking myo-inositol may help regulate your cycles and get you pregnant faster. "Myo-inositol improves insulin sensitivity and may be beneficial to patients especially with ovulatory infertility," explains Chen.
One way of boosting your intake is through supplements, like Premama, which contains 2000 mcg of myo-inositol. Or, you can add foods high in myo-inositol, including grapefruit and navy beans, to your diet.
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Trick #3: Extra Vitamin B6 and Zinc
Vitamins and minerals play a significant role in overall health—and your fertility. "[Vitamin B6] helps regulate the luteal phase [of your cycle], the time from ovulation to menstruation," explains Sarah Thompson, a nutritionist and doula. The recommended daily dose is 100 mg.
Thompson also advises women to get enough zinc (the National Institutes of Health recommend at least 8mg per day), whether through diet or supplements. "I consider zinc one of the most important minerals for conception and pregnancy," she says, adding that many women have a zinc deficiency due to their use of birth control and by taking both B6 and zinc together, you'll be helping your body absorb and utilize both.
Trick #4: Acupuncture
If you're struggling to conceive, Thompson advises women give acupuncture a try for three to six months to help increase "blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, stimulating the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems."
She adds that through acupuncture, you can help regulate the hormones in the body which may be one of the factors preventing pregnancy. A 2003 study out of Cornell confirmed acupuncture's fertility-boosting benefits.
Trick #5: Sex a Few Times a Week
There can be a lot of confusion about how much sex to have, but Chen says it's not as complicated as some make it out to be.
"Having sex a couple times a week should cover your bases," she explains. "Precise timing of intercourse actually does not improve success rates and trying to time intercourse precisely has the very negative impact of creating a lot of stress."
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Trick #6: Drink More Water
Getting enough water is vital for fertility because it helps flush the body of toxins and aids in the production of sperm-friendly cervical mucus. Dehydration can also leave you with low-energy and it's hard to get in the mood when you're tired.
Trick #7: Get Familiar With BBT and OPK
Basal body temperature (BBT) tracking can give you an inside look at what your body is doing by determining when you're ovulating and your most fertile days. Goldstein adds that using an ovulation predictor kit (OPK) can also be beneficial.
"Use the kit on day 10 of your cycle, it will tell you when you're having a positive [hormonal] surge," indicating when you might be ready to ovulate. "This is a better predictor than a body temperature chart," he continues, "because it will tell you before you're going to ovulate, versus after." He recommends the Clearplan Easy Fertility Monitor.
Trick #8: Examine Your Diet
When it comes to fertility, what you eat can play a significant role. "Chronic dieting, low body weight/fat, insulin resistance, irregular periods, and PCOS are common conditions that can decrease fertility," says Bonnie Modungo, MS, a registered dietitian from Santa Monica, Calif. Chow down on fertility-friendly foods and if you're still not having luck, consider speaking to a nutrition expert.
"By seeing a dietitian in the process, patients can determine the extent to which their diet and metabolic health influence fertility before investing in more extensive and expensive fertility treatment," Modungo adds.
Trick #9: Get 7 to 8 Hours of Sleep
Sleep may seem like a luxury, but when you're trying to get pregnant, getting enough sleep is important.
"Being healthy makes a huge difference not only for your general health but also your reproductive health and your chances of conception and having a healthy pregnancy," Chen explains.
Trick #10: Hit the Right BMI
We all know that getting to an ideal weight and exercising is good for overall health, but it's also crucial for fertility. "Being overweight or underweight can affect fertility," says Goldstein.
Being too thin (a body mass index of less than 18.5) or overweight (a BMI of 25 or more) can affect your fertility.
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Trick #11: A Mucolytic
Mucolytics, found in cough medicine, thin the cervical mucus so it's less sticky and therefore easier for sperm to swim to the egg and they have long been used by women eager to conceive more quickly.
Lara Oboler, M.D., a New York-based cardiologist, "stumbled across the idea that mucolytics (generally used to break up chest congesting that develops in respiratory illness) also thin cervical mucus," which led her to co-found PregPrep, a dietary supplement that contains N-acetyl Cysteine (NAC), a mucolytic and antioxidant. NAC has also been found to improve the chances of conception in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (a common cause of infertility) by threefold.