happy pregnant couple

When it comes to fertility, age is not on our side but there are steps women and men can take to give them the best chance of conceiving. For the most part, fertility is determined by our genes. Of the 1 million to 2 million eggs a woman is born with, just 400 will ever mature and as both women and men age, the quality of the sperm and the egg will decline.

Dr Nadya Chami is a gynaecologist who is an expert in fertility at Specialist Clinics of Australia in Sydney. We asked her what people can do to increase the probability of becoming pregnant: “There are ways to protect and boost reproductive health for both women and men trying to conceive and for those who think they might one day want to.”

The fertile times in your cycle

In women with a regular menstrual cycle, ovulation occurs usually 14 days before the first day of menstruation. So if your cycle is 28 days then ovulation will be on day 14 of your cycle.

It is also important to be aware of how long the egg will survive after ovulation before it must be fertilized, and this is only for 24 hours. Sperm, however, can survive for up to 3 days. Therefore, it is important to have intercourse every day or at least every second day around ovulation.

Only 20% of couples trying to conceive will be pregnant after one month of trying, and 90% by 12 months.

6 ways you can boost your fertility:

1. Stop smoking

Many studies link subfertility with increasing time of conception in women who smoke cigarettes. The addiction ages ovaries prematurely causing egg damage and is shown to increase the rate of miscarriage.

“The good thing is that problems with fertility caused by smoking can be reversed and once you stop smoking, your fertility will improve,” says Dr Chami.

2. Drug use

Avoid all recreational drug use, some drugs can cause problems in the pregnancy resulting in permanent changes to the foetus. You should stop using them when you’re trying to conceive.

3. Alcohol consumption

“Your fertility is highly influenced by alcohol consumption,” says Dr Chami. Safe levels of alcohol have not been established for pregnant women, and intake (particularly at high levels) can cause abnormalities called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Clinical studies set general safe limits of alcohol consumption at the maximum of 1-2 units per day for women and 3-4 units per day for men. If you reduce these amounts, you are improving your chances to conceive.

4. Limit caffeine

A sufficient study regarding the influence of caffeine intake on female fertility does not exist. However, many experts believe that excess caffeine may affect your fertility. Therefore, when you’re trying to conceive, you should limit the daily consumption of caffeine. The recommended amount is less than 200 mg per day.

5. Keep your BMI within limits

Evidence proves that BMI less than 18 and over 27 contributes to less spontaneous ovulation and decreased fertility. Additionally, it affects your general health. In order to optimise your fertility, you should keep your BMI between 18.5 to 25 kg/m2. Keeping within these brackets, significantly decreases your health risks.

6. Control Chronic Medical Conditions

Women with pre-existing medical conditions should be reviewed by a doctor before conceiving.

Dr Chami advises that if you have been following the above advice for six months and have still not become pregnant, it is time for you to consult a gynaecologist. It’s good to have your fertility checked and boosted under the control of an expert.

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